An hour with a role model

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

So tonight I met Penelope Trunk.

In my world, she is a celebrity. I told her this in these exact words within the first 5 minutes of meeting her. After rehearsing a few times on my way to the hotel. And she told me to stop being her fan and start being her equal.

I was introduced to Penelope's blog a year ago by Jason Shen, a guy that lived in my dorm at Stanford. At that time, I was taking a class on the sociology of gender, slowly turning into a man-hating feminist and getting into fights with anyone who would dare attempt to justify women earning lower wages than men. Jason and I often found ourselves arguing over women in the workplace. He finally pointed me to Penelope's post about postpartum depression as support during one of our discussions. And I was hooked.

Over the next year, I read Penelope's blog religiously because it had great advice for women, was brutally honest and talked about career issues that not many others dared to touch upon ( sex at work). As Penelope wrote on, Jason and I would discuss it all at the lunch table as if discussing the personal life of one of our good friends (at least other people at the table thought that).

Throughout my senior year in college, I had a crisis that spanned both my personal and professional futures. What I did not have was the emotional capacity to deal with it. Whenever my brain encountered the topic, it would run down the completely wrong pathway of extremely negative thoughts. At the lowest moment, after a night of tears, I did not know to whom I could turn. So I sent Penelope an email asking for advice. Her reply consisted of five sentences. All five told me to go to therapy.

So I did. And it might have been the best non-obvious decision of my life. I was receptive to change and so it worked wonders on me. My therapist gave me the tools to deal with the emotions and uncertainties I was facing. I was finally on the right path to self-discovery.

Without knowing it, Penelope has greatly affected my life in a very positive way. So when she Twittered me back that she would be able to meet with me, I was too excited. I read through the most recent entries of her blog and pulled my favorite quotations. Then I made a list of the things I liked about her blog. Then I made a list of questions I would like to ask her. And then, the brainwashed consultant that I am, I put everything together in a Word document and printed two copies. One for each of us.

The truth is that I was nervous and scared. I did not want to waste her time and I had no idea what she would be like or what we could talk about. I thought she would be the ballbuster that she sounds like on her blog. So I came prepared. But she turned out to be extremely cool and laid-back. And within 10 minutes, we were talking about guys, relationships, work, sex and emotions. And it was comfortable, relaxing and fun.

And she gave me advice on my blog. And really listened to what I had to say. And encouraged me. It felt freaking awesome to have someone you have admired for a year actually be interested in you. I am so much better for it now.

So thank you, Penelope, for your influence and advice. Here is where I stop being your groupie. From now on, I will consider us equals. But I cannot deny my gratitude.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

My name is Irina Issakova. I am a recent college graduate working in a consulting firm in San Francisco. I graduated from Stanford University in December 2008 with a B.A. in Economics and an M.S. in Management Science and Engineering. I am an avid fan of macroeconomics, an appreciator of fashion, a proponent of personal finance and an aspiring good person.

Upon graduation, I realized that college has not taught me too many real world things. So I started this blog as an exploration of who I am, my capabilities, fears, accomplishments and other goings on in the life of a young professional Gen Yer. Over the last few months, this blog has taken the direction of learning about what makes someone an effective individual and just in general using one's brain. I like it this way.