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Thursday’s Child: A Declaration of Love

For some reason the year 1999 popped into my head yesterday and my immediate thought was, “Wasn’t David Bowie’s Thursday’s Child released 15 years ago?” (Disclaimer: Yes, I am a music geek). And wouldn’t you know it, indeed it was released on September 20th, 1999. Thus, I thought it’s time to look back and wanted to share my feelings about this song. 


Ever since I first heard the song, it stuck with me. It’s one of Bowie’s more random songs and I’m pretty sure no one remembers it. The reason why it stuck with me in the first place was the very odd video that came with it. MTV played it a lot back then and every time I stumbled upon it I tried to figure out what it’s about. And during that process, the song grew on me. I was 15 back then.

Because I liked the vibe so much, the song became a staple in my playlists for the next decade. The older I got, the more I could relate to what Bowie was actually trying to convey in his song. Looking back now, the lyrics make so much more sense to me. So to celebrate the 15th anniversary of “Thursday’s Child”, I listened closely to the words and it’s almost creeping me out to see how accurate the piece summarizes the past 15 years of my life.

All of my life I’ve tried so hard
Doing my best with what I had
Nothing much happened all the same

This brings me back to my teenage years, when I really felt I was trying so hard but nothing ever changed.

Maybe I’m born right out of my time
Breaking my life in two

A 15-year-old who likes 1999 David Bowie is clearly born out of her time. Also, 9 years later a doctor confirmed this feeling.

Everything’s falling into place

Seeing my past to let it go

During my time in San Francisco, I dealt a lot with my past to let it go, and interestingly, a lot has fallen into place since then.

Only for you I don’t regret

I’ve always related this verse to all the loved ones that followed me through my journey.

 And I was Thursday’s child

I only recently found out what Bowie might referred to in his chorus. Apparently there’s an old rhyme with the line “Thursday’s child has far to go”. Given my past, I always was one to go the extra mile to achieve goals.

Relating the lyrics of this song to my life might be like reading yesterday’s horoscope, but I’m certainly appreciating Thursday’s Child even more now. Having this song accompany for the next 15 years of my life feels comforting. And I’ll probably do a recap in 2029, too.

As far as I know, Bowie hasn’t really played the song since the “Hours” era. Here’s a great live version with him talking about the origin of the title (but not the meaning). Do you have any songs that have been following you for

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On Turning 30

When I was 24 years old, my doctor told me I am an old soul in a young body. I’ve held on to this diagnosis for more than five years. While he was referring to my mental health and personal wellbeing, I could relate to it in other aspects of my life. So when I finally turned 30 almost two months ago, I wondered if that diagnosis is still accurate.

I was a fast mover career-wise in the first half of my twenties. I did lots of stuff and had so much energy that my résumé didn’t match my age. In the second half of my twenties and after that talk with my doctor, I learned to slow down. I certainly didn’t have as much energy anymore, but I still get bored easily.

Like most people, I expected 30 to be a huge thing. But it wasn’t. In the weeks leading up to my birthday, I felt very content. Because I realized that finally after all these years, all my experiences match my age (at least on paper). Unconsciously, I gave myself the permission to spend almost a year figuring out what I want to do with the next phase of my life. A friend asked me a week after my birthday if there’s anything I wish I had accomplished before. I’m proud to say that no, there’s not really anything. Especially the last few months have been so surreal and I’m living a life that seemed so out of reach for me. Every now and then I ask myself when I signed up for this life, but in hindsight it wasn’t all that suprising. Just hard work. (Also, I wish I could tell my 10 year old self that I’d be writing a blog post about turning 30 on a flight from LAX to MUC).

Without going to much into detail, there’s also a parts of my life I haven’t quite figured out. In my twenties, I imagined at my 30th birthday  I’d have a nice party with my husband and friends. I didn’t. Because while I was busy building my professional life ever since I started college, I failed to build strong friendships. I’m blessed to have a bunch of people in my life that I connect with even if we only talk once a year. And while I do have great people all around me, letting people into my life and staying in touch is something I’ve never quite figured out. I guess if there’s anything I want to learn in this new decade of my life, it’s friendships.

