Birthday Cake

I waited for him to call in the morning. It was eleven o’clock and he has not called yet. I decided that it was too late to go out for lunch with him. I called the lady who was going to babysit the kids and told her that I had a change of plans. Then I told the kids to put on their shoes and take their jackets. I told them we were going to a cafe and then to get my birthday cake.

Close to the cafe there was a lego shop. I parked at the lego shop entrance and told the kids that they can get one lego set each. A gift to them on my birthday. The lego store was closed, the sign on the door read that it would open at noon. I promised the kids that we would come back when it opens.

We got pastries and coffee at the cafe. The kids jumped excited around me, they loved the cafe; they were also very happy awaiting to get the lego sets. Kids get so happy with gifts. I thought of when I was a kid and how I felt asleep excitedly on the night before my birthday all wrapped in the magic of what I will wake up to.  I still loved gifts. I just rarely got any in the last years.

I looked at my phone. It was half past eleven. Then I took the book and started reading. The kids were running on the street in front of the cafe. I was sitting at the high bar table facing the window. A bouquet of fresh flowers in a transparent glass vase was standing next to my coffee cup. I thought that this cafe always has beautiful flower arrangements on its tables. It was pleasant to look at the orange flowers. Then he called and it was noisy at the cafe. Besides as we talked I started to feel sad and I thought that my voice sounded like an echo and I had to make an effort to talk. I would have liked to see him on my birthday, but I understood that I could not. There were too many family things happening for him on that day. And I wanted to end the conversation because I was afraid I would start crying.

I left my coffee unfinished and called the kids. We went to the lego store at noon and it was already open. And they each selected a toy and I was glad to see them that happy. Their smiles and the fresh air made the desired effect. Then we drove to get the cake. I let the kids chose the cake for me too. It was a chocolate decadence cake at the end.

After lunch kids placed handmade cake decorations on top of the cake. And as I lighted the candles the decorations caught fire and I had to blow it all before making a wish. And it was quite funny and we all laughed. The cake was dense and good. And there was a lot of it left.

I had a work call with my team and then decided that I will go to the gym at night for the open mat. I wanted to see people. Seeing him would have felt like a gift. Seeing people at the gym felt like a gift too. You get to love people after you have been wresting with them on the mats for over two years. And all I wanted was to spend time with the people I loved. Kids were happy to play a few hours at a friend’s house and I dropped them there on my way to the gym. I also thought of taking the rest of the cake to the gym, but then decided against it. May be he could come over the next day and then we could finish that cake together. I smiled at the thought of it and left the cake in the fridge.

He called as I was approaching the gym. And we talked for a while. The connection was breaking because he was driving on some mountain road, and I did not hear a good portion of it. He said he would not be back the next day and he hoped that I was having a good birthday. He asked me how I was doing and I said I was doing ok. And I wished I was. I thought to myself that I should have taken the cake to the gym. And I felt silent. And then he asked about work because the conversation was getting very quiet. And after a few minutes the connection broke. It was windy on the parking lot. I sat in my car for a few minutes looking at my phone, through the large glass window I saw people moving inside the gym. I took my bag and went in.

It felt peaceful inside. I smiled. First half crooked smile, and then widely. Happy birthdays and hugs. I missed that warm human touch of other shoulders. My sparring partner walked in. We put on our MMA gloves and started. The world was quiet and simple and warm. And you felt like a kid rolling in the snow. And in the second hour we rolled with all other guys in the gym too. And I did not notice how my right hand got bruised. And I also did not notice how all the sadness was gone. When you are fighting you are never sad. That’s the virtue of fighting.

We finished the last sparring round at eight. I took a quick shower at the gym, picked up the kids and drove to my best friend’s house for dinner. Her family had just returned from Hawaii and it was good to see them all. We drunk wine, ate food she cooked and I told them to come over the next day for coffee and birthday cake. And they said they would.

And then at home I did not know if I wanted to write about it all. I did not feel like writing it because I did not want to tell the truth. But I did not want to fake it either. I just wanted to write.

So I said to myself ,”If you are going to write it, at least, write how it really was.”

Driving at night

It felt pleasant when on the curves my hair touched the sides of my face. The hair was thin and the touch was light and gentle.  The car drove smoothly on the night road. My son was sleeping on the back seat. It was past ten. The serpentine road opened up new curve with more pine trees. Then the road went up the hill and then we were driving on the top for a little while.

