In celebration of six weeks knee-deep in Sydney, I manifested a balanced weekend of drinking, dancing and slurping oysters in front of the Opera House with several seemingly mundane and adult-ish tasks: buying a duvet cover (yay!) and hanging frames on the walls of my bedroom never felt so good. Tonight, it has me thinking about what wellness means to me; what it truly means to be living my best life, a phrase I’ve heard repeatedly lately in reference to traveling the world, enjoying champagne-filled brunches and/or posting colourful snapshots of such experiences across Instagram and the like just to make sure it’s official.
My wellness has been an important facet of the new life that I hoped to design in Australia, and I still don’t quite know what the ideal that will look like. From experimenting with running routes around Darlinghurst and trying workout classes during a plethora of free trails to discovering new cafes and making my mediocre attempts at cooking, all that I know with certainty is my desire for good habits and a routine that helps me maximise my day, optimise stress and contemplate all the new experiences I’m taking in on the daily.
LinkedIn’s distinct culture and values lend to a particularly nerdy manifesto within them around wellness: there are six tenets that our employees programs are all based upon. LinkedIn wants to help us optimise our strength, breathing, movement, nutrition, hydration, and rest (yes, I know them by heart). There are countless unspoken reasons why LinkedIn’s onsite fitness centre and amazing activities beckoned me back in SF and beyond, but Sydney’s unique office and this perfectly eclectic and quaint city seem to be setting me up for a new and nice routine entirely its own. There a few key areas that continue to both call to me and help cultivate the best moments I’ve experienced thus far down under.
Getting a werk-out
While the watery boardwalks and lovely lit paths of Sydney make way for beautiful outdoor workouts, I'm also seeking a gym I can escape to and thrive in. This week, I went first to what might have been the next most transformative yoga sesh since the life-changing and breakup-inducing one at Crunch circa 2012. Monday night vinyasa at Virgin Active, the workout haven of my favourite entrepreneur and airline, brought me both comfort and anonymity combined with nostalgia from the smell of the mats, the resemblance of the studios and who knows what else. There were hanging wicker egg pods surrounding the studio and a stage for the instructor, who was quirky and confident in guiding us throughout the soft- and kindest form of vinyasa I’ve ever been instructed on. She said a few words of wisdom that transcended their yoga application and seemed to speak to my life, this place, this instance and circumstance I’m in: soften with each breathe, find safety in being vulnerable, and don’t get ahead of [my]self. Sounded like exactly what I should be doing each and every day in my new city.
Next, I switched it up and tried the third-level city studio that boasts "Fitness First": the most common gym around the city was hosting BodyBalance at five-thirty taught by Steve, someone shamelessly positive and newly back in the game. It was yoga and tai chi (a la Hong Kong in my summer 2011) meets pilates repetition and the need for double floor-mats due to intensity. Sprinkle in a dash of Beyonce and my night was unexpectedly hard-core! Each move burned. I sat in the front of the studio for the first time maybe ever, connected with said host Steve via plenty of motivational and mortifying eye-contact, then took a self-guided tour (since the staff was less personal). Similar in price, Virgin was winning based on connection and customer journey. Fitness First had abundance and proximity to my apartment going for it. I loved VA’s proximity next door to my work. FF is, as it turns out, about twenty steps outside my front door. I'm torn.
The most fun workout experience I’ve enjoyed Down Under thus far was that which I was most likely to bail on. This past Saturday morning, after my sixth and busiest week at LinkedIn Sydney and an insufficient eight-hours of that blissful weekend sleep, I made it out of bed thanks to a FaceTime by Mom and climbed the five-minutes and three flights of elevator to my new neighbourhood gym (which I’m now sold on thanks to this class). BodyJam, named and trademarked by one of my very own health&wellness clients in Oz actually, was a choreographed cardio craze similar to Zumba meets modern-kickboxing! The best part about it was definitely the instructor’s playlist, but regardless I could not stop smiling nor reminiscing my Hong Kong evenings at “Funky Dance” and 'SC days of Zumba. I knew it was a kick-ass werkout too thanks to the sore shoulder and tight buns that night on the dance floor!
