In late 2019, I got to go to the Middle East with my former job to open a restaurant.
The trip changed my life, but not because of why you might think.
I’d traveled quite a bit before then; I’d been to Continental Europe and all the usual stuff. I’d seen more than half of the 50 states in the U.S.
I loved to learn about people, so I studied Sociology. I also met people from all over the world every day working in Times Square.
When I heard about that trip, I hadn’t really done much with my life, career-wise. I’d been running for a few years, and I had become very good at shifting my personal, physical, and spiritual aspects of myself, but my career was just non-existent.
I heard about the opening, and full-disclosure, I had a pretty big crush on somebody that was going at the time. Between my stagnancy in life and that ridiculous infatuation, I put on my best interviewing face and became determined to get myself a spot on that opening team.
“Maybe this will be the big thing that will change my life,” I thought.
I always thought that before 2019. I learned that from my family.
Every single thing I ever did, my nuclear family framed it in a way of “is this the big thing?”
“Is this going to lead you to ‘x’?”
I had life described to me by others that somehow, there was going to be some magical event that would make everything different. Everything. It would be the place where I met some celebrity that would just offer me up a charmed career or whatever the fuck.
Because of this, I often over-analyzed and “weighed out” opportunities in terms of judging whether or not they could be the “big thing.”
People love to think this way, always worrying about what an opportunity is going to mean for them. They drive themselves crazy with making decisions because they’re on the lookout for the “big thing.”
I did manage to go on that trip. I don’t know how the hell it happened. Manifestation and saying the right things to the right people at the right time, I suppose.
And honestly, the cultural and educational piece was worth its weight in gold.
However, the way it unfolded deeply conflicted with who I knew myself to be.
I missed the New York City Marathon, which I worked the whole previous year to gain guaranteed entry to, only to find myself in the richest country in the world, wearing an ugly tee shirt and doing the CHICKEN DANCE.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I was not the sort of person who wore tee shirts and did the chicken dance. I was the sort of person who wanted to explore culturally and socially and understand the intricacies of my environment while wearing a dress, sitting at the table, not standing at it.
The conflict became very evident to me very early. Then, one day, we got to have this marvelous trip where we didn’t work in the restaurant and instead, rode camels in the desert, walked around an outdoor marketplace, and took a riverboat cruise.
On our way to the middle of the desert, I struck up a conversation with one of the “Alphas,” as I called them. He was my immediate superior’s superior.
We weren’t too far apart in age, and we bonded quickly over literature and Star Trek. We ended up sitting together during lunch and really got to talking.
By evening, as we were on the riverboat with beautiful Doha in the background, I started telling him about who I was, my education, interests, and all of the things that I loved about myself, few of which had to do with hospitality.
“Why are you working for our company,” he asked me.
I almost got emotional and said, “I just can’t get out of my own way.”
It was the most honest I’d been in so many years.
He advised me to go home, figure out what I wanted to do, and quit. When we left the country a week later, he gave a list of books to read.
I didn’t end up quitting my job, but I read the books. One of them changed my life. It reignited my passion for understanding humanity. It was called Ishmael.
By February 2020, I was still stuck. I felt some pieces moving, but every day, who I was and what I was doing was in conflict with what I knew about myself. I was not happy in my work or my relationships. It felt like the chicken dance all over again.
I reached out to a stranger I had never met, but only heard of, and I asked him for help. This was somebody I idolized, who did meaningful work I admired.
I’d have never had the courage to do it, but I kept going back to that conversation on the riverboat. I knew that if I didn’t ask for help, I’d never shift. The story would never change.
That was 14 months ago, and today, I see that stranger as one of my closest friends. He helped me change my life in astronomical ways. And, in turn, I have been able to help others. For me, that is the most important part.
One small conversation led to another small conversation, which led to another small conversation, which led to insurmountable change, not just in my life, but in the lives of many of my friends in my inner circle.
We always are looking for the BIG THING that is going to change our lives.
Often, the thing that actually changes our lives is very small.
I don’t remember much about that trip to Doha. I remember building a cool-looking, non-alcoholic bar out of a countertop. I remember the sweet souls I got to work alongside of. I remember how quiet it was, and I remember that conversation with Jarrett on the riverboat.
I’ll never forget it. That conversation, out of all the conversations I’ve ever had, was the “big thing.” It was the catalyst. It shifted my whole world, and it may have lasted 20 minutes.
If you’re trying to analyze your way through things you want to do, no matter what those things may be, don’t.
Just do everything you want, and don’t worry about what’s coming next.
Don’t spend your life analyzing “how will this work out?” Chances are that the “big opportunity” you’re looking for is going to come from a minor one.
Don’t allow yourself to weigh out every possibility. It’s useless.
There are going to be conversations like that in your life. I’ve had quite a few since the riverboat. It all stemmed from my willingness to accept that I must embrace many things to have the very best things.
“They say when the student is ready, the teacher will appear- and that’s true. It’s also true that when the student is ready, teachers appear everywhere.”
Originally published at https://www.getthefuckoff.com on April 9, 2021.