The air was clean. The moon was high and round. And the road was lit with the moonlight and it did not seem night at all.

I had picked up my son from the friends’ house where he had spent the whole day together with his sister. My daughter stayed for a sleepover, my son wanted to come home with me. He told me we will make a deal, he would only stay for sleepovers when I needed to be in the city till late for work. All other nights he would sleep at home. I told him it was a deal, he does not have to sleepover at his friends’ if he does not want to, unless it is needed. Reassured he felt asleep in the car. He liked to sleep at home. He liked to sleep in my bed, and on Saturdays I let him sleep there, because I did not have to wake up early on Sundays. He was the only person who sometimes slept in my bed. He curled with his “doudou” (this  is how you call your favorite plush toy in French) and he did not move much the whole night.

And now he was asleep on the back seat of the car and we were driving. The car felt safe and the night forest was all around us. You could hear the night like a melody, a little bit sad and easy to hum. And tears started rolling down my face. It has been a long day and I have been working since morning. I have been typing work emails and having calls with my advisors and the developer. And talking. And yet I did not hear one gentle word in the whole day. And I barely said any. Of course we talked, but there were no love in those words. And I was wondering now if a day was worth living if no love was in the words one said. The kids were getting used to the rooms where no words of love were pronounced.

And then I thought that people said it was good to cry. And I wondered “was it?”. And it occurred to me that it was not. It was much better to laugh than to cry. It was much better to love than to cry. Crying is just a part of our humanness, love is the whole.

As we were driving the road was like velvet. Smooth and even, and the wheels rolled calmly and the whole world was calm. And finally I was calm too. And I thought how we would arrive home and how I would help my son climb into my bed and how peaceful his face would be. And I thought that there was still a lot of life ahead of us and that I should build our next house with love. They need to know what love is. They need to know that love is not two people who live under one roof fighting. They need to know that love is more than one person alone doing pretty much everything but rarely laughing. They need to know that love is balanced, abundant and makes all people under the roof happy. Or else how would they learn to build their families with love?

And it was quiet in the car.

And then it got even quieter.

Driving down the hill, after another curve, two stars became visible high up in the sky and, surprisingly to myself, I prayed.  And on the next turn my hair flew over my face and the touch was sweet and gentle. Like a loving hand. And combed by the moonlight the night road shined at the bottom of the hill.

Letting go of emotions

cibo-dec-14jpgIt was part of our conversation when we had coffee. I asked her if she detached herself from her emotions in her marriage and she said yes.

I was trying to play a simple piece on the violin earlier that day while I was feeling uneasy. I took the violin in my hands because I wanted to calm down and get all the emotions out. And I could not play well. I was too focused on what I was feeling, trying to express something. I was not focused on the music. And you can’t play well if you are focused on yourself and not on the music.

Then it occurred to me that I could never fight well if I had any emotions. The only way to enjoy the fights and to improve was to be completely emotionless and to focus on the technique of the body moves.

The same was at work. If I had emotions I most probably said the wrong thing, wrote that email at the wrong time or made a bad decision. I had to have my head clear to be good. Clear means no emotions.

If I ever want to be able to love someone I can’t let emotions interfere with it. And the reason being: emotions make us focus on ourselves. Emotions are all about us. Emotions are rarely about the other person or thing. Emotions is our status quo, it is our way to protect the “fairness”, it is our way to feel important.

Focusing on emotions we revolve in our own self. We can’t improve, learn, grow, build, and love if we focus on ourselves. Passion has nothing to do with emotions. Passion is the contrary of emotions. Passion is this light we have in our hearts, it is a light for something or for somebody. Like a candle we light for a loved one.

May be the way to love is to be detached from the emotions. To love technically is to do the right thing. Meaning you focus on making the relationship work and not on your own emotions and how you feel about everything.

Of course you should be happy. Letting go of emotions and focusing on the “building process” actually makes me happy. It is a different kind of happiness though. It is a deep calm happiness.

Late at night I took the violin again and played the same dance over and over just focusing on the notes, on the bow movement, on my hands, on my fingers, on the rhythm. With my mind clear and not trying to express anything. And what I heard made my heart happy. Like if I learnt something new and beautiful.