In the realm of workouts, my best track record to date has been when accompanied by my first and only personal trainer Summer, a life-changer turned life-long-friend back in SF (who had most recently hailed from Sydney when I met her). Because of her convenient integration into my SF life once she moved from Crunch to my company’s onsite wellness centre, I had admittedly NEVER done a self-led workout at home… at least not one that lasted more than ten minutes of what Claire and I like to call cat yoga. That was until NOW, however. My first ever-visitor in Sydney and SF gal pal Katie introduced me to a simple-enough Pinterest workout circuit: one with no weights, no shoes required containing nothing longer than a 30-second plank or minute-long wall-sit. Summer ensured that as long as I repeat said “twenty-minute” home workout at least three times, it’s a solid one! It’s been an amazing mechanism for taking ownership of my wellness, pushing my own limits, bulking up my Down Under playlist via Spotify’s Discover Weekly and trimming down at least by the stress-factor if nothing else.
If I had no motivation to muster and no budget for gyms, my last and best option might be our on-site bootcamp classes led by LinkedIn’s own contracted trainers. They include but are not limited to “Abs,” “Range of Motion” (which saved my sore bones today) and “Bootylicious,” all glutes and lower body if you couldn’t guess. I think I need to take advantage of these. As if I had my own trainer leading me through six or eight circuits — while surrounded by familiar faces to cheer me on while suffering themselves — they have been (all three of them that I’ve tried) my perfect combination of motivation and peer pressure! While sore today, I'm pretty stoked about these perks... I mean, look what they'll do for my hops.
When I need a break from werk, Tuesday lunches and Wednesday eves feature the loveliest of resources just a flight of stairs from my desk each week: yoga in the office taught by the elegant super-yogi Laura (who is awesome and super down-to-earth, by the way). Since my first week living in Sydney, I’ve meandered into our small wellness centre a few minutes before five o’clock to roll out a borrowed mat and stretch self-consciously. Each and every person who attends, male and female, is welcoming and supportive of each other; my first and second class, I met several bro-gis (yes, I mean male yogis) who I had already been introduced to via email months prior and now there is a clan of eight to ten who I recognise fondly each practice. From strengthening my chaturanga and up-dog to getting centimetres closer to a crow pose each week, I feel absolutely encouraged and empowered by this peaceful blessing within the walls of LinkedIn in the CBD. Thankful to my company!
Why was it that this week’s savasanas felt so particularly meditative, so opening? Perhaps, as my bff helped identify, it’s because I haven’t taken ample space — in my calendar nor mind — to simply digest everything I’ve been taking in and enduring. I reflect, I write, I make time to debrief with the ones I love… but when do I ever sit? I listen to Spotify, I try podcasts, and the other night I listened to a TED talk before bed. The only times I can think of in which I do nothing but process my memories, emotions and aspirations — most about Sydney and lots about home and the places I currently am not — is in the final minutes before sleep and after lights out, when I’m longing for peace and sometimes resort to distraction.
A friend's candid words about practicing love and kindness recently spoke to me; we don’t take enough time for that either, as social media and real media and live media (our people! our information!) fill in the space where pain or sadness might flow. I need to make time for that too. My Dad has consistently reminds me that prayer is always an option through which to practice gratitude, seek help, process my needs and realisations. My Grandma continues to remind me of the same, through a poem she gifted me that’s by my bedside and in her appearance at Palm Beach in the form of a lone and massive pelican (her favourite!): that the loneliest of times might be when God and the Universe are most forcefully carrying us and me.
This week, I also pondered for the first time (about 3/4 quarters of the way through post-vinyasa restore) that two years and then some just might not be enough to take in all that I’d like to of Sydney. In three, I barely scratched the surface of the other city that I love: SF. I wasn’t taking that place in through the same lens: in San Francisco, I was invincible, limitless, and filled with untapped potential. Here in Sydney, I feel free and ambitious and terrified…. but I also feel temporary, I realise still. Maybe that’s where my desire stems from to root and nest rather than remain a nomad (see my final paragraphs on Building my Sanctuary). Maybe that’s why my urgency to take in new knowledge and befriend everyone in sight surges through me at most hours of the day... only to exhaust me by nightfall or the weekend.
The last practice that has consistently and unconditionally helped me to reach these realisations is a brief, guided meditation courtesy of Deepak Chopra and thanks to my first friends in San Francisco — Steph and Shira — who introduced me to this noble effort. Meditation, which I can in no good faith claim that I’ve figured out, is an art form — it’s dependent on the person, it turns out differently each day, and it always tends to reveal something deeply personal (often embarrassing) and raw.
