002: What Every 20-Something Needs to Read
If you’re truly happy, then stop reading right now.
But chances are, something is going on in some of your lives that makes life a bit unhappy. If that’s the case, please, read on.
Happiness is binary. You either are happy, or you aren’t. You know when you’re happy; you just are. You’re at peace with yourself and your surroundings, and can every now and then raise a genuine smile. Being happy is easy, but being unhappy is tricky. Unhappiness can be staring you right in the face, or it can be hidden beneath everyday life. You may never know it exists, or you may decide to mask it with false beliefs (ignorance is bliss after all). You may also choose to not address it in favor of false optimism that things will get better.
Generally, most of us 20-somethings and young adults come to a crossroads in which our happiness is put in question. We toggle between safety and uncertainty, and that tangling of the unknown ultimately makes us eager, yet scared. This conflict of emotion makes us angry and upset, and we begin to view things negatively to justify our unanswered questions. What is going on? Why all of sudden a rush in emotion? Why do we feel so in question and unhappy with our current situation?
We are told to follow a mold. Go to school. Get a degree. Start a career in that related degree field. Move up in the career ladder. Be great at your career, and eventually do it for so long you can retire with your 401K you saved up throughout your career in that related degree field. This career conveyor belt process is one that so many strive to follow, but what happens when it isn’t for them? What happens when that process doesn’t work out, and it actually becomes unhappy? I mentioned in my first post that life is like a track, and we are taught to run laps around it. But not all of us are designed to run laps, but instead go off the track and follow the dirt path. This rebel decision initially creates fear, as you leave the certainty of the where you’re going, and venture into the unknown. Do I turn around, or do I keep going?
What follows is my story of how Summer ’17 f***ked me up, and how it opened my mind to life while helping me face some daunting decisions. This one is for all us 20-somethings who find ourselves at our crossroads, not knowing what we should do with our lives. Trust me, just a couple months back I was there, and I think after getting through it, I might be able to help.
Prelude: I Got an Adult Job!
So as mentioned in my previous post, I have a passion for health and fitness. However, I was going to school for financial management, and figured I’d get a nice paying job so I can retire early and buy nice things. So putting my passion aside, I had begun my career experience interning for a property management company. That led to a brief stint with a private mortgage lender, and eventually after talking to the right people and being in the right place at the right time, I landed a job doing entry level mortgage banking. The stars had seemed so aligned! Still having one spring semester to go, I would partake in my new job part time (once a week), while primarily putting my attention to finishing up classes and graduating. I could coast through my last semester worry free; I had a job! I was going to be working in financial services, salaried with benefits and commission. Life was great, and I was happy.
I was so relieved and excited to be done with school. Classes, group projects, dysfunctional professors…senioritis was in full effect for me. Dont get me wrong, I had made some great friends and memories along the way, but I had a job and a (somewhat)nice paycheck waiting for me. So without dwelling on the memento, I took my B.S in Financial Management, and dove right into the life of the full time, 9–5er (Actually 9–530).
At first, it was awesome. No homework, no assignments due; being out of school was such a refreshing change of pace. Moreover, I had a nice office, spacious cubicle, and well equipped break room with unlimited espresso. The people were nice, and best of all was that my routine was stable. Wake up every day at 8, out at 530, and once Friday afternoon came along, I was free for a whole weekend (60 hours of freedom!). I felt like an adult, and having jumped in literally the Monday after graduating, I felt as if I had gotten a head start on my peers. I was moving fast, and excited for where Corporate Tom was going to go.
Late June came around, and the “puppy love” stages of this corporate relationship began to dwindle. I wasn’t feeling as excited as I was when I started, and I began to take notice of the mundane, repetitive nature of the corporate world. Checking my email became uneventful, excel sheets became my life, and being quiet and controlled in a cubicle cage was really becoming annoying. Also, my job wasn’t exactly panning out as I had hoped, and things had stalled like a giant clog in a drain. Thus, my day to day tasks became non-existent, which only resulted in having 30 minutes of real work the whole day. Try making 30 minutes last 8 hours…it’s practically impossible.
It became a daily challenge to figure out how to make the time go by. Eventually, as the clock got closer to 5:30, I would begin to get excited, as I was able to break free and be myself. I would race away from work to the gym, have a great workout, then go home to eat and relax. Then sleep, wake up, and do it all over again. This was Corporate Tom’s life (sound familiar to anyone?). But I was justifying it, because I was getting paid, and I was “doing well” within the mold of corporate America. I was a young, freshly graduated, energetic kid who got a head start on his career. I was given decent compensation, immersed in a friendly environment, and loved the people I worked with. Only an idiot would be ungrateful for all that right out the gate.
Turns out that idiot was me.
The Week That Changed My Life
July 4th comes around, and I had no plans. I was bummed; the one, beautiful beach day I’m required to have off, and I had nothing to do. But some friends had talked about going to Rhode Island the next day. I had an interview at another bank the next morning, and thus had the day off. I could tell it was already going to be a great day: Go in and crush an interview, then be on my way to soak up some sun! I could not wait!
So the interview comes along, and it went rather awkwardly. There was a weird vibe about it, and it was as if I was interviewing them. I left uncertain with a deflated sense of optimism. I was searching for a way out of my current boring job, and unfortunately, this didn’t seem like it would be it. But whatever, I was going to be on my way to some beach in RI, what did I really care?
And so I get home, eager to grab my bag and go. And then my mom calls.
Charlie died. My best friend, the family dog, had a heart attack and passed away. My world was turned upside down and punted into a pile of shit. I won’t go into detail, but losing your best friend; someone you loved so much and gave so much life to, is one of the hardest things that anyone can go through. My little guy, I really do hope all dogs go to heaven.
