by Erika Bridges
June 04, 2012

When I took a scuba course, I learned that when you're stranded at sea, the most sustainable thing to do is float. You shouldn't fight the current; you should just allow the waves to move you. I like to think of this as my life mantra, and lucky for me, being the RPA floater, I get to live out this ideal. The waters haven't always been calm, but like they say, life is about the journey, not the destination. (I wager that person didn't work in advertising, but hey, let's go with it.)

As a SoCal native, going to a women's college on the East Coast was like being stranded at sea, only with less friendly dolphins and a lot more women. I managed to keep my head above water for an eye-opening four years. I got out relatively unscathed excluding a Tracy Chapman addiction and a depilatory product phobia, both of which I can proudly say I have since overcome.

After graduation, I sailed over to Japan where my buoyancy was tested to the extreme. When working at a Japanese company with limited understanding of language in cultural context, everyday feels like Shark Week, and you're the seal. As years passed, I was able to find comfort in finally blending into the crowd. (Exception: when the station workers pack you into the train and physically blend you into the crowd; this is the antithesis of comfort.) Like how it usually works in life, when I realized that I had actually found a sustainable tread, the winds changed and I found myself back West.

Days after washing ashore, the good people at RPA selected me to be their resident floater, where I would work in any and all departments that needed assistance. Starting at a new agency, I expected to flounder for the first couple of weeks. However, it was different here. On the first day, countless people introduced themselves, offered guidance and showed a genuine interest in getting to know me. When I was off on different projects throughout the agency, I was always met with the same patience and helpfulness.

Unlike the unnerving reality of floating in the open ocean, where your mind plays the game of "guess whether it was plant or animal that just brushed my leg," floating at RPA, while not without its challenges, has been lovely. I've drifted from SoCal to Boston to Japan to all across Asia, and back again, and at every new location, I always had the initial feeling that I was lost at sea. But not here.

Never before has it ever felt this natural to just float.