Eating with earnest
My intentions for my time in Sydney included so many previously unfathomable things: scuba diving, mastering surfing, and trying more swimming so that I could take on ocean swimming included. I also included things that didn’t seem as exotic: living in a Sydney apartment, eating more organic (see above), cooking dinner more often, and building a new wellness routine without a new trainer. I would not have guessed that learning how to pan-poach chicken breasts would be checked off my first-six-week bucket list, nor that How to Cut a Butternut Pumpkin would be an online video that I consumed in that same time span; oh, how rewarding both felt! Talk about just-in-time and bite-sized learning, quite literally.
It all began when my new flatmate asked if I wanted to join on a trip to Aldi so that we could cook dinner. I agreed, as long as by we he meant he. The first night this happened, Rup whipped up salmon fillets on the stove along with three different sets of steamed veggies — I mean, “veg” of course, according to Aussie abbrevs. I was amazed; I love sweet potato, and he made that, broccoli and asparagus magically steam simultaneously in one pan before my eyes that first night. How did I get so lucky? The second night we cooked, we settled on pre-diced veggies and seasoned peeled prawns for a lil’ stir fry. I must have been inspired, but all I know is that in my efforts to 1 build my wellness routine and 2 spend more time processing my many experiences and emotions, I found the sudden desire Monday after yoga to take a stab at cooking up my own, fresh dinner. It was an adventure in and of itself.
After shopping veggies and fish for one, then resorting to the first cooking blog I came to (thekitchn) upon Google searching “how to cook the perfect salmon fillet,” I started my process based off instinct; turned out, my gut instinct was off in all ways but one. I had laid my beautiful pink hunk [of salmon] flesh-down in a pan straight out of the shopping bag, only to then read the best practices of 1: allowing the fish to inch closer to room temp, 2: towel-drying my fillet so it wouldn’t be dripping before cooking, and 3: starting skin-down so the delicate flesh wouldn’t start out burnt. So much for trusting my “gut.” The creator and star of thekitchn’s quick and easy cooking videos soon became my best friend; she helped me know to wait until the fleshy and grill-inspired white reached at least three-fourths of the way up before I flipped! Fast-forward to nights two and three spent with her and I was in love. Chicken cutlets, brussel sprouts and freshly diced and roasted butternut are now on my recurring home-chef menu.
Tonight after publishing the initial version of this post, my roommate had to come along and reinforce all of my glory/gratitude/amazement: he suggested we grill after shopping for a bunch of our favourite veggies, some new and some repeat. We didn’t hold back: grabbed my favourites (sweet co’s and asparagus) and his that I was previously impartial to, like eggplant! This resulted in a quick and easy explosion of color once more. Our back patio’s small but mighty “barbie” was fast to light and quicker to cook; the calming process [and hopeful ritual] of washing, dicing, steaming and monitoring the grill just to sit in the springtime outdoors and enjoy our fresh meal — with enough evening to unwind and then some! — has me certain this “cooking thing” is something I need to keep at.
As the author of my second and latest novel in Sydney retells so elegantly, water has been considered the ebbing and flowing lifeblood of communities and a person’s wellbeing since the ancient Romans revered and celebrated it through their epic fountains. Supposedly, the first thing that a Roman settlement entailed was building an aqueduct to unite the people; here in Sydney, water flows in such a central manner just naturally. Thanks to the capital city’s splash-like shape and coastal location, countless harbours and beautiful bays surround every desirable neighbourhood. I’m not only embracing my inner Moana on harbour-side runs and ferry rides; public fountains appear in the loveliest of places, including but not limited to the epic botanical gardens I explored early on and the park that I cross each evening on my way home. The tap water is better than drinkable here; that and the lemon-infused water at work inspires me to stay hydrated and then some. My fun and beloved Swell water bottle, a gift from my motivator and trainer-turned-bestie back stateside, doesn’t hurt either: it’s a welcome reminder and vessel that accompanies me everywhere I go.
Aside from water and my previously-mandatory morning java, I am now a newly awakened lover of tea. After living with Claire, whose kettle and delicious loose-leaf (in combination with our manatee-shaped mana-TEA infuser) introduced me to this caffeine alternative, I began to warm up to it. However, my British and Australian neighbours in the office serve as further inspiration to experiment with new flavours and essences. One of the local tea-shops, T2 (a colourful explosion of delicious scents that could rival a Teavana and Bath & Body at once) is my new favourite escape and source of gifts (spoiler alert). Chamomile before bed? Peppermint in the mornings just after I’ve brushed my teeth? The day I learned that Creme Brûlée was a tea flavour was the day that I realised I’m tea-tering on the edge of addiction. Sorry (that I’m not sorry) for the bad pun.