Men & Women

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We are standing in the changing room after training. All of us tired. But also lighter and “happier” than before training. Smiles. And our faces look easier. Today we were about 12 or 14 people, all men and myself. And I say that I decided not to lose weight. And Dave says that I should not, that I look great. And I say “Thank you” and explain that I meant for U.S. Open.  That I am exactly in between weights. 135Lbs with the gi. The cuts are 129Lbs and then 141Lbs for women.

I usually train with men, just because there are more men than women at the gym and in this sport. The lightest one is probably around 165Lbs. This means I am so used to work against a heavier fighter. If I opt for losing weight I have to starve myself, and with all the work load and training it weakens me up. Thus, the weigh is fine.

I get into the car. My both kids, who were waiting for me to finish training, are with me. I feel bad that they have to spend all this time in the gym, but they always say they do not mind. I look at them and I feel this deep love in me. Love that translates into care. As I drive home I think about this recent spark of articles about how hard it is for women to work in tech or to get funding in tech or to be tech company founder. And I think that this is true. Or it might be true in many cases.

It is the same way that it is harder for a woman to train in a mostly men team, where all your opponents are at least 30 pounds heavier. In sports I never think of it. I am the one who wants to enter this game and play here. And I do not mind the difference, I do not think I am in a disadvantage. I might be, but I do not care. I am going to train and fight anyway, because this is who I am. And I like it. I like pushing myself till I can feel my muscles giving it all for a few seconds. I like the sweat. I like grabbing the gi and pushing the other person around. I like to sprawl and control his head. I like when I can get out of a bad situation, after thinking that I was done, but not giving up. I like the eyes of my partner right before my head will go into his shoulder. I love the physical concentration of our bodies. You are never sloppy when you fight. I love every detail of fighting. This is why I do it.

The same is true to building a tech startup. I started working on my project two and a half years ago and I fully went into it this July. It is hard. It is mostly a male dominated world where women are welcome but a few stay. Because it gets really tough along the road. Getting a team is hard. Raising money is very hard. Dealing with a lot of men and a few women who will meet with you and reject your project. For different reasons, because they do not see how it is going to monetize, because I do not have a male cofounder (yes, people said that, and then rectified, that they meant a technical cofounder), because I am a mom, because they do not see the product market fit, because they just do not feel it. My male advisors look at my deck and the MVP and say I should not have problems raising funding. And then when I go for it I have all problems I could ever have. I think many just want to see if I stick around long enough working on the project after I have been rejected hundred times. May be men just stick around longer and women quit easier. I do not know.

I believe in what I do. I know that ultimately my product will help hundreds of people get jobs and live better. It is a long road though. And my natural way to deal with it is how I deal with fighting. I am not going to focus on disadvantages. I will fight regularly with a heavier opponent. I will train. I will show up. No matter how hard things are, how sad I am or how sore I am from yesterday. I will fight my way into improving myself. I will become good. I can do this because I know who I am and what I care about.

You have to know who you are. Once you have it you will find the way to achieve it. I think the major disadvantage is not sex or weight, it is not knowing yourself. This is what makes us less resourceful, this is what makes us give up on things we try to achieve. I guess the question is “What do you really care about?”.

Every small thing

It was quiet at home. I was baking. Kids’ friends were coming over with their mom. My coffee got cold while I was working on the website. A small side project just for cash sake. I almost forgot about the coffee. I took the white cup and sipped the coffee while baking the cake. It was windy outside. The trees were making lots of noise. And quiet at home. The smell of the cake in the oven and the cold coffee.

I moved silently inside the apartment. I knew my steps and I did not make any noise. Smoothly. I always walked barefoot. My right foot hurt with every step. But even the pain was smooth and common. It did not bother me. It was soothing in a way.

This month was hard. I was stressed out and with a lot of pressure. Mostly financial. I woke up in the mornings before the alarm and could not fall back asleep. Just lay in the bed worrying. Every small thing that went wrong broke me down. My sunglasses broke. Those were cheap sunglasses from Spain, I always bought them cheap on purpose, if they break or I lose them it is ok. This time they broke and I cried. Every small thing made me cry. A comment, a knife that falls on the floor and breaks, spilled detergent…

It is hard to get through bad months alone. There is nobody at home who would hug you and tell you that you will make it. It is hard at work when you are the only founder. There is nobody in it with you. Nobody to cheer you up. Nobody to tell you that “we” will get through it.

I know I am strong. I know I will make it. I know who I am and I can depend on myself. It is extremely lonely and damaging too. Like walking with an injured foot and not noticing the pain. Loneliness is drinking cold coffee in the early afternoon. It is crying over broken sunglasses. It is standing next to the kitchen counter and being very quiet.

