I hopped out of bed and flipped open my laptop to check my email. It had been three weeks since I’d flown out to San Francisco to interview for a job at a Silicon Valley startup and I had yet to hear back. The anticipation was gnawing at me. Would this be my ticket out of finance or would I be cast back into the job market’s murky waters?
As I refreshed my GMail I took a deep breath and sighed it out. When the inbox reset I saw an email from the hiring manager near the top. I clicked it instantly and my eyes scanned the email in a millisecond. The last sentence proved to be all the information I’d need:
“I wish you the best on your continued search.”
I blinked twice in the morning darkness as the computer screen illuminated the room in a hazy glow. I didn’t get the job. Yet another tech company had passed on me.
My mind jumped back to the afternoon I had spent out in Silicon Valley in a series of interviews. Where had I misstepped? I played the interview with the CEO back in my head until it hurt. I thought about the impossible questions he had thrown at me like 100-MPH fast balls. I knew I didn’t hit it out of the park, but I thought I had held my own. I thought I had been good enough to make the team.
I closed my laptop with one thrust and lay back in my bed. I stared at the ceiling as soft sunlight began to creep in. The world was still asleep, but my mind was buzzing. I checked my phone and saw I had only 30 minutes until I had to head out for work. I would spend yet another day in a job I had outgrown and now my hope of escaping was starting to slip away.
For the next week I went through the motions at work as if nothing had happened, but inside I was beating myself up. This was one of many jobs in the tech industry that I had been passed up on over the last six months.Was there something wrong with me? Maybe I was delusional in thinking I could make this career jump.
On a few nights that week I had nightmares about my interview with the CEO. Each night as I slept he’d ask impossible questions until I would rattle myself awake. I knew this was no way to live. I had to find a way to let go.
At the end of that week I took a bike ride along the Charles River in Boston. The sun had set and the crisp October night air was cutting through my gloves. I listened to Saba and focused my mind on his fast rhymes so that I could temporarily forget about my recent failure. With each peddle forward I could feel the tension easing a bit in my mind.
I pulled over from the bike path and walked my bike over to the edge of the river under a giant willow tree that quivered in the wind. I looked out at the crashing waves, the glowing Mass Ave bridge and the dark blue and black sky that swirled above. But even as I admired the beauty around me I felt my mind slipping back to San Francisco.
Why couldn’t I put this interview behind me? Why couldn’t I find it in me to let go and move on?
It was then that I remembered a story I had heard months before in Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now. It went something like this:
Two monks were walking on a day long journey from one city to the next. They still had hours to go when they came to a river that stood in their path. They were about to wade across when they noticed a woman further up the river’s bank who was having trouble crossing. She waved to them for help.
The monks looked at each other without saying a word. As monks they had each taken vows never to touch a woman. After a moment the older monk turned away from his companion and walked over to the woman. He picked her up and carried her across the river.
The younger monk met them on the other side and once the woman was safely set down, they continued on their way.
Five hours passed and the monks still had not spoken. Finally the younger monk, who was bothered from the events at the river, couldn’t hold his silence any longer.
He turned to the older monk and asked “why did you carry her across the river? You know we’re not supposed to do that!”
The older monk stopped walking. He turned to the younger monk and said “I put her down hours ago. Are you still carrying her?”
I smiled to myself in the darkness and let out an audible laugh. I couldn’t help it. I saw in that moment that I was just like the younger monk. I had been carrying the weight of the rejection in my mind all week. The interview had happened a month ago and I was still ruminating over it.
As a gust of air swooped across the river and hit my face I could feel my mind go clear. I could see now that the only person who could end this suffering was me. I had to stop carrying this event in my mind and move on. I had to put it down and move forward, just like the monk in the story.
I hopped back on my biked and pushed off into the night. I would never again have the nightmare with the CEO. I was able to move on from that failure once and for all.
Over two years later, I still use this story today. Whenever I see a dangerous thought creep in my mind from a past event, I ask myself “why are you still carrying this?” Then I drop it, and move forward feeling lighter and free