Finally, coffee is a staple delicacy of Australia and one central part of the workday culture that I will never complain about. Who said I couldn’t drink tea and still enjoy my daily flat white? I’ve mentioned (perhaps numerous times) the unconditionally friendly face I find daily in Phil, my Philz replacement and new local barista; it seems that each and every shop-owner or barista that I meet is both kind and expedient, willing to give me a recommendations or explain once again the different between a flat white, a good ol’ latte and a simple cappuccino. These debates never get old. Below is an example of my favourite flat white yet: it’s accompanied by a smile and a tiny chocolate wafer cookie each time, courtesy of The Two Good Eggs cafe located below my apartment.
Building my sanctuary
One of the most pivotal factors that has lent to my comfort, rejuvenation, and degree to which I feel settled and at peace here is the place at which I feel most at home: my new home in Darlinghurst, Sydney, Australia, Planet Earth. While it’s evolved from shell to IKEA-clad starter-room in my first few weeks, I knew it had potential the first day I saw it: the afternoon sunlight shone in through its floor-to-ceiling windows and illuminated the almond-colored carpet, bordered and guarded stylishly by exposed brick in the shape of tiny staircases to heaven on either side. As I alluded above, my six-week anniversary culminated in a delicious salad and cider in front of both the Opera House and Harbour Bridge with my latest purchases tucked beneath my high-top table: two new pillows, two gorgeous more-decorative plushes, and a vibrant patterned quilt cover that encapsulates all the colours I love, styles I aspire to and travels I’m set on: Eastern meccas meet tropical paradises. I couldn’t love it more and it was worth the wait for the perfect design.
The perks of living with a flatmate have included not only the delicious home-cooked meals but also the affordability of a modern, sexy pad with high-ceiling and all the modern luxuries an expat world-traveler could hope for. Rup instantly made me feel at home and as though what’s-his-is-mine, thanks to his generous manner and cozy couches, chaise lounge ottoman in the living room and [newly] two plush blankets that he deemed must-have. I knew we had more in common than our passion for world-travel; he also loves home as much as I do. Our patio is quaint and urban, overlooking the industrial and gentrified block filled with warehouses-turned-highrises and eateries featuring an array of cultures. My room is both filling up, softening and evening out: it has a new and simplistic vibe thanks to my newness and scarcity of things; it also has touches of my sentimental collector’s way, thanks to my dresser's glass-top (which shades the bright smiles of my comrades from “back home” in photographs) and my new string lights that feature photo-clips for my assortment of Polaroids!
After investing today in my first-ever set of luxury bedding and pillows, I’m beginning to feel a tingle of that new and adult cross-roads approaching once again. Pillow and pics aside, I’m designing not just my sanctuary, but the lifestyle that will shape my time and rest spent in Sydney. In seeking to refine a new wellness routine, maybe I’m hoping to create an internal landscape — poised though ever-changing and adaptable for optimal wellbeing — to accompany this glorious landscape around me of history, culture, city and sea.
What the experiences of the last few weeks and few nights in particular have shown me is that becoming in tune with my mind-body-spirit relationship may be key to realising my best health, my best mindset and my peak physical condition but also my truest safety, my optimal community and the "best shape of my life" (as I so nobly aspired to only two years ago, pre-marathon). If nothing else, it’s the most certain place to start in my pursuit of my *best life.* I may not know yet whether I’ll swim a race or try a tri, live around Sydney or live in Surry forever; all I can know are the fears I’d like to face, the spaces and friendships that summon me, and the opportunities and abundance that are surrounding me in this one-of-a-kind ecosystem on the other under side of the known world. I’m in Oz alright, and it turns out there’s no wizard here either. I think namaste in Sydney for a while.
