The Jordan Year

Reflecting on turning 23 and becoming a “young professional”

PC and a cool Gatorade commercial feat. 23-y.0. MJ vs. 39-y.o. MJ

So I turned 23 earlier this month, and realized that I haven’t yet taken the time to reflect on the conflating changes that have happened in the past year. Felt like this might be a good time to pause and take a mental snapshot* of my transition into a new city, a new job, and a new state of life (*judged myself real hard for first writing “snapchat” here instead of “snapshot”).

As I’ve been catching up with friends here and there, I’ve caught myself saying similar things in my attempts to articulate what feels different about this year than the past 22. Some of these feelings I’ve been consciously aware of but others have been percolating in my subconscious — and the hope is that voicing these changes here can help me better adjust to them in the future.

Identifying Impatience

As a fresh graduate entering the workforce, I noticed early-on that my rate of learning seemed to be dramatically slower compared to my time in school. I had trouble identifying specific insights/learnings from one project that actually led to actionable changes in the next. There was a period of time when I projected this on the work environment I was in…and in my consideration of what my options were at that time, I happened upon a piece of advice during that period of uneasiness that has stuck with me since:

You might have a lot of different feelings that make you want to quit — antsiness, an unsettled stomach, FOMO, envy, dread. Make sure that these aren’t impatience in disguise…When you start feeling unhappy in your work, you owe it to yourself to get specific about changes you could make for it to get better, and to develop your own innovative solutions and experiments to try.
- Ellen Chisa (The Magical Benefits of a Quitter’s Mindset)

For the first time in my life, there wasn’t a new quarter/semester around the corner, or the end of an internship to give me a fresh reset. I was in an indefinite relationship with my company, and I had to ask myself whether it was my company’s fault… or my own fault that I wasn’t learning new things. Answering this question helped me identify doors that I never bothered to open because they felt closed in the fog of my impatience.

One thing that became much clearer in retrospect is that there will always be a adjustment period for any new job environment. No job will be the perfect equilibrium of growth, impact, and personal fulfillment. But recognizing this was the first step in channeling my impatience into existing/new channels to support/supplement areas that felt out of balance.

Structure vs. Spontaneity

One of the largest lifestyle differences from a year ago comes down to how routine my days seem now. Compared to a dynamically prioritized schedule of of classes and extracurriculars, my workday as a professional is fairly predictable. I get to work and back home around the same times on each work day and spend about the same amount of time each week cooking, pursuing hobbies, and meeting friends.

In my first few months in Boston, I remember how empty my days seemed to feel without the hubbub and constant noise of school-related obligations. It was uncomfortably freeing to come home with no external set of obligations except your own. During the winter months, I channeled that ambiguity into new hobbies like writing and music production, but have since found ways to more spontaneously appreciate time during New England summers: shooting around at a neighborhood court, running loops across the Charles River, trips to Revere Beach, sunset dinners by the water.

For some odd reason, I appreciate the spontaneity of weather in how it shapes my free time. The challenge of adapting to weather as an unpredictable factor mirrors the sort of balance between spontaneity and structure that I’ve found really interesting about this stage of life.

Personal > Professional Growth

Since graduating, I’ve become much more aware of the sort of person that I want to be outside of the context of my professional development. Our society puts a great sense of urgency around hitting professional milestones, but often de-emphasizes a similar sort of intentionality in forming personal opportunities for growth. As someone who can easily idle away time in isolation, I’ve found it to be way more effective to partner with others in areas that I want to personally grow in. Examples so far have included designing a workout/cardio schedule with a buddy, seeking feedback on a new blog post, sharing musical ideas with friends.

Without the structure of regular 1:1s that I might have in a professional context, I’d definitely benefit from accountability partners to hold me to growth . For more ambiguous goals (e.g. build a deeper understanding of how my workview aligns with my worldview and faith, develop a more well-rounded POV), I’ll have to challenge myself to develop logical proxies that I hope to share in a follow-up post.

Are you a recently-minted young professional yourself? What parts of this resonate with you? How have you approached some of these same tensions over time? How does this fit into your framework for personal growth?

Always happy to hear thoughts/responses/reactions below!