Zooey update: sixteen months

Summer, full-time

This is the first time in eight years we haven’t gone abroad to visit extended family for part of August. I feel a little bad, as you’d get a bunch of spoiling, but we did travel in May, your grandpa has come for a week, and you have been abroad three times in your little life. And what do you know? You’re happy as long as your immediate family is around.

So I brought you to work one day to say hi. There was Bamba there; there were computer cables there; you were happy.

We actually did a lot of exciting things during this time, too.

You got to finger paint.

You ate at restaurants. You started eating properly with spoons. You went swimming over and over (you love the water. Love. Water baby.) You drew on the sidewalk with chalk. You ate chalk. You sat in the waves at the beach, you watched boats at sea.

You took some more steps to keep up with it all.

Sibling love

It comes in all shapes and sizes and levels of torment. I’ve been thinking a lot about sibling love… I guess for years. As long as I’ve had siblings. Zooey, it’s all born out of something good I’m sure. The need for attention, the human requirement to be loved. Whether you get a playful kick or a not-so-playful kick in the face… it’s not you. It’s the struggle to be heard, to know one’s place, in the sibling universe.

Because for every maka there’s a spoonful of precious maadan.

For every too-tough tug, there’s a basket of laughs.

What’s next

You’re getting out there. You have a big year ahead – graduated from the comfort of your sweet loving Moroccan metapelet, you’re going to join a dozen other kids (likely more) in the nursery atmosphere of a maon. It means more language, more interactions, more experiments, more friends. We’re looking forward for you, Zooey.

Have you heard of Facebook?

It’s mid-2005. I’m sitting across from the CEO of a growing startup in what I hope – as a 23-year-old leaving the path of a journalism career to actually pay some bills – is the last interview for the job.

‘Guerrilla marketing’.

The CEO is kind, but my mind is racing as he now asks me to give some examples of the ways I’d engage in guerrilla marketing; ideas I could bring to the team. I’m racking my brain for a semi-intelligent answer – suddenly I realize how young I am – and the next thing I know I’m saying –

“Have you heard of Facebook?”

I still remember that day fairly vividly. It was the day I became conscious of something I think I’ve always done but never realized I was doing it: using personal experience to guide my actions, and the spirit of experimentation to create new opportunities for myself. For years, my CEO (and mentor) would remind me of how I blew his mind that day, as I logged in to my infant Facebook account right on his computer. There was a profile pic, the Wall, ‘too close for missiles, I’m switching to guns’. Facebook, just over a year from its own creation. Playing a random and active part in my career’s creation.

In a Jerusalem tech tower, there we were: 22-year-old me, a successful and recognized entrepreneur, and my contemporary, Mark Zuckerberg.

What I have pulled from that experience, which was the foundation of six years at Answers.com and the rest of my ongoing career, is that if you manage to become self aware enough, you can figure out how to use your own personal experience, worldliness, perspective, and spirit of experimentation as your guide. Shhh – do you hear that? It’s you, with the ability to feed your gut feelings. To build an idea into action. To learn a new trade. To become an influencer.

That day I opened a door for myself. And I got the job. And became a guerrilla marketer for as long as that was in style. Then a social media marketer, a content marketer, a marketing manager, a community manager, a brand builder.

Throughout my six years there, I learned so much about people. About high tech. About leadership. About startups. About Israel. About myself, as part of a pre-internet and post-internet generation. About early adapters. About humility and learning and biding my time.

My advice is, train in becoming self aware enough not to miss opportunities. But also self aware enough to know when it’s time to watch and learn and listen. That last part helps you know when the time is right to take opportunities, to take the leap of faith, to trust the brainstorm.

Maybe the best opportunities are born from the desperate need to justify your 22-year-old self. Or from knowing you have something to offer; you just need the guts to do it.

Zooey update: fifteen months

We can hear you… your language is taking better shape… whether it’s your soft babble or your ‘dis’ or your just-barely ’emma’. We hear you, Zooey. We’re listening.

Or maybe it’s your language in movement… your little sideways waves.

Or maybe it’s your attempt at major movement – trying to walk. Taking steps to taking steps. You are deliberate in starting the next challenge; you do it in your own time.

They’re all steps to getting to the next level – being a part of the bigger gang.

Why do you get out of bed and go to your workplace every morning?

Is it a sense of personal responsibility to your commitments? Is it driven by the requirement to be paid in order to live your life?

Is it because you believe in what you do? Or what your organization is aiming to do? Are you looking forward to some major event, and each day is a step in that direction? Or are you chiseling away at a glacial pace, knowing someone long after you will be the one at the finish line, but you got in early on the relay?

Is it because you’re building your own professional self? Or you are part of a team, and without you, the gears can’t run?

Is it because you need meaning in life to get you going in the morning?

Is it because you need money to make your life run?

Is it because if you don’t, people will judge you?

Is it because you owe it to the cause?

Do you often consider why it is you get out of bed and go to your workplace every morning?

Does your answer ever change?

‘Where are they now?’ edition

Is it a getting older thing? A life experience thing?

Years pass, before you know it, decades pass.

