My adrenaline starts to pump and the anticipation in my stomach rises so quickly that a little laughter escapes. But at 10:03 pm on Monday, the 22nd this is a bad time to laugh.
I yell to my boss Mark, “Tech Crunch just published!”
“What?” he yells back.
I run into his office, “Tech Crunch just published their post!” The rest of the sentence, that they published an hour early, an hour before they were supposed to, an hour before the embargo lifted and we were going to launch the site doesn’t need to be said. Hundreds of people are already on the site. Are we ready? I’m not ready! I thought we had an hour.
“We’re going live!” Brian exclaims. “Right now! Go! Go! Go!”
He sweeps through the office as excitement sweeps through our fingers. It’s bad that Tech Crunch published early, but their article is good. I’m shaking a little and smiling. Mashable emails me. They have to publish their article now too and I tell them it’s okay. We’re turning on the site now. We’re opening the doors. It’s starting. Alice.com is launching in beta.
The rest of the night is quick, blurry, surreal. When new press comes out, we yell, “CNET is up!” “Business Week!” “Financial Times!” and I throw the links onto Yammer. I refresh my screen every few minutes to watch the bar on the new customer graph rise. I work more than seventeen hours, my co-workers even more, and none of us really notice.
Some of the developers bring sleeping bags, the customer service girls bring a blow-up mattress, and the rest plan to sleep under their desks. At Alice, each employee is assigned an animal. I am a crane, which means, in part, that I’m particular. I want my own bed, so I drive home in the middle of the night.
The highway is completely empty, black and shiny. I own it. The asphalt, everything beneath and all the buildings lined up along on the side are mine. No other cars or people or lumbering trucks. I drive fast because I’m tired, and I want to sleep, and I want to get up and do it all over again.
Considering my co-workers only got two or three hours of sleep, I know they feel the same. The Alice team is more than dedicated, more than hard-working. This is the start-up life, our life.
There’s a lot of talk about balance. Some of the most popular authors preach zen-like attitudes, getting out of work, and lifestyles that are built on, well, not a whole lot. And then there are those who talk about sacrificing your health for your start-up, who talk in terms of not just passion, but obsession for your profession, and whose idea of fun is innumerable hours spent on a single idea.
Fighting balance across the fence is blur. And that is where I live. A life that should preclude me from having any sort of relationship with anybody or anything other than work, but in reality, betters those relationships. A place that makes me excited to be young and in love and working hard.
Peace, it seems, can not only be discovered in the quiet pauses of life, but also in the often forceful and uncertain flow that rushes against walls and norms and status quo.