A broad down under
Since touching down in Sydney and starting this new job and journey a month ago, I feel a significant turning point coming toward me. I feel… somewhat cozy. I jogged home tonight as the sun went down and spring approached, noticing that the days are getting ever-so-slightly longer. I skipped to the tune of a thought-provoking podcast, perusing Facebook notifications and thinking of my dearly beloveds while they snoozed. I knew the route without looking, the turns without reading Maps or street signs. My landmarks tend to bring me reassuring joy along the walk home: my $20 all-you-can-eat pizzeria and the towering monument out of another century overlooking our reflecting pool in Sydney’s Hyde Park. I come home, snuggle into my [flatmate’s] couch in my ski socks and Iceland leggings and realise that I’m savouring the season (teacup in hand) because a new season is upon us -- in more ways than one. It’s my second springtime this year; the close of my second winter. Perched under the giant wall map courtesy of the roomie, I’m reminiscent of journaling in dorm room beds (from SC to Singapore to Hong Kong), our Vik apartment in the south of Iceland, my soft brown couch in Lower Pac, and evenings multitasking on the couch in North Beach with various roommates, Bachelorettes and Simba. The things I miss most: the traditions that felt so much like home I didn’t have to think or blink about what I looked like or the expressions I emoted (most in response to the Bachelor); also, the establishments so comfortable that I knew my order without glancing at a menu, the taste to expect in my coffee mug, and the friends and SF neighbours with whom I ordered.
As I reflect on my first thirty-one days here, I recall the many highlights throughout my first four weeks. There was my first walk along the Sydney side of the Pacific, my stellar 360-degree view of this city, the nearly 100 meals (not to mention 100 dumplings) enjoyed thus far, and my perfect tourist-tours across my new home. There were the hills and valleys of my first ~14 kilometres across Sydney on foot (weekend 1!), my favourite discoveries in the form of parks, storefronts and office hallways, and the most inspiring anecdotes or people I’ve stumbled across since 6 August. Finally, there’s the opportunity that helped bring me Down Under: my company, our badass global vision, and my werk. It’s a new side of "LinkedIn life” and already contains its share of milestones.
Sydney — the city and the workplace — are equally novel and easy. I love Phil, the barista at [downstairs cafe] Soho who says hi with a pleasantly-surprised smile and big eyes twice daily when I order my flat white. I love the office, that greets me with its harrowing ol’ clock tower and a pillar of blue flip flops that resembles a pile of overstock at Locals in LinkedIn-theme (see below). I love my commute: past museums and churches, malls and bank buildings, I practically apparate from hip and flavourful suburb (past quaint European and fountain-filled park) to packed metropolis filled with diverse faces. I even love our office kitchen, more like a dining room complete with restaurant tables, hanging plants and shelves for a new bedroom like mine to envy. My desk area, not unlike SF with its green leaves a la A-Bugs-Life and LinkedIn swag, hosts both sales people and quieter work horses in customer success, ad ops etc. Not that I’m quieter. Much to my satisfaction, we sit adjacent to both the kitchen and the dedicated workplace team: this means that anything and everything I could have possibly needed throughout the first four weeks of a new job was within approximately fifteen steps. I can jet out for water or a new and native snack (yes, Vegemite), or I can pop over to our resident tech whiz (my first unofficial #workbff simply due to pure proximity-meets-frequency) and ask him for the fifth time to activate my new Aussie SIM card, troubleshoot my browser issues and adjust my standing desk that won’t stay standing.
While a regional office like this one does not house the same perks to the same extent as HQ, there is an amazing amount of hospitality and home between our two cozy floors. The two kitchens and entire workspace for 225 souls is kept up by a married couple; they host breakfast and lunch, manage our common prep space for countless snacks and amenities [including but not limited to local Australian teas, candies and aforementioned local delicacies like Veg] and stock fridges full of snacks you’d find in your fridge at home: cheese squares (that are not individually wrapped), tortillas and fresh fruit slices cut and and ready for smoothie-blending. When lunch time comes, the Sydney staff (most of whom are not local) take time out of their day to sit, prep their own meal and enjoy restaurant-style luxury like shared water jugs and silverware at the tables over relaxed conversation. Finally, a single ping pong table and FiFA setup with cushy couches are constantly occupied, emitting the illusion of a start-up and that same comfort of a home-away-from-home.
Each day, I fill my new LinkedIn Learning water jug and assemble my breakfast bowl with cool poached eggs, pre-sliced avo and fresh ground s&p. Aussies love their abbrevs and I lean in to hear the goss on the reg while I munch. I am routinely asked if I’m up for a jaunt downstairs to get coffee, which most people indulge in at least twice daily. I meander awkwardly to the bathroom on my floor, walking one of two ways since it is equidistant from my own desk I think (and since I still don’t know which way to turn instinctually when nature calls). My teammates are from everywhere, both in professional background and country of origin; there are hunters and farmers in the sales realm, customer champions who manage post-sales implementation (that’s me!) and managers who span from team leads to office-wide business heads. My first friends that surround my desk include two homegrown Aussies, a British gal, an American Girl, an Irish lass and a Chilean-Australian with a huge variety sprinkled in on either side of me. All the males are charming, three of whom are named Tim, and all have already offered up their favourite bars, restaurants and retailers for my reference. The American who preceded me to Oz most recently is a dashing twenty-six year old who is part jock, part boy-next-door. Let’s hope my coworkers don’t read this anytime soon. Everyone is nice and everyone has opened up in their own time.
