hi.

 

a little bit about... life.

a little bit about... life.

This is a speech I gave for a work "personal experience" initiative.

Required that you read it in your head, in my voice. Listening to the "soundtrack" makes the whole experience maybe a little more fun. Or weird. 

In bold are the songs that I played during the presentation, which you can also find in this Spotify playlist.


For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Becky Chan and I’m on the Google Analytics team. For those of you do who know me, you may know me as "Chanalytics" - a nickname given to me when I started working on Analytics about 7 ½ years ago.

Fun Fact: I’ve probably typed the word “anal” into my browser more than our entire ProdOps team combined. My only close competitor might be the lovely Katy Pratt, innocently sitting over there in Ann Arbor. My fellow “anal” typer in crime. It’s always terrifying when I forget that I’ve cleared my browsing history, and end up on the search results page for the word “anal” instead of the Analytics home page.

But jokes aside, I struggled for about a week and a half deciding what I wanted to share with you guys today. Luckily I remembered a piece of advice that I received in high school. “If it matters to you, it will matter to your audience.”

I sat in that for awhile. So attempting to be vulnerable and honest, and really trying to be true to myself - and especially to Cassie and the purpose of this program- I dug deep for you guys. Pretty, deep.

So here I go.

--

My mom said to me recently - and I quote “You were never a big fan of change”. I don’t remember the context at all, but she’s absolutely correct. I remember one time throwing a full temper tantrum on the living room floor. The off white cream carpet was nice and thick, and I was kicking and screaming uncontrollably. I was so mad. Like turning into the hulk  - with this surge of energy trying to break out of my tiny body - kind of mad. Some of you might be thinking and nodding internally (I hope) - “yea, I’ve totally been there”. Some of you might be wondering what could she have been so mad about? Fair question. I had gotten home from school to find that my mom had repainted our bedroom doors from brown, to white. I remember sobbing while I dug my heels into the carpet screaming “how are we supposed to know where the doors are when it’s the same color as the walls!?”

Like my mom said, I’m not a big fan of change.

My dad always used to remind me that “The only constant in life is change.” I used to hate that. Imagine me as an 8 year old irrationally upset about the color of my bedroom door changing, hearing my dad tell me random things that sounded like fortune cookies. My eight year old self had no idea what changes life would bring.

Like my mom said, I’m not a big fan of change.

--- About Today | The National | song

I was standing stage right, listening to my favorite band play live in Berkeley, California. I was there with my best friend and two other friends, slightly swaying from side-to-side when they started playing my favorite song called “About Today”. My heart slowed, everything slowed, and I remember being transported back to a couple of hazy months when I was physically here, but really I somewhere else entirely. I had played this song on repeat for a few weeks while I would just drive with no particular destination. Driving in attempt to keep myself moving forward. Just going through the motions of life. I stopped swaying to the music, and I just stood there - tears slowly falling down my face. One of those scenes from the movies where you’re just standing still, and everything is moving around you in slow motion. The light perfectly reflecting off the dark parts of the eyes, the tear glistening. Just tear by tear, falling. It was a beautifully sad moment, and I was just sitting in it. Sitting in the reality of it, remembering once saying the words, “You gotta meet my friend Tyler. You’ll love him. Everyone who meets him, just loves him.”

Like my mom said, I’m not a big fan of change.

I’ve always been terrible at english and writing, and during my Senior year in high school I took a “Coming of Age” class since I thought it might be easier to write about myself than books. I gave Tyler a copy of my final paper for Christmas, which basically was about how after I met him that summer in 2003, I realized how shy I was, and how unhappy that made me. I felt like I was missing out on life. I wasn’t anyone. I wanted to be more social. I wanted to be more like him. By then he was my first “real” crush / soulmate, and I wasn’t sure sure how much of that was evident in the paper as well. I also may have said that all the girls at summer camp thought he was a “manslut”? It was true, but I wasn’t quiiite sure how that was going to land. I was standing in the bathroom when I saw my brick cell phone light up with the name “Tyler Lorenzi” - just lighting up buzzing on the tile counter. He had read my paper. I sent the call to voicemail.

