Buffering...

Hi friend,

We’ve had a good relationship, words and I. As with any relationship that lasts through the decades, we’ve had our ebbs, flows, and even betrayals. 

But never like this.

No, this is the roughest patch we’ve ever hit because not only can I not rely on them for my projects, but I can’t even tap into the professional creative reserve. A simple email takes hours to write. Collecting my thoughts during a conference call is physically painful. 

I show up, so why don’t they? Where are they hiding?

There was a time in my life when “prolific writer” would’ve been an apt way to describe me.

I’ve been accused of sharing too much. I would write thousands of words for school, for work, and then turn around to put out multiple blog posts a day, sharing “too much” of my personal life.

I processed the world through words.

For the past few months, all I’ve done is buffer. 

So, not much processing has been happening. 

I’m stuck.

I’m sure you can relate.

“Through the lack of attaching myself to words, my thoughts remain nebulous most of the time. They sketch vague, pleasant shapes and then are swallowed up; I forget them almost immediately.”

― Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

You know, I’ve been working for as long as I can remember. All I’ve ever wanted to do is grow and find ways to help people. 

I haven’t always been good at this, and I’ve fumbled more times than I can count, but I’ve learned so much along the way.

And at times, I’ve turned into Doc from Boondock Saints, mixing up my metaphors and proverbs. 

But I always find my way back.

Well, sometimes.

Like the way I’m trying to find my way back to the reason I began writing this letter to you in the first place.

You see, part of the reason I’ve just been buffering is that I’ve been working for as long as I can remember. Last summer was the first time I took a real vacation in 11 years, and even during that, I worked at night after exploring Paris during the day.

I’ve been terrified of taking an actual break, maybe because the first time I took a 4-day weekend at a job, I got fired. That was 11 years ago, and I’ve gotten over it. I think.

But it took a pandemic to push me over the edge. Just like the rest of the world, dealing with the uncertainties and anxiety of the pandemic on top of daily levels of stress put my brain on stand-by mode.

So, I decided I need a reboot.

For the first time in 20 years, I’m taking a proper leave from work, where I will have no obligations, no deadlines, no responsibilities except to recharge.

Taking a 2-month leave of absence from work when I check my email even on my days off is a pretty terrifying decision.

Of course, there are underlying personal reasons, which you can read here if you’d like.

I want to stop buffering.

I want to find the words to share my story with the world, the same way I’ve always done.

I want to heal and find my way back to enjoying work again.

So, a month from now, I will shut down my work laptop and leave it behind to go looking for inspiration once again.

I will be writing without racing to a deadline.

Uninterrupted.

And hopefully, I’ll find my way back to sharing those stories with you again.

Squeakily yours,

Berrak

Squeaky Wheel for Life

I was always the kid with my hand raised in class.

Yes, I’m an overachiever.

No, I don’t like standing still.

But that’s not all.

Let’s take a closer look at this impostor syndrome-filled squeaky wheel’s humble beginnings, shall we?

My mom taught me how to read and write when I was 4 years old. When I began first grade, I was bored out of my mind and my school told me they would consider letting me skip to 2nd grade if I passed a test. My mom and I studied for a week. Reading, writing, arithmetic. I was ready for anything they would throw my way. The day came and you know what the test was?

They asked me to read a sentence. Write another one. And there were maybe two arithmetic questions. Needlessly to say, I passed, but now I was the youngest in my class by 2 years, which meant that there were a lot of frustrated and scared tears when I fell behind in class. My teacher was seriously tough but in the best way. I owe an immense debt of gratitude to her for pushing me and teaching me that hard work would pay off. 

My constant desire to prove my worth and belonging in that 2nd-grade classroom is where it all began.

When we moved to the US, I was placed into an ESOL class and since we moved in the middle of the school year in fifth grade, I already felt a million light-years behind everyone - this time in a brand-new country. I placed out of ESOL within 2 weeks and proceeded to overcompensate by getting perfect scores on my spelling tests. 

And so, on and so forth. 

As you can guess, I was bullied - often. But that’s a conversation for another day.