In Australia, any and all business conversations are built upon a foundation of rapport and relationship. I was told this from day one of my exploratory discussions, but it’s been a treat to witness it first-hand time and time again. Small talk, combined with the type of punny humour I was born for, are so abundant here that my first-ever mock customer pitch — delivered to no less than my country director in front of a class of thirty sales people — started with a fictional exchange about [her] five cats… since my male Director was playing Taylor Swift, of course. That put me at ease. My first day of work and twelve hours after landing in Sydney, I was invited to join an in-the-office first-meeting with a client who’s introducing our product into her government department. That same gal? Brought “lollies” (that means candy) to share to our most recent meeting and I’m working with her to promote and launch Linkedin, four weeks later. Since most enterprise clients prefer meeting and planning in person, exposure to Australian customers has served as the perfect method to learning the suburban landscape around Sydney. Traveling to inner 'burbs with names like Liverpool and Paramatta introduced me to motorways, more bridges and sparkling waterways than I knew were here, and driving (or rather, passenger-ing) on the “wrong side of the road.” This was also invaluable in granting me line of sight to the working world — public and private sector — outside of international tech. My customers have strong corporate cultures, value-driven missions and inquisitive people… all of whom are still human and love cupcakes.
Work has already brought great routines, amazing friends and an endless wealth of knowledge of things I didn’t know I love. In adopting our own value prop of blended and micro-learning, I’m listening to podcasts (have I mentioned that yet?) and watching Lynda courses both informative and inspiring in nature. I’ve taken to our in-office yoga instructor, powerful and nurturing, and tried other wellness classes offered mid-day like “Restore” and “Ab Lab.” Great breaks; better workouts for the mind body and spirit. Having two relatively new teammates and the most international team I’ve worked on has lent to amazing time for practice, mock scenarios, demo races and contests all to help us each demand excellence. On my one-month anniversary of landing in Sydney, I was certified by my new leader and already-thought-provoking mentor to demo our technology to clients (yes!). Finally, I’ve met so many cross-functional counterparts and ambitious women across different products Linkedin offers that my heart is bursting. My first month included a peer-mentor gathering of “Women at LinkedIn” (over wine), one women-in-industry networking event, an inaugural LGBTQ+ community event, and a celebratory evening party for LinkedIn and plus-ones because of our company’s global emphasis on the fact that “relationships matter.” It’s a value tenet but also a thing. I met partners, wives, sisters and roommates. I danced like I had known these people for years.
Finally, in my thirty and thirty-first day on this island, I checked off a few other bucket-list items — most were cheesy. My company has a ritual from the start-up days in which we stand up, introduce ourselves and share a “special talent” (uh-oh) in front of all our peers. Who knew that our Aussie offices combined contain close to 300 people… or that our Director of Asia-Pacific would be in town during my turn?! I decided to go for the only [not talent but ] tendency I’m known for and share my knack for jumping photos in both scenic and totally-average-and-everyday moments in time. Not only did I get a few laughs; my newly acquainted Head of Oz and a few strangers gave me kudos for sharing, being brave etc. That night I rep’d LinkedIn at a recruitment and networking event in-house for the first time in my tenure; wearing my LI letters and illustrating my company’s commitment to personal transformation (not to mention that of the world) made me quite proud.
I couldn’t be doing this without my desk-mate, my dance partners, teammates, or new boss. There are my yoga girls, my barista buddies, the local concierges and the passerby who tend to smile more here than in my former cities. My flatmate, first Australia mentor and unconditional listening ear is a laid-back bachelor at first glance; at the second, he’s a world traveler and videographer capturing every experience he can get his hands and feet around. He cooked dinner for us the past two Mondays and recently asked if I wanted to watch Despicable Me 3. Obviously. Moana is now in our queue, and I can’t wait to learn from the rituals I detected from our first meeting: he cooks, he explores, and he travels to both local and remote destinations for adventure, good friends, good laughs and novel excursions. I think I’ll learn a lot from him!
