A Confession: I Network Because I Have To

Original Post: A Confession: I Network Because I Have To

image by Sagar Patil

The Loneliness of Enduring a Change

I met an old friend for lunch today. She was talking about making a big change in her life, and we were talking about how scary that whole process is. We talked a long time about the sort of ups and downs you go through when you make big changes like that – the fear of being alienated, of making the wrong choices, of not knowing exactly what to do, but more importantly – doing it alone.

Making these big changes in our lives, as we were brought up to value stable jobs and live comfortably, is akin to abandoning our roots, values, and partly, the security of the family community. While this isn’t ostracism, the abandonment comes from a lack of understanding – family and friends just don’t know what in the world we’re getting into and can’t give us the guidance, mentorship and support we really need. It’s not that they won’t – they just can’t.

And it’s just not about money or a place to stay. It big hurdle about surviving a change is the rite of passage that you need to go through to get started, establish yourself in a new place, and finally succeed.

Change Hurts

When I made a decision to leave a comfortable life in Malaysia, I got really depressed and my wife had to push me to get the visa done because I did not have the energy to do it myself. It was depressing selling away all the IKEA furniture that I painstakingly and lovingly bought and put together, some not even a year old. The worst was seeing the lovely Edefors oak table being draped by my wife’s grandmother with a plastic tablecloth to “protect” it – a very Asian thing.

Needless to say, it was sad to see my friends and family for the last time. I wasn’t sure how to react – how do you put on a face in front of some of your closest mates and tell them you’re leaving for good? Everything had to be done fast so I didn’t have time. What time I had, we just spent like good old days having meals and good laughs. Through all this, we had our visa turned down once and my wife and I had several arguments in the heat of anxiety. It wasn’t the best of times.

Yes, once the apartment and furniture was sold off, a big burden had lifted off. We were elated when my course acceptance came in the mail in the nick of time. We knew we had friends and relatives in London who were welcoming us with open arms. We knew and loved the city. I was excited about the course, and the possibilities. We felt God’s peace and felt that it was the right thing to do. But it was still a painful process – I have the memories of those things we went through, a testament of our journey.

I Network out of the Need to Survive

At times like these, real and authentic relationships were the only thing that got me back up and running. I could’ve said we survived on dreams and inspirations, or on the timely opportunities of job offers, or on the creature comforts like having our own accommodation. But friendships and precious encounters I’ve had from meeting like-minded people – people who share the same vision and goal – are the sorts of things that plant my feet firmly here in London: family, friends, coursemates, new friends I’ve met from the industry, colleagues.

Thinking back – these relationships didn’t just fall into my lap. Some relationships happened only because I went out and searched for it. Some took a lot more effort and time. But I knew that I needed it in order to survive. And that’s what change does to you.

Change forces you to take hold of what you need most in order to survive for the long run. It’s like being stranded on an island and re-learning the fundamentals all over again – what it really means to live. I don’t simply talk about the people I’ve met and how things “worked out” for me – as though others should try networking like it was putting on a new pair of jeans. These people mean much more to me than just opportunities.

You can tell yourself all you want about how inauthentic networking can be and how artificial that whole experience feels. Or, you can tell yourself that it sucks being alone with your ideas and that you need genuine relationships and genuine conversations over things that you really do care about.

For me, I did it because I knew no other way.