Besides all that, I’m definitely growing older in that I lose my youth. I’m noticing new wrinkles every day and slowly lose my vision. I still refuse to wear glasses in public. 30 for me also means not worrying about whether I’m cool or not. I’ve simply accepted the fact that I’ll never be cool.

Interestingly though, I still seem to have a young aura. At a conference where I was invited as a speaker last fall, people repeatedly assumed I was an intern. And on the flight back to San Francisco after my birthday, the guy next to me asked me if I was a student doing some exchange program. So I guess for now I’m still an old soul in a young body.

To put it in Bob Dylan’s words: “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” 

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When Karma kicks in. Twice.

Ever since I moved to San Francisco, people have been using me as their free resource for basically anything. I blogged about people sucking up free advice a while ago, and little has changed. While receiving and giving back is what defines Silicon Valley mentality, there’s definitely been times when people tried to rip me off or tried to steal ideas – mostly people outside San Francisco trying to get in, but also fellow journalists.

I definitely made a change in that when someone asks “a quick question”, I make it very clear that this isn’t going to be for free. Sometimes people won’t even respond to that anymore.  So that definitely is a good filter and reveals who wouldn’t have been worthy of my time anyways. (Edit: see my comment for further explanation)

My biggest problem is that I do enjoy helping others out. In times of frustration and shockingly low account balance, my firm belief in Karma kept me going.  I knew my helping others would somehow pay off in the future. The tricky thing with Karma is: It comes unexpected and in most cases not from where you put your effort in. I’m happy to say that after a rough year, Karma kicked in twice in a short period of time.

Investing Karma Money

I met fellow media reporter Nils through Twitter probably five years ago and we hung out together at industry events in Germany. We loosely discussed working together a long time ago, but never did. In December, he contacted me regarding a project that he was working on. Knowing I live in San Francisco now, he asked me if I wanted to do a daily column for them. On my 30th birthday, the first email I got was Nils confirming our deal. So since last week I’m officially a contributor to the new German tech site Curved. In my column, I’m covering Silicon Valley news from my meta point of view. This was something I had been pitching to Austrian and German publications for a while, but either they weren’t interested or they didn’t want to pay (ugh). I’m so grateful for this opportunity, as I finally get the chance to share my stories to a broader audience. Not to dismiss all the other contributions I’m doing, but this is the first one where I can make use of my perspective – which is very different from the tech people I’m interviewing for other stories.

The second case of Karma happened even more unexpectedly last weekend. And I can honestly say I’ll remember this gesture for the rest of my life. I mentioned randomly that I didn’t get a press accreditation for the Crunchies (an award show hosted by TechCrunch). A couple of hours later, Glenn Fleishman messaged me that he scored me an invite. I’ve been following Glenn for a while and admire what he’s been doing with The Magazine and also backed his Kickstarter campaign. He explained, “I was a young freelancer myself! Paying back all the amazing help I got when I was your age.” I totally know where Glenn is coming from and that makes me appreciate it even more.

I do this thing I call investing “Karma money”. I have a soft spot for writers, freelancers and female entrepreneurs and whenever I have the opportunity to reach out and help, I will do so. I love supporting small businesses and people starting out, and if I have to spend money, I’d rather spend it on them than somewhere else.

What goes around comes around. If you’re open to giving and helping people out, you’ll be rewarded with precious gifts. If you  only suck up the help of others without giving back, you’ll probably miss out on great opportunities.  

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On Woody Allen: Separating Art From The Artist?

Can you separate art from the artist? For the past few weeks I’ve been struggling with this question. Of course, I am referring to Wood Allen. The resurfaced allegations have put me in a dilemma. I’ve read both sides of the story, the much discussed Daily Beast article and watched a 60 Minutes clip from 1992. Other than that, I really tried to avoid all the media buzz.

