In the summer of 2017, I interviewed for a job at The New Yorker. As part of the interview, I was asked to come in and interview with David Remnick, the editor of the magazine. And I’ll confess: I was nervous.
Not because I was meeting with David. (He was lovely, kind, and incredibly supportive.)
I was nervous because I’m scared of heights.
The New Yorker’s office are about a third of the way up in the World Trade Center. The view is spectacular from up there — 360-degree views of New York, from the harbor and Statue of Liberty all the way to Midtown. On any given day, you might have meetings looking out over New Jersey or Brooklyn or the Empire State Building. Over time, I got used to the idea of working in the sky.
But not on the day I interviewed with David. On that day, I was terrified.
I remember not knowing how to handle the situation when I walked in. David’s office had massive windows, with incredible views of the city. I decided to compliment him on the view as I walked in — it seemed like a harmless icebreaker. It seemed like a thing that someone who wasn’t terrified of heights would do.
Then he invited me over to the windows to look. (Naturally, he thought I’d mentioned it because I wanted to see it up close.) So I inched over to the edge of the room, all the while telling myself, “Don’t look down, don’t look down, don’t look down.” I tried to remember to breathe. I reminded myself that if I fainted, I probably wouldn’t get the job. (Being unafraid of working in the building seemed like a prerequisite for the job.)
We sat down, and the giant windows were right behind him. I decided to do the one thing that would allow me to avoid looking at the windows and thinking about being 40 floors above New York City: I made eye contact — and never broke it for the hour or so we talked.
In all the years I’ve been alive, I don’t believe I’ve ever made continuous eye contact the way I did that day. I probably should’ve been nervous about interviewing with the magazine, or meeting David, but I was so scared that I’d look over at the windows and panic that I couldn’t really think about it.
So I made eye contact, and we talked, and a few days later, I got the job.
What happens if I’m not scared of heights? Maybe I get distracted by the view and drift off, and seem like I’m not focused on the role. Maybe I get nervous about interviewing and come across as unprofessional. I have no idea what might have happened.
Because on that day, I was so nervous about being in a tall building, I accidentally had one of the best job interviews of my life.
That’s a photo I took from The New Yorker offices in October 2018, after I’d gotten over my fear of working in the sky.