I Thought I Left Silicon Valley Because It Was Toxic And I Felt Alone
I have now been out of the Valley for 20 years and moved to Los Angeles to see if I could get away from the world according to tech. I started my career there in public relations and jumped right into the madness of it all. The energy was intense and you had to be fast on your toes. Sure, there was a lot of excitement with the amazing technologies and thought leaders taking stage with multimillion dollar launches, campaigns, and big, big, promises. It was hard for me to wrap my head and heart around all of what was swirling around me. I was young and impressionable. Sure, this was Silicon Valley. This was a city and culture, that was going to change the world with technology and smarts. So why did I feel alone as I started my career as a 22 year old in one of the most famous places in the world?
To this date, I am still finding and feeling those answers. I am still working on a healing process that only I can understand and feel. But now, and this is the reason I am writing this piece, I am seeing how I have never been alone in the Valley, and that the culture of the Valley was not the “bad guy” and was simply space and energy, nothing more than a special place that I would take into my being and learn how to live with it.
I went up to see the Valley for a very short visit. I met a few angels who literally seemed to pop right out of nowhere. I realized they were always there in those early days as well, sitting right there with me rooting me on. I just did not know how to see them or feel how they were there with me either leading the way or walking by my side. In those early years I was on auto pilot, or in fight and flight mode as many like to say. I was a high achiever climbing a ladder that never seemed to have a top to it. But I kept climbing even though the climb was not always a healthy climb.
During this last trip I was hosted by a woman who has run her own PR agency since she was 26. We had only met in person two times prior to this visit but have stayed in touch via social media. She welcomed me into her house, helped me feel a part of her family, and cooked a wonderful dinner for me while we chatted about being a woman in high technology, working with the younger generation, the challenges and blessings involved with constantly working to get new business, and just plain old life. I felt honored to be with her and felt held. I was ready to be held and knew that it was time for me to hold others so they do not climb that ladder too fast and end up falling and losing a sense of self as I did for awhile.
I have pretty much worked solo as a PR entrepreneur and well, 20 years later, am still in the game big time. I still and always will want to make a difference in this world? There are a lot of us who want to do the same, especially women in technology. It is still not pretty out there in regards to how women in technology are not getting the jobs they deserve. Women are still not getting paid the same as men even though survey after survey proves that women in higher positions in companies bring in more revenue and tend to be better leaders and tribe builders. While hanging out with my friend who has been extremely successful running her firm, we both agreed that women are not going forward in the Valley, or Corporate America for that matter. I told her how I have always felt this and this is probably one of the key reasons I kept running faster and faster as a high achiever thinking that this is what was going to keep me alive in the Valley. And most importantly, why my soul felt so empty.
This note I am writing is my journal entry after living through 24 hours of visiting a place I never felt connected to even thought I kicked butt in my career there for 10 years. But during those 10 years you can see that something was always off for me. I am a connector, an attacher, and someone who believes in people so, so much. As I went from meeting to meeting on this trip, saw old hangouts, and did the running around thing getting the rental car and to my airline gate on time to make my flight, I was ready to say goodbye, and yet, hello. Why? Because I finally felt held. This visit with my PR friend, and most importantly, a genuine soul, helped me see that I need to continue to see me for who I am and that again, I have never really been alone.
I made it in the Valley as one would say. I have made it as a solo PR entrepreneur. And I have made it as an individual who now allows myself to let the feelings flow through, even though I have no idea sometimes why these feelings come out of nowhere. No more auto pilot! I now see more than ever that I was searching all of those years for the why behind everything I was doing. And this is ok. I cried a few times on this trip to let that sadness that I held in for so many years be held. I showed up. I learned that there are “sistas” out there who will take care of one another.
I now have more faith in the “system” and how as a society we are yes, moving so fast and are running as fast as we can to get to the next goal or deadline. My imperative is now to help others see that it is ok to be uncomfortable and question their discomfort at work, to let their emotions out when they darn well feel like it, and to reach out for support.
I am the Valley. I am the career. I am the leader of a tribe. I am someone who will, and is making a social impact. I am me and no one can take me away from me. And I was meant to be a PR practitioner to give back and to help our world become a better place for all. I hope you feel the same way about your career and how you are making a difference. You are, and I hope you don’t forget this. And most importantly, you are not alone and have many sisters, brothers, and angels at your side encouraging you to be the best you can be for yourself and others. You have purpose. You most indeed have a purpose and I look forward to seeing you out there showing your stuff.