Then you start to enjoy the thought of meeting up with old friends. Old bosses. Old acquaintances. Old teachers. People who taught you. Who, today, still wouldn’t laugh at you for when they knew you as a puppy, still growing and learning. For slipping or saying or believing ridiculous things.

Met with someone today from a previous life. From… well… over a decade ago. We caught up on 13 years. I was going to be a journalist and ended up in startup marketing. He told me he remembered the first year he joined the staff of our newborn campus Hillel, and we went down to the Israeli Consulate for some activism thing. And we stopped at some gas station and I came out with a freshly purchased Sunday Times. Who would do that anymore? he seemed to imply. Or, maybe, what student would do that back then?

Something I didn’t remember but was interesting to hear. The details get fuzzy and motivations blurry. Maybe it’s life place now, maybe because I don’t get enough sleep or have enough time to spend on memory. Maybe that’s why we like to get together after all these years. A quick hour to remember what was. Remember what’s real.

Soft hair.

“Ima, feel how soft my hair is.”

How many times have we said/heard our girl friends say this?

“Ima my hair is so smooth today, I used extra conditioner.”

She has thick hair and it gets knotty; I tell her to use double.

“Ima, <boy friend> is going to love it…”

Huh?

“He tells me he likes it when my hair is smooth.”

They’re just innocent six-year-olds. Everyone loves smooth hair.

“He is definitely going to want to be my friend today.”

I stop her dead in her little girl tracks. I call for her to come back. Her brother is standing next to me, wondering what is about to happen. She skips back towards me. I bend down, so we’re eye level, and I take her face close to mine.

“Listen to me: no one is your real friend because your hair is smooth or because they like your clothes or because of how you look. Your real friends love you because of the kind of friend you are. <Boy friend> loves you because you are a good friend. Otherwise, you are not real friends.”

She smiles and nods and I tell her to go have fun, and she bounds onward toward the path to her kindergarten.

Her brother looks back at me. I look at him.

“That was important,” I tell him.

I should have said, “for you too.”

Zoey update: fourteen months

Sisters.

You have a couple.

And one sings you sweet songs and strokes your chubba arms and gives you kisses.

And the other kinda tortures you.

…and then she sings you sweet songs and strokes your chubba arms and gives you kisses.

And while you’re not being entertained by your siblings’ madness, you’re learning to entertain yourself. Singing. Talking. Waving. Clapping. Climbing. Slapping.

P.S. Can you maybe not slap me so hard in bed in the mornings?

Oh, Jerusalem: High impact presentation of a high impact city

Every day I wake up, get myself and what feels like 3853075 other people ready for our routines, drag my ass to my car and eventually end up on the road into work.

The thing about that road is, it’s the road to Jerusalem.

And not just the road to Jerusalem, but the road to some of the holiest places, to billions of people.

And, begrudgingly, exhausted, sitting in my car, podcast-listening, sun-glare in my eyes, cursing at tunnel drivers, I forget this. Every, single, day.

But yesterday, I remembered. It’s been years since I looked around a room and thought, Oh, Jerusalem.

A co-worker signed us up for a 2-day intensive Dale Carnegie workshop on giving high impact presentations. I went in with no expectations; to be honest I’m too busy to have expectations these days. So I thought I’d get some public speaking tips and move on.

The course itself was incredible – an absolute mindfuck, actually – and maybe I will write about that another time. It doesn’t take a tenured psychologist to understand that my self talk when I present does not match the incredible feedback I got from peers (aka, in my mind, I have no right making  fun of Donald Trump for the insane shouting and hand gestures; I’m an ex-New Yorker too – but no one else seemed to see that or care).

By the end of the first day, after the 13 of us had each given several presentations, vulnerably, hilariously, warmly, I caught myself looking around and seeing the people in the room in a Jerusalem light. What a cliche, I thought. The Evangelical Christian, the Muslim Arab, the Hassidic Jew, the national religious Jew, the modern observant Jew, the traditional Jew, the secular Jew. Educators, non-profit do-gooders, community organizers, procurers of Zionist fervor, ambassadors of Startup Nation. European accent. Russian accent. Various Anglo accents. Arab accent.

So Jerusalem.

Then today, we came back. Presenting our passions – social causes, educating teens on dealing with academic stress, getting Christians and Jews to repair centuries of damage, making the Jewish Quarter of the Old City a more pleasant place. Creating opportunity for anyone to invest in innovation. Bringing young Jews to Israel to fall in love and move here. Empowering Jewish women to take back their power.

How very… all over the place.

Our trainer from the States had to say it. I had wondered yesterday if he had thought it, and then here he was at the end of day two, and he had to say it. This place… it’s moving, it makes you think, it’s powerful. Look at all of you here, together. It gives you hope. 

You know, I should hear it more often. I’m in Jerusalem every day. Getting my things together, scrambling to the car. Foot alternating between gas and brake pedals, weaving past signature white stone. Driving on an ancient road that eventually gets you to one of the holiest places for billions of people. Just ten minutes from where I spend the majority of my day time figuring out new ways to invite people to invest in this place. Ten minutes from where billions of people throughout history have invested so much energy and time and emotion.

I should hear it more often – it gives you hope.

Oh, Jerusalem.