Yes, I do love to learn, and I do like to engage with my teachers and classmates, but there was something deeper in my need to be the squeaky wheel. I constantly felt the need to prove that I belonged in that space. 

This feeling evolved from the classroom to the workplace as soon as I turned 16-years-old.

There are two fundamental reasons why I began creating friction at a young age:

  • Simply doing the bare minimum was never enough for me. My first job was as a cashier at KMart, but as soon as I got comfortable in my responsibilities, standing still was no longer an option. The older cashiers who had a rhythm didn't like that I was actually speedy. There was a customer at the service desk and no one around to help? I was free? I would walk over and at the very least engage the customer while I paged a coworker or manager. I stood out because I went above and beyond, which is how I moved to the customer service desk within 6 months. 

  • I helped not just to help, but to learn. I asked questions about how everything worked. I shadowed our loss prevention officer. I asked our HR person questions. I wanted not only to be a useful part of the team, but it's always helped me to see the big picture and understand where everything fits. 

Gosh, it’s a mystery that I somehow evolved into a strategist.

As a young, ambitious, sometimes "too energetic" squeaky wheel, I always stood out. At times, I've jumped into situations where I didn't have a complete grasp but fully embraced the "fake it till I make it" mentality because I knew that was the only opportunity I would have to learn. 

This mentality has served me well over the course of my career in digital marketing, but after 15 years of experience, I am noticing that I am still aggressively raising my hand to simply prove that I belong here

I referred to this briefly in The Nostalgia Conundrum, and I've talked about how being the squeaky wheel has paid off in my career.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I have three modes:

  • Squeaky wheel to learn, to contribute, and to keep moving forward

  • Squeaky wheel causing a little too much friction to overcompensate for impostor syndrome

  • A squeaky wheel on fire and burning bridges, destroying credibility.

If it happens very infrequently and doesn't appear too obvious externally, the second scenario is usually manageable but when it begins to spiral out of control, that's when I tend to get into trouble.

As I face the most exhilarating challenge of my career, I am fully aware that if I'm not careful, I will most definitely catch on fire. 

Yet, I will always be that girl raising her hand, asking questions, and volunteering to help whenever possible.

How does impostor syndrome manifest itself in your daily life and career?

How do you manage?

Enthusiastically yours,

Berrak

All things are subject to interpretation.

Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.*

Who are you, at this moment? As you're reading these words, in this moment of your life, what's the energy you're giving out into the world?

I've been thinking a lot about social perception and how at any given moment, a new person who comes into our life has a snapshot of who we are in that fleeting moment in time.

What if it's a new coworker or a customer?

Maybe it's just an unknown person seeing one of your tweets in their timeline because someone else shared it and well, there it goes again.

Their impression of you.

As humans, we grow and evolve constantly.

We express a different side of ourselves in different situations, sometimes with the same people.

What are the conclusions people are drawing about you at this moment of your life?

It's funny, isn't it, how a moment in time can define a person's understanding of who you are, where they choose to place you in their life, and whether or not they will be open to evolving that perception as they learn more about you.

I deleted my Facebook account a a few months ago. I'm still active on other social media networks but that platform was no longer serving a purpose in my life. At a gathering a couple of weeks later, a couple of friends who are relatively new to my life and have limited daily interaction with me asking how life is without social media. Their perception of me has been largely shaped by my activity on Facebook specifically outside of our get-togethers and game nights.

A few years ago, the only impression my friend's husband had of me was that I post a lot on Facebook because we hadn't met in person yet. It became a running joke. Who I am in his life evolved from that point because our friendship grew.

When I was job-hunting a couple of years ago, I emailed a friend of mine about a job at her company and asked for her insight. She told me that it wasn't a good fit for me because I was just a content strategist. What she didn't know was that I had evolved as a marketing strategist and now beyond just a "content" strategist. Her perception of me was frozen in time because even though we stayed connected on social media, the passing snapshots were not enough for her to see my career evolution.

Where does social perception fit in my daily life and how I put myself out into the world?