Second to Steve Martin, Woody Allen was the biggest influence on my writing in my college years – and has been ever since. Most people don’t realize that he published some amazing books. I picked up Getting Even, Side Effects and Without Feathers randomly at the library in Salzburg ten years ago, unaware of how much impact his work would have on mine. Needless to mention that his movies have, too. But for the most part I think of Woody Allen as a writer, not a director. 

Can you separate art from the artist? I’ve always been very judgmental and there are artists out there whose work I won’t acknowldege for personal reasons. Honestly, I have a hard time separating the art from the person behind it. Then again, do we really know the artist behind the art? In Woody Allen’s case, it’s unlikely that the truth will ever come out. I’ve been browsing through Allen’s literary work in the past few days and come to the conclusion that I can’t not acknowledge this piece of art.

For now, I will continue to appreciate Woody Allen’s impact, even more so as I’m trying to break away from traditional news reporting and lean towards more literary work in the future. Obviously, I’m not the only Allen admirer who deals with this question. The New York Times has a good round-up, I pretty much agree with The Federalist, and Time Magazine says it’s ok to have a favorite Woody Allen movie.

I’ll wrap this up with a quote by Allen from 2013:

What people who don’t write don’t understand is that they think you make up the line consciously — but you don’t. It proceeds from your unconscious. So it’s the same surprise to you when it emerges as it is to the audience when the comic says it. I don’t think of the joke and then say it. I say it and then realize what I’ve said. And I laugh at it, because I’m hearing it for the first time myself.

 

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Why winning a Fempower award doesn’t mean much as long as society doesn’t change

I can finally disclose one of the main reasons for my recent trip to Europe: Digitalista, an initiative to support Women in digital industries was nominated for a Content Award in the category “Fempower”. And I’m happy to announce that we won!

As blessed as I feel to have created this community with eight other awesome women, my stay in Austria was pretty frustrating. At the Female Journalists Congress, which I attended as a speaker (second reason for my trip), one male executive used a lot of clichés in his opening talk (such as females being multi taskers). Knowing that he is the leader of a male dominated Austrian organization, I couldn’t help but wondering why he wouldn’t have more female executives when he spent 10 minutes praising women (still, full of clichés).

What really got me in a downward spiral though was spending almost a week in Upper Austria, a very rural area. I love this place, though conservative is an understatement for what’s going on there. Don’t get me wrong, I know there’s a lot of innovation happening and I know very creative, progressive people who live there. Unfortunately, they are the minority. I feel all I ever accomplished in life and contributed to society (and economy) doesn’t matter there. After all, my main mission as a woman is to raise a bunch of children. As long as I’m not a mother of three, respect the dress code at the local bakery and speak dialect at the grocery store, I’m an insult to my country. This might be drastic, but it really sums up how I felt after a week.

I couldn’t believe that at a meeting with a male architect, he always turned to my partner when answering my questions. It was like I wasn’t even part of the conversation. For a second I was wondering if I got stuck in the Middle Ages. When chatting with a female friend, she talked about a recent conversation with some men about alternative currencies, discrediting herself as the talk being “too high level” for her to understand. It’s like women are just not supposed to be smart, resulting in them feeling super self-conscious, naturally.

With all that, I’m almost ashamed that Digitalista feels entitled to help women in digital industries, when the rest of Austria still has an antiquated perception of women in general. My teachers and parents didn’t tell me I could be a managing editor or correspondent when I grow up. Women were meant to raise children, manage the household and support their husband. Most importantly, never ask any questions. Now with my recent experiences in Austria, I assume that schools still teach their children a traditional family portrait.

Honestly, I don’t know how to move on from this. Will society ever change? l doubt it.  I really tried to be optimistic, but reality proved me wrong lately. Austrian media recently pointed out the increasing migration to the cities (Landflucht) and how small towns in rural areas are struggling because of it. To that I can say: As long as you suggest women to not be too smart and rather stay in their traditional roles, I’m not planning to move back to the countryside. Let alone raise a child only to be brainwashed by your rules of society.

For now, I stop complaining about the lack of women in tech. There’s a bigger discrimination to change.

To wrap it up, I need to mention how many ambitious and talented women I met in Austria in the last few weeks. You rock. Maybe some day we can change society.