 

A few pictures from Lille, France

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Here are a few pictures from Lille, France. I had them on my phone and I meant to post them on my blog, so that I do not forget the places and what I felt then. The first one are the two expressos in the morning. One after the other. And the city waking up.

There is Lille in the morning when I went jogging from 6 to 7am. The streets and plazas were empty. The cafes and boulangeries were closed at 6, and were putting their croissants and breads in the windows at 7. And staring at me when I made the pictures. In the mornings the streets were wet from night showers and the dumpsters smelled badly. But the streets were empty, so you could chose on what side to run.

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There is this smell from the childhood. The smell comes from the trees in the park. The little yellow flowers produce the smell. And I remember our summers at my grandma’s place in Lipetzk (Russia). And those trees are called Lipas. And the smell is very sweet and it makes me smile and want to fall asleep.

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And then there is a slightly everyday Lille. With people. Shoppers. Tourists. The buzz of the downtown.

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And the Lille at night, when the cafes are closing.

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The blue doors and shutters. I always had this thing with doors. I love doors. They tell a story. But they do not tell the full story. They leave the most important behind.

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And there is Lille that made me think of my two kids. The sweet Lille. My kids would have loved that.

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Lille from inside of the cafe when it is raining outside. In the morning.

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And the sky.

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Lille, July 2016

Why do we have dreams?

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I do not want to write anything pragmatic or that has logic behind it. We all work too much and do all the stuff that makes sense. A few days ago, as we were driving back home, my nine-year-old daughter asked me from the back seat of the car, “Why do we have dreams?”.  And there was this moment of quietness before I said anything. Actually I did not say, but instead asked her, “Did you have any dream recently?” And she said, “No. I am just wondering why do we have dreams.”

And I did not have any good answer. I really do not know why we have dreams. So, I told her the first thing that came to my mind. I told her that subconsciously since we are born we know what is good for us and what our life could be and these visions from inside of us become our dreams. And that if we do what is in our dreams we will be happier because we will bring the “inside” of us closer to the “outside of us”, we will bring our heart to the real life of us.

….

After I realized that no sensible investor will invest in my company at this stage, I stopped telling people how I am planning to make money. Instead I started telling what I believe in. I believe that we, those of us living in U.S., should help people who live in less fortunate environments, where opportunities are rare and everything is harder. I started this company to help people in Asia, South America, Eastern Europe to get jobs, to do well at their jobs, to be confident and succeed. I know how our confidence influences every aspect of our lives and when I read that report that said that 8 out of 10 Asians do not get jobs because of poor English, I knew that I wanted to spend my life to help these people. I was already working on a language solution then, but this made me realize why I am doing it. We are building an Enterprise software that will use the same logic and will support the whole company, and this is how we are going to make money. However, the purpose of the  whole project remains the same. And it is not that hard to go through everything when you believe in what you do. Not just believe a little bit, but truly believe because it goes with the purpose of your life: to care for others. And I feel much better since I stopped telling investors how I am planning to make money and started telling them what I believe in. The result is the same, most of them will not invest now, but I feel much better by saying the truth. You rarely hear people say what they believe in. You hear people say what they do. And it is beautiful to hear somebody on the stage or on the other side of the table say “I believe in…”. I believe is like a dream. You stop talking about tangible world and talk about dreams. And conversation is so interesting.

….

I started thinking about my dreams. Apart from the company, which I truly love and daydream about, I have other dreams. My night dreams are erratic and senseless till they make sense. I would wake up and not remember any dreams. But if I see a picture or hear some words I would remember the night stuff. Mostly about physical touch as I fall asleep. Touching the other hand. The small wrinkles around your eyes. And the yellowish lights over the big wooden doors, and our footsteps on the empty streets.  And a kiss and my hand on the back of your neck. And the noise of the night city and kissing the ear. Right ear. And the awkward feeling of the distance as you sit across the table. And the wine that is not Syrah, because in Spain they do not serve Syrah everywhere.

….

Those dreams are rare. Rare because normally I am tired and exhausted and fall asleep before my head touches the pillow and when I wake up my mind is already thinking about this latest feature we are developing for the language platform. And I like to wake up early, get my coffee and in the coldish air before sunrise start working. When you believe in something every small step is important and you want to move forward. And somehow it is nice how dreams, and love, and hours of work, and what you believe in – all of it comes together in one life.