It's not so much about being so concerned with what people think of me but what it is I'm putting out into the world at any given time. I don't want to curate who I am but I want to be cognizant of any external circumstances, which is why I also tend to try to give people the benefit of the doubt in my daily life.

As a society, we're so quick to judge. We make snap judgments without even thinking about how others may perceive us in passing on the next bad day we're having but still have to be out in public because life goes on.

It’s human nature. It’s preconceived. It will become confirmation bias until we make an effort to recognize the factors that influence social perception.

Our perception should be more than the sum of the momentary snapshots we experience.

Do you know how others perceive you, right now, in this moment?

What can you be doing to continue to express your evolution as a person?

*Friedrich Nietzsche

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Friday Open Thread | #1

It’s November, which means Small Business Saturday is coming up. Who are some of your favorite small businesses, local or online? Tell us who they are and how they make a difference in their communities.

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What Caught My Eye | #2

Emotions, cats, metro cards, oh my.

Hey you,

Is it just me or has October felt like the longest October in the history of Octobers?! It’s been a busy week across the interwebs, so here are a few things that piqued my interest.

📱 Has social media destroyed a generation? I’m sure you’ve heard the claim about giving children smartphones is the same as giving them a gram of cocaine. But a closer look at social media use shows that those claims may be overstated. (Go figure). This Scientific American article explores the diverging viewpoints.

The results of Orben’s, Przybylski’s and Hancock’s efforts are now in. Studies from these researchers and others, published or presented in 2019, have brought some context to the question of what exactly digital technology is doing to our mental health. Their evidence makes several things clear. The results to date have been mixed because the effects measured are themselves mixed. “Using social media is essentially a trade-off,” Hancock says. “You get very small but significant advantages for your well-being that come with very small but statistically significant costs.” 

“We’re asking the wrong questions,” Hancock says. And results are regularly overstated—sometimes by the scientists, often by the media. “Social media research is the perfect storm showing us where all the problems are with our scientific methodology,” Orben says. “This challenges us as scientists to think about how we measure things and what sort of effect size we think is important.”

🎙This is for the teachers in the audience! (Definitely pass this on to the teachers you have in your lives). The NPR Student Podcast Challenge is back. “Beginning in January, teachers or qualified educators can submit student entries in two basic categories: grades 5-8 and grades 9-12. Entries can be as short as 3 minutes and as long as 12 minutes.” You can find all the details here.

📅 Whether you’re a community organizer or you belong to a group, you may have heard the news from Meetup a couple of weeks ago. Or at least heard the grumblings about it. Community expert Carrie Melissa Jones breaks down what went wrong and makes recommendations for Meetup.

🚇If you or someone you know lives/spends a significant time in NYC, this one is for you, especially if you like to pay it forward.

🤝 Dear white men, we are not out to get you. This article, “How to Show White Men That Diversity and Inclusion Efforts Need Them” has me feeling a little conflicted. While it’s important for us to have constructive conversations, this part particularly stood out to me.

Sociologist Robin DiAngelo calls these sorts of defensive overreactions to race-based criticisms “White Fragility,” and argues that it stems from a lack of “racial stamina” due to white people’s insulation from genuine conversations about race. Put simply, they haven’t had a safe space to explore these topics and for many people, this is the first time they’ve thought carefully about their identity.

It’s clear we all, especially D&I practitioners, need to offer psychologically safe spaces for white people and privileged people to explore these conversations. Otherwise, we will continue to encounter defensiveness and won’t get the support we seek from these leaders.

💕Speaking of feelings, we all know that emotion sells. So how can marketers create better customer experiences with emotions? In this article, Dan Argintaru explores this question and one of his recommendations is to use AI to build real connections.

💖Listen, we all need a break from the news and all the stress/anxiety that it’s causing us, so I recommend heading to this thread to read some true love stories. But be warned: It may cause your eyes to leak heavily.

🙀 Have you met Cinderblock?! This precious feline has won all of our hearts. Go Cinderblock go. I have faith in you.

That’s all for now! Hope you’re having a lovely week, and if you’re reading this on the web & haven’t subscribed, what are you waiting for? 😁

Cheers,

Berrak

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