by katie zhu

24 Nov 2015

paths

One night at dinner, my mom asked me to finish my vegetables.

“You don’t know me. You don’t know my path,” I said solemnly.

Her eyes widened.

“What do you mean I don’t know you? I raised you.”

Not to be dissuaded, I repeated, “You don’t know my path.”

My mom furrowed her eyebrows at her four year old daughter. I continued poking earnestly at my broccoli.

I kept muttering "you don't know my path" under my breath over and over. Finally my mom burst out laughing.

"I see you liked the Pocahontas movie," she said, smiling at her stubborn daughter.

To this day, my mom loves to tell that story whenever I see her.


Whenever I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing (which is often), I think back to Pocahontas being guided by the spinning arrow in her dream, torn between wanting to find her own path and the life her father wants for her.

Even though I don't have a Grandmother Willow to guide me, I still have the capacity to make my own decisions and not simply do things because I feel obligated, or because I feel it's expected by someone else. We make our own paths.

Back in college, I studied both journalism and computer science. Earlier this year, I took on a product management role in addition to engineering. I guess I’m into straddling the lines and combining different perspectives, disciplines and experiences. I am still working to balance the two, whatever “balance” may mean. I’m often asked, “What is your actual plan?” I get it, people are curious, and this question actually causes me a great deal of inner tension. Because I really don’t know. But I feel compelled to give people a better answer than ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, so I usually ramble on about how I fell from one into the other, rationalizing my every decision and interest, closely monitoring the asker’s facial expressions to reaffirm that my story makes sense. It’s exhausting.

I don't have a grand scheme, a master plan, besides simply taking one step at a time and focusing on outcomes. Because the work is what matters, not some arbitrary designation of title or boxes I put myself in. By focusing on tangible, objective outcomes that are not pegged to other people's perceptions, I can continue to channel my inner Pocahontas and chart my own course.

You don't know my path.

And frankly, neither do I.

Yet.

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