And then you always have the Paris airport…

(The picture – one of my favorites – is from Paris airport, July 2016)

 

Hours

Training in sports made me realize a very simple truth. All you need to do to be good at something is put hours of training. There is no secret, no shortcuts, no magic. If you put less hours you are less good. If you just show to the gym and do not workout it does not count. If you workout but you are sloppy and do not care, you do not improve.

There is this point of “every day”. Yes, every single day you spend hours training. You decide not to feel tired and to forget about soreness. You do not focus on your bruises or injuries. You just quietly show up and train. And yes, you could have every excuse in the world for not doing it. You have the excuse. Right here, in front of you. So many others do not do it. And still it is no excuse at all.

Some days you feel good, some days you feel frustrated. Some days you are full of energy and others you can barely roll yourself off the car seat. Some days you win and some days you lose. And you lose more than you win. Some days you feel strong and some days you feel weak. And the only way to break through this feeling of weakness is to keep showing up and training.

A few days ago I was mentoring two founders of a startup. They asked me what is the secret in marketing to get attention from the crowd. And I told them that there were no secret, no shortcuts. It is like MMA training. If you do your work and do it with care and believe in what you do, you will succeed. It is all about hours you put in daily.

And everything in life is like that.

When you win it is because you put your heart, and sweat and will into it. When you lose you are the only one accountable. And this is the beauty of it. You have the power.

 

Headlights

IMG_7945There was a car following me all the way on the HWY 101. I noticed it when I was passing Sausalito, but it might have been following me from before that too. It was flashing its headlights at me, it passed me two times and then backed up behind me. And kept flashing the lights. “Some idiot,” I thought to myself. “Do not get nervous.” It was late. It was quarter past midnight and I was extremely tired. So tired that at times I would lose orientation and get scared for a split of a second because all the objects would start flowing around me. It was dark and there were very few cars on the highway at that hour.

I got off my exit in San Rafael and the car followed me. It followed me till I parked in front of my house. I rolled down the window as I did not want to get out of my car with that other car stopped next to mine. The man in the other car rolled down his window too and said, “You did not have your headlights on.” He smiled, waved at me and drove back in the direction of the highway.

He was right. My headlights were off. I must have forgotten to put them on in the city. “How could I ever be so tired?” I closed my eyes and felt the sharp taste of adrenaline under my tongue. And I got scared. “Thanks God that man drove behind me all the way, so others could see my car. I might have been hit by another car easily, just because it was so dark. It is good I have a guardian angel. It is really good. There must be somebody up there, the universe, that cares. Thank you for caring.” Those were the first thoughts.

If you ever drive at night and you see a car without its headlights on, do the same. You can save somebody’s life, or two, or three. And it feels precious to be on the receiving end and realize that somebody cares.

I believe in the kindness of the human kind. I believe we all care for others, but sometimes we are too scared to show it in real life. We are scared that others will think that we are idiots. Do not be scared.

Care. Do it.

A Day

SF1I slept in. The alarm sounded at 5am and I turned it off and woke up forty minutes later. I stayed in bed for another fifteen minutes letting myself dream just about hugging somebody. And I put the palm of my hand under my cheek and lay flat on my stomach. And it was comfortable and I was not sleepy. Then I got out of the bed in one move, made myself a coffee and opened my laptop.  I had to work on my deck that was a complete mess.

This deck was in constant draft stage as the things at the startup were changing quickly and I always had to update it with the new information. And the day before I realized that it was completely deformed and meaningless and I could not put it together. That day I happened to visit a friend who gave me some skiing clothing for my son that her son grew out of and I mentioned to her my worries about the deck and she offered to meet at night and help me. So I drove to the Bay Club to meet her after my MMA practice and we spent sometime on the deck and it started to make sense. Then we went out for dinner and an interesting conversation came out. We talked about our feelings and how it is important to be open with oneself about our true emotions. And she said she used to write a diary and talk to herself through that diary. And I told her that I used to write a diary too when I was sixteen or seventeen, but then I dropped it, because I was not able to be honest with myself. It ended up being just ink on paper.

