My Quarter-life Crisis:
foregoing the beaten path
As of last week, I was barely 2 years out of college, pulling in a tidy six-figure salary in one of the financial hubs of the world. I was paying through the nose for a small studio in the middle of the restaurant and social area that is Central, Hong Kong Island. Today, after a 15 hour flight, a 4 hour bus ride, I am “self-employed,” couch-surfing, and grappling with the inevitable second-guessing of my decision to give it all up to pursue my passions.
My story is not unique, but if every unoriginal story went unpublished and unheard, then we would be severely lacking in written perspective. This is my story of how I graduated from one of the top universities in the world, landed a job at one of the best banks, and subsequently traded it all in. This story is not meant to evoke sorrow/passion/empathy, but I want to use it as a cathartic outlet to share my perspectives.
A rainy weekend capped my four-year experience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Despite the freezing cold downpour, I couldn’t help but smile as I walked back to my seat, degree in hand. I did it. I had it all. At 22 years young, I had just graduated from MIT with a double major and a Master’s degree. I had a well-paid job lined up in one of the most exciting cities in the world. I had an amazing and supportive girlfriend of 4 years. Did I mention that I was only 22?
A one-way ticket to Hong Kong kickstarted my next adventure. Unbeknownst to me then, the next 20 months would be a whirlwind of new friends, new experiences, and new lessons learned.
I won’t elaborate much on my time as a trader in Hong Kong, but there a few specific items I would like to get down in writing.
1) With every adventure, good friends are a must. To the friends I have made in the past two years, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. It truly would not have been the same without you. Friday movie nights. Chilli Fagara runs. Macau shenanigans. Junk trips. Basketball. Over-eating. These are just some of the fond memories that will live with me.
Having said the thank-you’s, I must also enclose an apology. The end of an adventure should never be a sudden event — it should be a gradual decrescendo. In this respect, I have failed. Giving a 3-hour notice window that I was leaving was unfair. I understand this now. I am hoping to make that up to all of you by putting in a real effort to keep in touch — starting with these posts. I hope you will do the same.
2) Coworkers will make or break you job. To this point, I must communicate how lucky I was. The chance to work with such a professional and knowledgeable team really is one-in-a-million. Clichés aside, it is difficult to describe in writing how much I enjoyed working with those around me. A constant support and mentoring network met me every day I walked through the glass doors in the morning. The best way to sum this up: the biggest reason I accepted the job offer was the team that I would work with.
An unassuming Monday marked the day that I handed in my resignation to my manager. A brief chat and an email set me down the path of no return. And yet, despite everything, my resignation was met with understanding and support. There were no lock-door sessions of persuasion to stay, no guilt trips, no references to how much potential I had. To the end, my end, my team retained all the values that I so enjoyed working with.
Thus, on a Friday afternoon (with an impending flight in less than 4 hours), I walked around the trading floor, saying goodbyes that were utterly inadequate. I would not be hosting leaving drinks. I would not be buying lunch. A handshake, a hug, and I was gone.
I am sitting in a meeting room in my alma mater writing this blog post to answer Why?
Why leave a stable job to pursue an endeavor that will almost certainly lead to failure?
This sounds so bleak and dire. For those that don’t know me, I have always pursued new challenges, looking to solve new problems, and focused on the optimistic side of things. Through college, I had a new startup idea every year. Failure was simply a stepping stone to the next challenge. Despite my passion, I had never dedicated myself full time to these ideas — they always came second to school or work. Now, I can finally dedicate myself full-time to one of these ideas.
Will it lead to failure? I certainly hope not — but regardless of the outcome, it will be a valuable experience that not many people can say they have done.
The quarter-life crisis. At 24 years old, I have very few obligations — no family to support, no children to raise, no debt to pay. With a little bit of money saved up, I am confident that now is the best (if not only) time to take this leap of faith.
I have been asked by many caring friends, “Will you take a few weeks off now to recuperate before the next challenge?” Not a chance. I am jumping, head on, into my next startup project. Teaming up with three outstanding individuals, the next few weeks to months will be filled with unknown variables. The only known variable that I can define confidently is I have taken the first step, and it is in the right direction. Where this path takes me, we will see.