My mom took it the hardest, he was like her child. It was a terrible grieving time for my family; one that we never really experienced before. And of course, to add salt to the wound, our refrigerator broke two days later. While such a stupid, shitty incident, the timing couldn’t have been worse. Mourning a dead dog whilst unable to eat fresh food…such a small problem, but at the time, escalated the already boiling over-stress levels.
Then three days later, my Grandma had a stroke. She became hospitalized for two weeks, and it was presumed a result from the little guy passing away days prior. It’s as if the world was trying to punch us while we were down.
And so, my family and I mourned, and after what was the toughest week of my life, I found myself turning 22, and not giving a shit what-so-ever. With all that had been going on, I had just been trying to take life one day at a time and make sure nothing else unexpected occurred. Throughout this week of extreme hell, I still had to report to my cubicle and stare at two monitors and excel spreadsheets, pretending to look busy while really, getting lost in processing what was going on in my life. I had 8–9 hours a day to just sit with my thoughts, and think (and silently cry). It was around this time that I came to my crossroads and was forced to re-asses my life. Clearly my happiness had hit rock bottom (for obvious reasons). On top of all that, I was subjecting myself to a mundane job that wasn’t going anywhere. Not only did the recent events drain me of time and energy, but my “work” had me feeling as if someone had stabbed a syringe into me, and was drawing whatever life I had left out. I wasn’t being challenged, I had no purpose, I was just a corpse occupying space. I felt myself becoming a zombie, sitting idle while watching my life slip away into the corporate black hole. I needed a change. And I needed it fast.
The Gears Start to Roll and I Discover Self-Awareness
One afternoon while leaving the office, I needed some motivation for my workout. I had found some motivational compilation on Soundcloud and decided to give it a listen. It was at that moment that my brain turned on. The opening 2 minutes were actually the beginning to Pain and Gain (a workout related movie feat. Mark Wahlberg and the Rock. How fitting!) The premise featured these men yelling through the speakers, asking what you wanted out of life. It was then that I in turn asked myself “Tom, what are you doing with your life…Really?”. From that day forward the gears continued to grind, and I soon opened up my brain and truly became self-aware.
If that one week from hell had taught me anything, it was that life is short and death is real. You can work and make money and show up to a 9–5, but what about your life? What are you doing for yourself? I was waking up every day unhappy to go to work, in fact I HATED work. It would be Sunday night, and I already couldn’t wait for Friday afternoon. Why was I living for the weekend? What type of life was I subjecting myself to? During this awakening period, I had begun to read entrepreneurship articles and books, and listen to self-development podcasts in search of answers on how to change my life. Instead of answers, I found a new perspective. There was one common theme in everything I was reading and listening to: Do what makes you happy. Such a simple statement, but so undervalued in the grand scheme of things. Everybody was saying it, and I was connecting with it. The one little thing that made me really happy, died. And so I asked myself, why am I putting myself through this torture? I don’t care for any of this (my job and current career path), and it CLEARLY isn’t making me happy. And so I asked myself the simple question: What truly makes me happy? Then it hit me:
The passion that I had overlooked far too often in favor of a “paying career”. The passion that I had put on the back-burner in order to pursue a “real job”. It was such a simple answer, yet it took me so long to come to terms with it. As I had always hoped for, the one thing in life that really made me happy, was my passion for health and fitness. It was the one thing I had always found peace in, the one thing I could look to for a sense of fulfillment. So after tossing the idea around, I finally pulled the trigger. I quit my corporate job, went back to waiting tables, and decided to go all in and pursue my passion for health and fitness. And here I am now.
My Advice to All My Fellow 20-Somethings
After a roller coaster of a summer, I can finally say with confidence that I’m happy. Make no mistake, it was a very scary decision to take that leap of faith. Leaving steady pay and a stable routine seemed silly at first, especially to pursue something with no guarantee success. But as I’ve said before, sometimes we need to leave the track, and run to the dirt path where there is no definitive finish line. So right now, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I need to take this small step back, in order to take a greater step forward later on. I’m living life for me and for the long term, not for a promotion and merit raise in 6 months.
So I ask you, are you truly happy?
There might be some of you right now that are going through this very same scenario, or maybe you’re beginning to notice that you don’t feel as fulfilled in life. I implore you to just lie down, close your eyes and think: WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY? Because one of the more powerful lessons I learned this summer, is that happiness is the greatest paycheck you can ever have.
I’m not advocating for everyone to quit their job and pursue something unrealistic, but if you find yourself unhappy, perhaps it’s time for a change. Do your due diligence, and if it seems practical, go for it! This is the time in our lives to take a chance. When we’re all 42 with a family, mortgage, and mouths to feed, we won’t have the capacity to take a chance. We’ll only have the thought of “What if…”. I was fortunate in being forced to wake up and analyze my life for what it was, and moreover mentally wake up and demand better out of myself. I was unhappy, and I commanded myself to change.
Now, I understand we all aim to please someone. Whether it be our parents, our siblings, our friends, whoever! But what you all have to understand is that if YOU aren’t happy, then there’s no point in appeasing those surrounding us. You can’t please others whilst committing spiritual suicide, because eventually, you’ll find yourself dead inside, going through the motions, just as Corporate Tom found himself doing. As my mom said best “Ships are safest when at port, but that’s not what ships were made for”. So go ahead, set sail and find yourself! Get in touch with your happiness, and you might just find yourself living a better life. Happiness is the ultimate factor in a healthy life, and as I say…
A healthier you, is a better you. It’s time to unlock yourself, and start living a happier life.
Want to talk about this further? I’d be happy to have an in-depth conversation and fully elaborate on my thoughts and expierences, and moreover, how you can find yourself.
Until next time,
Thomas Marc Chin