I’ve taken my time to reflect on my new LinkedIn life, and consider work to be a major channel and vessel for this journey away from home. It was not, however, necessarily the impetus or core fuel-engine of my transformation. Why is this a dichotomy I struggle with, I wonder? Often, I lead with the professional experience when asked why I wanted to move to Australia: I always dreamed of working overseas, experiencing an international market and, as it turned out, serving a customer from different backgrounds with new perspectives to broaden my expertise and understanding of our ecosystems, making me a more well-rounded potential leader at our company. Phew — exhausting. I know in my heart that this was not the first nor only reason for dreaming of what was past the line where sky meets sea. It’s been a powerful vessel and guiding light, however.
The dream actually began during one of my first vocations, with my realisation of our vast uniqueness and simultaneous, common humanity while running down a soccer field in Manchester, England. I wrote in my 2007 essay to USC about hearing a coach that summer — yelling from the sideline — in a language I couldn’t understand but a tone I knew only too well during an early-in-the-tourney match. The passion, the direction? All the same, as both were when we stood on the winner’s podium later that week, too. I knew from that moment on that I wanted to better understand people’s common aspirations and the lenses through which they pursue and fight for them. Fast forward ten years and, as it turns out: my company strives to do the same, all the while empowering users, learners and seekers from all walks of life to fulfil those dreams. What better way to contribute to this than by broaching this lofty mission from a different geographic angle?
After years of thinking, reading and talking about it, the dream felt more driven by a need for personal transformation. I told one of my early LinkedIn mentors that I also wanted a simple fresh start: the chance to experience a new [array of] cultures, build a community amidst new perspectives and scenery, and do so upon a blank white canvas. I grew to see that this meant a new level of independence, the essence of exploration and an exercise in resilience; as a prototype family-girl and extrovert with a knack for nostalgia and HUGE capacity for love, I realised later down the road that this would lead to extra-juicy pain, unavoidable longing and good practice in letting go.
Here I am, countless iterations of this dream later. It’s been 3 years since embarking on this path at LinkedIn, 8 since visiting Sydney and 10 since meeting the friend who would change it all: Jill, destined collegiate soulmate and studier-abroad who inspired my trip to Australia circa 2009. Before that, it was both my first love who modelled how to adventure abroad and my Mom, who — back at my current age — trekked across Europe solo with her dream of seeing, eating and falling in love in foreign lands just the same.
Thanks to Mom, my high-school superlative co-star, my inspirational friends and generous encouragers of the dream above — I’m making it werk at LinkedIn and across Oz (I even have my first interstate work trip coming up!). I know that I’m helping customers, learning new technology, building new relationships, and helping fulfil LinkedIn's vision of economic opportunity, everywhere. All the while, I’m refining and living my own vision. While I’m still meandering down the road that some call a career path, these factors make me certain that not all who wander are lost.
To my new LinkedIn life and my first nerd— I mean, thirty days!
A broad down under
When I opened my eyes this morning, the true first in which I had set no alarm and allowed myself to succumb to my black out curtains instead, I woke up to a new view and vast ocean... of covers, thanks to my wall-canvas turned bedspread. It was also marked the first morning I woke to the stark realisation that I was a vast ocean away: from “home,” my old life and the people I consider family.
While this may sound quite somber, it’s not a bad thing. This early-morning epiphany could have struck because I’m beginning to feel more settled in the fine city of Sydney. The mattress I rest my tired limbs upon is starting to meld to my shape; I’m doing adult things, like commuting home through a park daily while listening to podcasts and flossing every night. I have exercised every day for the past week if you include scenic treks along the coast of my new continent. Mind you, I’m also doing teenage things: collaging pictures of my friends and family, staying up late reading, and text-flirting with my SF-crush on the reg.
Despite having views like this one to spark inspiration in its glimmering reflections off the water, my own reflections haven’t been flowing with the abundance I’d like. While pondering the question of: How could I possibly have writers’ block when I am living the epitome of what I once envisioned to be “a life worth writing about”?! the bestie put it perfectly. She assured me that it wasn’t a block; I’m busy LIVING! "Living and experiencing and making memories, and once things calm down a bit the writing will flow like wine,” she said. I feel drunk, alright. Throughout my first four weeks, I’ve felt so saturated with love and awe that I’m fatigued on the daily. My brain gets sore, my heart is bursting, and my hands are often too tired to write from typing away at work, shaking furiously among new friends, snap(chat)ing glimpses of my new city and unpacking final items from my suitcases.
