From New York City to Berlin
It's my 5th day in Berlin, Germany and I don't even know where to start. Within the past few days and weeks, I have been overwhelmed with my feelings, but every single step towards this change felt right. And in those times you just have to trust your gut. It was incredibly scary -- and to be honest, it still is. Whenever closed ones asked me how I was feeling, I couldn't help but respond: I am f***ing scared, but also... incredibly excited and happy. It is bittersweet indeed.
Then again, life is too short to not be adventurous and fearless. "Trust your gut and trust the universe. That it will always work in your favor." Words I tell myself.Also, 'do not doubt yourself' -- is a constant reminder.
It was around September of 2017 when I knew I needed a life change.
I thought a lot about work-life balance, where I wanted to be and in what direction I wanted my life to go. In New York, most of the time it's about work. You talk about work and you work crazy hours. It's about money and titles. Gigs. Networking. Finding the right opportunities. Being somewhere at the right time and place. As much as I enjoyed working in New York and being part of something new and exciting (at District Vision), I saw myself drifting away from what I wanted to become several years earlier. I was watching myself drowning and it didn't seem to end anytime soon. That was when I said to myself: you really need a change and you need a time line.
I was like: damn Huyen, remember when you wanted to become a fashion designer? And remember when you wanted to travel the world and become a journalist? What happened to your dreams of living in Paris? And starting something in Vietnam?
That was when I spoke to my friend Sydney from Toronto on the phone, sharing my thoughts and feelings, and then setting a date. By September 2018, I wanted something to happen. However that may look or feel like.
And since I am a firm believer, that life just 'doesn't happen', I sat down earlier this year and went through the options..
The summer went by and I believe it was the greatest summer I had in New York thus far. It was just so so much fun. I had a feeling that something was in the air, so I really made the days count. Everything that I did, the people I spent my time with, every single step I took was very intentional. To be frank, I cut out things and people that dragged me down and I have been so much lighter every day.
I asked myself whether or not the struggle of living here in the city was worth my health and well-being. In an era where we constantly talk about self-optimization and mindfulness - was working that much and running around 'doing things' really ideal for my personal, professional and physical goals? It seemed like operating on a never ending state of “survival”. When you’re always on edge, can you be your most authentic self? When you’re stressed out about money, how does it effect your emotional and physical being?
Let’s be real, training and competing for marathons, when working crazy hours and being dedicated to the community is not necessarily the best set up!
And at 25, I felt like going through a 'quarter-life crises'. As in: what is my real purpose in this world?
I have spent a total of 5 years of my adulthood in New York City. Since I am 17, I have saved every spare cent to come to New York. To return again, and again. When people ask me, as a European, I have never been to Paris, never touched ground in Barcelona and you know what, never spent enough time in Vietnam - where my parents and family are from. Every single opportunity I had - the exchanges, study abroad semesters, internships, and yes, also the most recent full time position where I was able to learn, crash, fail but also succeed + help build a brand that is now globally recognized, I have done in New York City solely.
As this is a time of change, reflecting comes hand in hand, so yes! I am proud of myself, too, that I stuck it out and that I have been working hard towards this goal of 'living in New York'. For every 'alien' as in non-American, you know what I am talking about! Yup, I had 6 different visas by now :)
Nevertheless, the time spent in New York has taught me a lot. I have learned how to not only survive, but to thrive. How to sell products, projects and ideas. How to market myself. How to stretch $5. How to see money as liquid. How to sell performance tools to running retreats like hot buns on the streets. How to keep sanity when things seemed to fall apart. How to meditate through challenges. How to build a community, real and honest friendships. How to stand tall and keep my head high through difficult times. How to stand up for others, advocate for women and girls. How to press for people of color. How to keep my integrity through every single thing I did.
I was always passionate about New York and up until recently, it was the pinnacle to me. “If you could make it in New York, you could make it anywhere" was also my mantra. Yet, this past year, my body and mind felt stuck. And after having worked this hard to 'make it in New York', I felt stuck in New York. Isn't it funny, how life works sometimes... You spend 5 years 'making it in this incredible city and then you're feeling stuck'. I couldn't move and be as I wished or wanted. As we all try to figure out life and are always in the process of creating it... I knew this feeling all too well. And that feeling meant: you're either going to stay stuck here.. or you change something!
And damn, I am telling you, it is not easy! Change is not easy! Haha, it's been only 5 days and I am feeling a reverse culture shock, missing friends and what is familiar to me dearly. Yesterday my friend Michelle even said to me: Huyen you became a New Yorker now!
A New Yorker in Berlin now!
It was late August of this year, so only a couple months ago, when on a Friday night, around midnight, an automated email hit my inbox saying that my status of application has changed. I got accepted into the University of Berlin. For a Master's Degree in Media Science.
Now imagine, it was just a whirlwind of one happening after the next! Of course, it was a difficult decision to make, but something inside me, again the guts!, told me to take this 'free ticket' to university. To academia. To free education. This opportunity to be surrounded by so much knowledge again. All my friends, especially the American ones said, 'Girl, you have to go study for all of us. You will be working the rest of your life.'
There is so much more that I want to share with you all, but I am saving it for the next posts to come. As I type these words, it's evening here in Berlin and I just had my first day in school today. It was a very quick turnaround since I left my job only one week ago, but I already looked into extra-curricular classes such as Sports Science and French.. and also into partner universities in Tokyo.
I admit, everything feels mad uncomfortable here, but then again, I know I am getting to learn, to grow, and to expand my horizon.
Will I be back to New York?
I don't know. I am in Berlin now, and I am in Berlin today. I want to stay open and give this place and its people a chance, too :)
What I know for sure is: I am free, my soul feels free and I get to create (really mold!) my life again. So, hit me up whenever you're in Berlin and of course, we love the internet, so feel free to message me via Instagram or here directly!
Let's please stay in touch in any way possible, as I... most likely... start a few things here in Berlin.. and train for the Boston Marathon 2019!!!!
Also: more than open to contributions to this platform, so share!
Big big love and hope you're taking care of yourself as the season changes,
P.S.: I got this stick and poke tattoo (done by Ollie) a day before I flew out. During my de-brief with my former boss Tom, he mentioned the word ‘pressure’ a lot. The pressures of relationships, running teams, work pressures, my own pressure, the pressure to deliver, the pressures of living in New York, the past years felt like living in a vortex and… you know what, I came out stronger, shining bright like a diamond :)