It’s been a full year since I moved to San Francisco and started a new job at Instagram. Some people ask me how my life has changed since I moved. Others comment on how so much has happened to me since. Honestly? This has been the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done. From heartbreak and herniated discs to new love and new responsibilities at work, I have found I’m more resilient and adaptable than I knew.
So, to mark the end of a chapter, I wanted to describe what I’ve learned. If it’s helpful because you’re going through or have gone through something similar, even better.
1. Moving sucks, but there’s nothing quite like a fresh start.
Feeling in control helps during immense change. Make a giant spreadsheet with several tabs, outlining every to-do. Things end. You can handle it. Come to terms with ending a seven-year relationship. Say good-bye to a company full of heart that shaped you over four and a half years. Take those lessons with you to your next job. Get a cat through security at the airport by wearing a thicker sweater that can’t be clawed through (ouch). Let yourself break down. Ask yourself what the fuck you’ve done. Move forward. Know that your friends will show up for you. Take their calls. Plan their visits. Seek out new friends of friends in the area. You will immediately feel less alone. Have faith that you will find a dream apartment with a bay window and views for days.
2. Starting a new job is scary at first but so rewarding.
Expect to feel intimidated. Your new Instagram coworkers are brilliant, work at the speed of light, and speak an alien language full of acronyms. You will soon become one of these aliens. The perks of working at Facebook are real. Commuting is tough but also free. Stay grateful. It sucks to not know everyone right away. Put in the time to build great relationships. Find your community.
3. Value your health.
Herniated discs are not to be taken lightly. Nerve pain and limping are severe warning signs. Vacuuming while injured is not advised. Oral steroids work magic. Avoid surgery. Commit to physical therapy, acquire a sexy back pillow, and train yourself to kneel instead of bending at the waist. You’re stronger than you think.
4. Finally understand that everything happens for a reason.
Meet the person you're supposed to be with. On Tinder. Embrace the coincidence. Mike moved from NYC a week after you to also join Facebook/Instagram. He saw your exact apartment (teal bathroom and all) but decided not to take it. Allow yourself to be loved. He will initially think you’re edgy (lol), find your first-date nervous rambling charming, hold your hand all the time, and invite you to meet his family after dating for a month. Go. Let yourself fall in love and say so on the beaches of St. Petersburg over the Fourth of July. Embrace your other firsts, too — Christmas with his family in Indianapolis, food poisoning that will suck hard. Take care of each other. Lie on the bathroom floor and swear to laugh about this one day.
5. Opportunities for greatness come when you least expect them. Step up.
Your team will change shortly after you start. Adapt. Find your footing because you have no choice. Lead product marketing for three major launches in three months. Welcome and help seven new awesome people join the marketing team. Convince Jeffrey and Emma to be two of them. Set your sights on becoming a COO in the future. Consider and reconsider business school, only to put it out of your mind again.
6. Commit to traveling, because YOLO.
See the world. Take vacation. Go to Hawaii, London, Paris. Plan trips to Scandinavia, to Thailand. Find travel buddies. Visit Palm Springs, Solvang, Big Sur. Promise to live abroad at some point in the next few years.
7. Living that West Coast life is more than OK.
Feel joy being outdoors in the sun. Go hiking. Appreciate people who take the time to chat with you. Walk slower on the sidewalk, within reason (break out your NYC pace as needed). Find your spots. Get scones at the local coffee shop. Drink beer at the bar below your apartment. Pick flowers at the cute shop with the friendly owners. Enjoy fresher food and watch the issues with your stomach mostly disappear. Eat out. A lot. Laugh when you open your refrigerator to two sticks of butter and a bottle of beer. Practice the art of enjoying your own company. But do call your mom every day. Return to NYC. Realize everything is where you left it. Continue to miss bagels.
8. Being creative is a lot of work.
Pick up basic photography tips from Jeffrey and Mike. Develop your own perspective, even if your mom asks several times whether Mike took all of those pretty shots on your Instagram account. Learn calligraphy. Practice creating. Break away from the rules, even if it’s hard.
9. Be proud of everything you’ve accomplished.
Celebrate turning 7 on your first real birthday in four years. Take everything you learned from your first move and apply it to apartment hunting with Mike. You’ll find a great two-bedroom. Start building a wonderful life together. Anticipate hitting your one-year anniversary at Instagram next week. Keep helping other new hires. Share your challenges and what you learned. Stay anxious and excited for what’s next.
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