I was worried I’d appear too dramatic by writing about this but it’s the truth and owning my truth is never too much. It’s what it is.
So here it goes.
Yesterday, I had probably the worst meeting of my life — a meeting I was invited to for a work opportunity.
How did it happen? A tech start-up founder contacted me after reading and being impressed by my writing on Medium and he wanted me to meet a member of his team, a recruiter who had helped him build the company, to discuss how we could work together.
I was flattered. I was excited. I spent the week researching the company and the space. I talked to my husband, who is an expert in a relevant field, about it with enthusiasm. He was so happy he could share his knowledge with me and even reached out to his network to ask about the company for me.
While I’m having a great work life, I was interested in exploring the opportunity in any suitable capacity since I’d had positive interactions with the founder. I knew I could add value. I prepared notes and a list of questions to ask about the company. But what happened next was beyond my wildest imagination. I’d had bad meetings but nothing came close to this. It was shocking.
The recruiter acted like she didn’t know why she was even having the meeting with me. She appeared all elitist and she looked down on my experience. She picked my LinkedIn profile apart and made me feel like I was worth nothing. I felt increasingly uncomfortable as the meeting went on and just straight-up devalued, insulted, and bullied by the end of it. What made me really upset was that I didn’t even ask to be there; I was invited there. I didn’t deserve it.
After the call ended, I burst into tears. I couldn’t stop crying. I thought about all the things I could’ve said to her. I wished I had left the meeting sooner. The more I reflected on it, the angrier I felt. My husband soothed me the whole evening and after I felt a bit calmer, I wrote the founder an email about my experience. At the point of writing this post, I haven’t heard back from him.
This morning, I continued my day job (I’ve gotten a full-time position at a big investment bank recently) and delivered a successful presentation to a room full of really senior people. Afterward, I received several messages saying well done. It was a stark contrast to how I had felt the day before. It really hit me that not everyone sees my value, but there are people who already do and instantly do, and they are the people I need to pay more attention to.
Before that nightmarish meeting, I had spent lots of evenings working and spending less time with my husband. I remind myself he’s the one I need to pay attention to the most. He is the one who came into my life and saw my value without me ever having to prove myself to him. He chooses to believe in me and love me every day. We don’t need more money or more work but we should cherish all the time we have together. That’s what’s important.
At times in my 20s, I feel unsure of my values and priorities. But one thing I keep coming back to is that you’re not for everyone and not everyone sees you. There are people for whom you’ll never be good enough no matter how much you try, and you should recognise the signs early on and bid them goodbye. Life’s too short to be around those people. And I’m talking about both careers and romantic love.
Money and success might be important but never as important as having good people in your life.
There’s just no point otherwise.
You might look at people who have everything you want at a certain age — be it a relationship or a promotion — and you get impatient and jump at the first thing that comes your way. But, while life’s short, it’s a long game. Being impatient will lead to painful, regrettable decisions that cost more than what it’s worth.
Nobody really cares if you’re married, have a house, and make 6 or 7 figures at whatever age you think is defining, but you’re the one to live with the sacrifices you make to reach those arbitrary goals — and the unnecessary disappointment that hits you like a ton of bricks when you don’t.
I had the worst meeting of my life, but I needed it. It made me rethink my career ambitions and what’s really important to me now. It made me realise I’ve already had all the best things in life and that’s my definition of success right there — I’m successful. To me. And that’s what matters.
For the last 10 years living in the UK as a Vietnamese woman, I had constantly had to justify my existence, and I’m sick of it. I’m exhausted from having to prove myself, especially to people who have not earned my respect. At this stage of life, I have my history and evidence of work — and that should speak for itself for the most part. I’m not trying to be liked anymore; work is an exchange of value, and I remain professional at that.
I’m not trying to change the world. I’m happy with the impact I have now on the small group of people around me and on the internet. I’m happy with the value I deliver that serves both me and the people and companies I work for. I’m doing my part. Now, I want to be more present and enjoy myself more. There’s a line to draw along the way, and this is it.