Like my mom said, I’m not a big fan of change.

We were sitting on these uneven, white wooden steps in front of his house. I was on my way to start my senior year in college, and stopped by to see Tyler at Northwestern. He was sitting behind me with his arms wrapped around me - with his chin on my shoulder, in this silent - yet peaceful embrace, when it started raining. It was my first summer rain, and it was lovely. I could have stayed there for hours with the warm droplets creating different rhythms on my skin. It was maybe midnight-thirty and people were running and laughing, shouting through the streets. Later that night we went to the lake with some of his friends, and I was peer pressured into skinny dipping for the first time. In a shallow lake. Under a full moon.

Like my mom said, I’m not a big fan of change.

--- NO SONG

I was trying to sleep in that Saturday morning because that week had completely just wiped me out. A few days prior my Director at the time said that I looked terrible, and that maybe I should take day off. I was lying on same twin bed I’d had since my tantrum days, and light was already seeping through the blinds. I closed my eyes listening to the sound of Amy’s calls, as my phone lay abandoned, lifelessly vibrating on the carpeted floor as I had chosen to ignore it. Buzz buzz, and then it finally gave up. Then the house phone rings, and I hear my dad’s voice get louder as he climbs the stairs. “What? I’ll get her, I think she’s still sleeping.”

The conversation was brief, but enough. “Becky, listen to me. There was a boating accident, and Tyler didn’t make it.” Groggily I said - “No he’s fine, I talked to him afterward until he got home.” “When was this…” “Tuesday?” And that’s when she said - “there was another boating trip. Call Ted. It’s all over Tyler’s Facebook wall. (pause) You should call Ted.”

I hung up. That’s when things really started to change.

Facebook confirmed, news articles confirmed. Still to this day I don't remember ever crying so furiously. It wasn't just sobs of sadness. I couldn't breathe. I suddenly felt alone and I was so lost I didn't know what to do. It was like the climax of weeks of horrible nightmares. Our adventures had always been just the two of us, and so I had no one to talk to because we had no mutual friends. Except for this one guy who I had a brief history with freshman year in college. Ted.

--- Welcome Home, Son | Radical Face | song

Summer of 2003 was when I decided to stop living a life with regrets. The person who seemed to exemplify this was Tyler. Everyone loved this guy - charismatic, always laughing, really laid back and just a pleasure to be around. He could strike up a genuine conversation with anyone - different ages, different background - and he could spread this joy and energy to everyone around him. Even at 16, he seemed so confident and self aware.

Over the years, his death became a constant, silent, and yet very present reminder of how I wanted to live my life. I wasn’t adding to my Tyler and Becky memory bank anymore, but I found myself adding almost a protective layer around our memories with other memories. Six years after his death I have this jawbreaker like thing of memories and relationships budding from my story with him. Big things like being in a full length documentary about Tyler, to sharing his story and way of life with new friends, to everyday things like me trying to be more open to meeting people.

--- Anchor | Novo Amor | song

Last year, I was having a really hard time with life - both professionally and personally. I felt like I was on the brink of burning out at work for months, but pushed myself to keep it together through the rest of the year. That was the easy part. The hard part was that my best friend of seven years, and partner in crime to life, started seeing someone, and I was having a really hard time adjusting to his having a new priority in his life.

I fell into this dark and dangerous mental loop of perpetually feeling like I wasn’t good enough, and gradually started hating myself because of who I wasn’t. I knew all too well the game of “if only I were” - more interesting, better looking, skinnier, smarter, more witty. So frustrated at him, the situation, and with myself, at one point I even said to him, “I hope the next time you see me, you won’t recognize me.”

