heels part 1 + loneliness in tech

THAT ONE PLACE IN THE MARINA, THE MARINA —

in the indian culture, writing catchy headlines and big scoops are not the building blogs of family pride. instead, success is measured by the color of your scrubs, not the strength of your sources. so my job decision, since before i can even remember, has often been met with winces and slight tilts of the head. the neighbor next door only found solace when she remembered anderson cooper was a journalist too and that some of us get rich.

the dialogue, as i’ve progressed in my career, has undoubtedly gotten better. but during family dinners, i’m always prepped for a reaction, and maybe advice on “when i’m going to stop doing my hobby.”

then, without even really thinking, i found perhaps the most unlikely ally of them: my grandfather from conservative new delhi, india.

more later, including how high heels fits into all of this, but first words + reads:

my words: i wrote about how lonely it is to be a founder in tech. one in three people are lonely, and entrepreneurs, more apt than others to have an array of mental health issues, are no exception.

etc: i was honestly surprised by how many people were willing to chat on the record for this story. it inspired a three part series. after you read this one, keep your eyes out for part 2, which looks at loneliness from tech, and part 3, which looks at loneliness combatted by tech.

learning lesson: i’m biased but writing and reading about culture within tech, beyond hustle culture, is searched for and welcomed. it feels raw, and it inspired me to write about it more just by hearing stories (see previous point). of course, culture is a beat on its own but it feels like loneliness is one, too.

one quote really stood out to me in my piece today: “i wouldn’t try to fix their loneliness,” he said. “those are normal human emotions and probably evolutionarily we evolved these for a reason—they are useful signals to tell us something is wrong.”

there’s something to chew on.

unorganized tab time:

meditation apps you can use

i talked to teenagers in line to see ice cream

my weekend newsletter for crunchbase news

juul raised money today

rachel murray was washing her hands when she found hope

tumblr was bought, again

gender disparity within the VC world

anyways,

here’s some context on my nana. he would travel with my uncle to work every day, from 9 am to 9 pm. he would sit in the passenger seat, no matter what, with a freshly ironed shirt and tailored pants, ready for the work day. together, they would travel to the bicycle company that my nana had once owned, and that my uncle now carries. my nana couldn’t really contribute to much because the day included heavy lifting and consumer sales- but like always, he found a way. walking in, you would see a 90-year-old man folding and flattening boxes from the unpacked boxes in the corner. people would give him money, tell my uncle to stop making his father work, or simply just give the two of them weird stares. but my nana argued that he wanted to help in any way he could — the shop used flourish with his pride and joy after all. still, my family wasn’t convinced. so, finally one day he told us the reason why he decided to go to work at 90 years old.

he would take the spare change he got from customers who walked past him, bring it home, and keep it in a jar. day after day, he would add to the jar and keep it to the side. i didn’t really see any worth in this until he would continue to explain.

“i’m saving this change up to get you heels because when you’re a media woman you’re going to need to be able to make eye contact with the people you interview, shorty.”

he didn’t need to save change if he really wanted to buy my heels, he didn’t need to go to work and fold boxes if he wanted to support me- and i think even he knew there was no way to rationalize a 90-year-old with questionable health going to work everyday. but, there’s a beauty in a jar of spare change, the pile that grows over time simply from his long term commitment to that business. and me.

truly, his humble, quiet gesture from half a world away inspired me to pursue my passion fearlessly.

about nine months after that conversation, my grandpa died. i was just finishing my first year of college, i had just applied to be the business editor of my school newspaper, i even got the most coveted journalism professor at boston university.

through it all my nana’s words stayed with me. after he died, i got some money in his name. it was more than a tip jar could hold collecting, the spare change had been a symbolic gesture.

now, i prefer a comfortable pair of flats over heels any day. even at work, i’m usually in vans or sneakers. but sometimes, just for him, i slip on a pair of heels. i paced in them the first time i got yelled at by a source, and i sported them when i told this story a few years ago to a crowd of 600. quite literally, and as corny as it sounds, they give me the confidence to stand tall.

next week, i’ll talk about how my relationship with heels has changed as time has passed.

to spare change and high heels,

N

p.s. here’s a video of me performing this story in 2017

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