My latest and ideal ritual, for which I've decided not to apologise, is as follows: settle into a bubble bath after a long day of learning, trying, meeting people and exploring a new sight/path/eatery in Sydney. Whilst bubbling, I'll perhaps read a chapter of All Over the Place and hear a great new song or podcast that reminds me of home but opens my mind to something new. Climb into bed and read an email from a friend, write one to a family member, jot down thoughts for my blog and journal in my green leather-bound that reads "On to the Next Adventure." For writing's sake, I need to default to my purist exercise more often: writing not for an audience but simply for the sake of processing my thoughts. There are almost too many things, there are so many. On the fullest of days, I’m perfectly content getting in bed between 8 and 9p, using my downtime to catch up on my entire family and network via social while they sleep, and then drifting off to memories of my new town and savoury nostalgic flashbacks to my favourite people. Am I savouring enough?
Note: an insecurity of mine stems from a blogger and LinkedInner years ago who wrote that no one should ever watch a drop of Netflix in their first year in a new city let alone country. Maybe it’s lazy to find connection or stimulus in the ladies of Litchfield, the lovebirds of tragedies like 500 Days or the comforting ocean of Moana's and Maui’s. The question is: how should I balance the expenditure of my energy across work, well-being, social connection-building and the need to reflect and update? I’m still working toward mastery on that one, still adjusting to this new time zone.
Signs that I live here:
I have a bank account. And a nail salon.
I know my own phone number.
I have a yoga teacher and a Spotify playlist titled DOWN UNDER.
Went grocery shopping;
Paid my first month’s rent;
Zipped and finally stored my suitcases in the closet under the stairs.
Signs that I belong here:
The line where the sky meets the sea and the electric pulse it sends through me
The retro & quaint Hyde Park nearby which feels like Central Park, another planet AND home
The warmth and instant-friendship offered by most around me
Highlights to date:
Panorama views from the Westfield tower and its 360 restaurant bar
Mini-yacht cruise around Sydney Harbour and the O House
Bondi-to-Coogee Beach walk and sneak peeks of pools with names like "Icebergs"
Prosecco on the roof-deck of Coogee Pavilion with my first "visitors" (see: next post on My Touristy Trek around Oz )
Brunch items that are totally novel and delicious:
Breakfast bruschetta with haloumi and poached eggs what?
Soft baked eggs on pickly pork hash
Seaweed-y Avocado toast on Saturday #1
My current, rotating coffee orders:
Skim flat white - who calls it that?
Latte over ice
The "Cory," as my barista Phil calls my cappuccino with chocolaty cocoa powder
As the brekkie above clearly reveals, good omens seem to pop out at me everywhere I go. If I balked at the late winter chill here in Sydney, I was pleasantly surprised when met by the first day of Spring this weekend! The worst travesties to have struck include a long-overdue sore throat after weeks of over-doing it, and recently a night of walking steadfast [unbeknownst-to-me] circles home only to end up at the same train station exit at which I started.
Each morning, I walk a spritely eighteen minutes through a park to get to work. En route home, I take Oxford Street east (which makes me feel certain I'm bloody proper) and turn right on Brisbane Street to get home (whose name just makes me confused again). I jog through a line of bulbous lanterns that are reminiscent of Central Park, while sipping from public fountains that are oh-so-European lined with plants that could be found anywhere. As I gaze upon the ancient-seeming churches that can't be more than a few hundred years old, passing statues seemingly of another time and world, I can simply look up to recall that I'm beneath the same sky I've always been, shooting for the same stars.
Precisely 28 days after landing in Oz, I’ve seen and felt more than I recall of this incomparable harbour hub. I love the bustling pace down the streets and comfortable ease of conversation indoors; I love the colonial buildings and other-worldly train stations juxtaposed with modern buildings, towering skyscrapers and a revolving restaurant tower that looks intended for space. I adore the Santa Barbara trees alongside European cobblestone, lining a sparkly-smooth harbour with surprisingly jumpy waves crashing into its walls! I felt wary of the prehistoric-looking birds and untimely cold of August, but remain infatuated with the brisk summer sun over beaches only minutes from the icy urban mornings in my new city suburb. Finally, I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of the geometrically uninterpretable icon that is the cloudy white Opera House: sitting atop stairs but floating in the upside-down sea, it both houses entertainment and emits a silent tune that transcends language, culture or mileage. It feels like a fort made of white sheets; a home away from home.
I could get used to this.
A broad down under