Consequences of months of self-loathing started to seep into other areas of my life - my relationship with my family, my friends, and how I started viewing the world. I felt like I was constantly trying so hard, yet nothing I did mattered. My trying didn’t mean anything to anyone. Because I didn’t mean anything to anyone.

I felt on edge, anxious - like I should be doing something else. Be somewhere else, but yet I didn’t know where or what I should be doing. Of course all this time, I was the most impatient with the people who loved and supported me the most.

At the time I was desperately looking for change - to be anyone but me. By the end of the year I felt so broken, and my mantra became “I need to be fixed”.

In retrospect, it was clear that things needed to change.

--- The Night We Met | Lord Huron | song

Growing up, my dad used to tell my sister and me how terrible Harvard Business School was. You go in thinking you know everything - because, you got into Harvard. And then he said from day one, they beat everything you know out of you until you’re left with nothing. Then they build you from the ground up. The Harvard way.

This is what I wanted to do to myself.

I ended up undertaking the biggest challenge and change of my life yet. Self-discovery. Self-discipline. Self-acceptance.

Growing up, writing used to be my outlet, but I pretty much stopped when Tyler died. So, January 1, 2017 I started a writing project to push myself. Push myself to think about life and be intentional and introspective.  What do I live for? What motivates me? What interests me? And most importantly, “What did I do that was fun today?”

Every month I would add something to the list, trying to mold myself into a better person. It started out with

Write three times a week

Exercise five times a week, and practice cleaner eating

Stop focusing on what I want, and instead focus on the bigger picture

I always admired Tyler’s openness - to both people and to opportunities. Inspired by how he just rolled with life’s punches, and yet here I was fighting so hard with everything. Fighting to change myself. Fighting to keep things the same.

Somewhere along the line, I had changed.

The goals gradually became

Volunteer once a month

Bring people together through dinner parties

Start budgeting

And most importantly - be authentic. Be open. And connect.

For who knows how long, I put so much pressure on myself and was so tightly wound up, I boxed myself into a corner and forgot what it was like to just, live.

Clearly I needed to change.

“One of the hardest lessons in life is letting go. Whether it's guilt, anger, love, loss or betrayal. Change is never easy. We fight to hold on and we fight to let go. If you've been hurt until it breaks your soul into pieces, your perspective in life will definitely change, and no one and nothing in this world could ever hurt you again.” -- Mareez Reyes

--- Smoke | Mosa Wild | song

Eight months of this life experiment turned self-discovery, I already feel like I’m in a significantly different place. How did I get so off the mark? As you may have guessed, I don’t think my core person changed and in reality I’m pretty much doing the exact same things as I was before.

What has changed is the why. Now exercising makes me feel empowered, and I use this hour to invest in myself. Volunteering and reducing waste is my small attempt to leave the world a better place because I was tired of saying I cared, but finding myself not doing anything about it.  Reminding myself that the world isn’t about me and what I want - but learning to want what’s best for the most people. And lastly writing keeps me creative, curious, and honest with myself. Being honest with myself allowed me to reconnect with myself - and until that was re-established would I be able to connect with others. Reminding others that they matter and that they mean something. Something that I wasn’t able to do fully because I was spending so much energy being self-critical.

I recently realized that Tyler’s ability to be open is closely related to this concept of “connecting”.

It reminds me of Brene Brown’s definition of the word connection.  “Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued. When they can give and receive without judgement.”

Being open and being able to connect with others is a privilege, so thank you for letting me share my story with you today. My ongoing story of discovering and practicing self love, and self-acceptance for where I'm at today. Not yesterday or where I want to be, but today.

Tyler loved quotes. So I’ll leave you with a quote from Tyler Lorenzi, who was a scientist and a philosopher, and a dear friend of mine who touched a lot of lives -

"I think I figured out the key to being a happy and positive person. The ability to smile, both with your face and your soul, and be internally conscious of it. Then the ability to smile at the fact that you're smiling, ad infinitum.”



Photo by peteramend@

a magic moment

a magic moment

trust or not to trust

trust or not to trust