This was yesterday. And this morning I started working on the deck and by 8am it was finished and in pretty good shape. I had a call with my developers and we talked about the never ending question of creating personas based on people’s vocabulary and I felt lost in the topic and completely blah. I had a morning pitch with an investor and I had no energy to do it and could not put together one convincing sentence during the call. I did not apologize for it just because I do not like to say that I am sorry. But I felt like saying “Hey, I am sorry you had to listen to this awful and boring pitch. Truthfully sorry to lose your time.” But I did not say it, and instead he asked for the deck and to follow up.

I got out of my house at noon and drove to the city for a lunch with another startup founder. They did a product called Statsbot and it gave you stats through a bot, and they were with 500 Startups now. We were meeting at a place called Avenue, I had been there before with one of my advisors. I got my lunch and the guy I was meeting was being late and this pissed me off in a way. I do not like when people are late. And I felt like leaving, but I was eating my lunch and still had some time till my next meeting. The guy showed up about half an hour late and we talked. He was from Moscow and had just recently moved here. He said the city was dirty, expensive and full of homeless people. He sounded slightly arrogant, but I assumed that this was because he was recently from Moscow. Otherwise he was an okey guy. He said he liked it here and wanted to stay in the area.

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I drove to my next meeting which was with a personality test company. I met the founders a week before at a French Tech Breakfast, and they were a French company with HQ in San Francisco doing personality assessment for enterprises. And as in my company we were getting into building personas tied to vocabulary usage I thought that I should find a better solution than creating it ourselves from scratch. The conversation went well and the guys offered a partnership that might turn out exactly what we need. The first step was taken and now my developers would have to talk to their data scientist to see how we can make it work.

I left their office at 3:45 and I still had time till my 6pm pitch event. I got into my car and drove around to find a cafe I could work or read from. I found nothing at first. And then I remembered that there was a cafe on the 18th street where I was once or twice before. Farley’s. It was a few minutes away and I drove there and parked on a steep street, so steep that it was impossible to walk it in high heels.

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The cafe was full. Everybody was siting with their laptops and headphones. I stood at the bar and got an espresso and a madeline. I decided it was ok to eat a madeline now, even though I was on a track to lose 6 Lbs in the next few weeks. It was not for the weight loss per ce. It was for competing in the feather division in U.S. Open BJJ tournament. And I needed to lose 6 Lbs for that. And I did not want to leave it till the last week, like I did with the American Cup. When I was literally starving for the last two days and had no strength to fight on the mat. And then I lost. So, now the plan was to lose these 6 Lbs this month and just keep the weight till the tournament in October. Anyway, one madeline was fine, I told myself. There were no empty tables around thus I went to the big round table next to the window where just one guy was sitting and I asked him if I could sit there too. He smiled nicely and said “please do”. And then he told me that he had a madeline too and it was extremely good. He said he did not eat such a good madeline in a while. And I smiled and opened my laptop. I reviewed the deck, and sent it to another founder to ask for his feedback. And then I knew I had no energy again. I read through the deck and sent it to a few more people, including my advisor, and asked for their feedback. And then I straightened my back and said to myself, “you can’t pitch like this when you have no energy”. May be it was true, and I was just too tired and did not sleep enough. This was what my friend told me yesterday night at dinner.

I sat there and thought that it made no sense to think about tiredness right now. I got another espresso. I really liked the taste of it. And I looked at the guy in front of me and I wanted to ask him what was he doing. He was typing something quickly and he looked stressed out. He had his phone, his sunglasses and a small red notebook next to him. Exactly the same objects I had next to my laptop except that my notebook was blue. And I thought about starting a conversation, but then I felt like I might be bugging him. I should probably not disturb people that let me sit at their tables. I wanted to talk to him badly and I was afraid to ask him anything at the same time. And I sat there for 10 minutes debating if it was ok to ask him what he was doing. And I remembered a picture a friend posted on Instagram earlier that day, an image in a mirror of two people sitting on the opposite sides of a table in a bar and each of them looking at their phones.

I looked over my laptop and asked him if the things were going wrong. Because he had just shook his head in distress. And he looked back and said he was struggling with his US citizenship application. And I asked him where he was from. And he said he was from Portugal. And then we talked about countries we were from and somehow we moved into talking in French, because he had lived in Paris for quite a number of years. And then we switched back to English because I was explaining him what I was doing at my startup and I can’t talk work in French. And he told me that he worked in the consultant business for the past 10 years and he quit a month ago and started his own company. Which was something like cross cultural consulting. By that time we both have closed our laptops and the conversation was very interesting and flowing. It was a little bit past five and we both had to leave, but we agreed to meet again. We shook hands and he looked me in the eyes and said, “By the way, my name is Alex and thank you so much for starting this conversation with me.” And I was glad I started it.

I walked to my car and I knew I had all the energy again. It felt very good to be able to talk to a stranger and become less strangers. To be able to be part of the real life.

I arrived to the event venue right on time. It was 6pm when I entered the lobby. In the elevator two people started talking to me about the event. And one of them turned out to be Russian. And he made a comment about the bruises on my left arm. I had forgotten about those. Those were from grappling on Sunday. Two dark bruises in the middle of my left arm. And I looked at the bruises while we were riding the elevator. In the conference room there were some snacks and drinks and I stood with those guys and talked about the Olympic games and startups. Another two guys joined our group and one of them told about his hardware device for phones and tablets. And we all looked at it and tried it and told him it was great but too expensive. And somebody asked me what I was doing, and I said I was pitching my company tonight and they asked what was it. And I explained. And one of the guys introduced himself to me and he said his name and he said he was from Morocco. And in a swift impulse I touched his arm and said I love people from Morocco. And I swear it sounded as if I told him that I loved him. And I had to tell something completely mundane right away to make it all sound normal. So, I told him that I have met very good people from his country and that this was a place I really wanted to visit, besides it was so close to Spain. And he said please go, it is a beautiful country. And we talked about I do not remember what. And I liked the shape of his head. And he asked for my email and we said we will talk.

At 6:30pm event speakers were all in place and we listened to them. And then a few startups did their pitches to the investor panel. And I did mine. And it was alright. After my pitch a guy siting in front of me turned his head, gave me his card and said, “Please email me, I see a lot of potential in what you are doing. This is my third startup, and I want to introduce you to some of my previous investors, because I think they would be interested in your company.” And I thanked him and got his card. A few people more gave me their cards and asked to contact them. And I smiled back and said I will. I waited till the end and stood in line to talk to one of the investors I was interested in. He was from Shasta Ventures and I liked his feedback on my pitch, and I also like his face. Right away he asked for my deck and offered to meet. And then I got excited about the product and we talked for half an hour about the details. And I told him that I wanted to help people become more confident through the language. This was the end goal of what I was doing. And I could see his eyes sparkle like mine. And it was a good sign.

I talked to couple of more company founders, one was quite interesting, it was a platform called something shoulder, and it offered verbal support to people with addictions. The founder presented himself as “I am alcoholic and I overcame this addiction by sharing and getting support from others…”. And it was interesting to listen to him. And then I bumped into the personality test people, the ones I had a meeting with earlier that day. And the conversation moved to French Tech and then business and then sports and then it was late and I left the building.

I went to the parking lot, got into my car and it felt good to sit down. I was wearing very high heels and I started noticing them towards the end of the night. I put the “Et si tu n’existais pas” song  by Joe Dassin and drove into the night city. The moon was up and the streets were peaceful. And it felt good to be at the end of the day. It was not the happiness, but it was not the sadness either. It was just feeling good to drive through the night streets of San Francisco listening to “Et si tu n’existais pas”. And I kept putting the same song over and over again. This happens to me often. I like the song and I listen to it over and over again. I drove through the downtown, and then on Van Ness, pass the City Hall and then into the Lombard street and onto the Golden Gate Bridge. On the bridge I put the same song again. I wanted to drive on the bridge listening to this song. Because I loved both the song and driving on the bridge. As I passed Sausalito and approached San Rafael the moon was on my left. And it was as if I was walking in Barcelona, along Diagonal, from Rambla de Catalunya to Plaza Francesc Masia. The moon would appear on the same spot, high above the houses on the left.

SF2

I came home and put the kettle on. I went into my bedroom and took off the black blouse I was wearing and the bra and put on the grey silk neglige, and I kept the jeans on. It was better to keep the jeans on if I was going to type on the laptop. I do not like laptop touching my skin. I made myself a tea and got a piece of flatbread out of the fridge, and hummus and pickles. I crafted a small sandwich with all that and ate it next to the kitchen counter. I took the tea to the sofa, opened the laptop and decided to type my day, how the deck was not coming out, and how I was debating if I should talk to this guy at the cafe, and how grateful he was that I did, and how swept by some sweet emotions I touched the arm of the moroccan guy, and how I drove through the night city listening to the same song over and over again.  And I told myself, “If you are going to write it all, at least write the truth.”

SF5