Monday, September 9, 2013

Bringing it all together

The further I go down this road of entrepreneurship, the more I am seeing the various parts of my life converging.  This, in and of itself, is a significant departure from what I once hoped my life could be.  When I started working on the trading floor, one of the most appealing parts of the job was the ease with which I could compartmentalize my personal life, my professional commitments, and my passion projects.  Unlike traditional banking or consulting jobs, the financial markets open and close at the same time every day.  They aren't open on the weekends.  When there's a holiday, they're closed, so you are truly forced to walk away at the end of the day and come back the next day to pick things up where you left off.  This regularity provided a much-needed structure that meant I knew when I would be busy and when I would have free time for relaxation or other adventures.  

However, after a few years of strictly scheduling my friendships, romantic relationships, art and film classes, travels, and everything else, I felt like I was doing a lot, but I still wasn't happy - it still felt like something was missing.  I woke up every morning looking forward to the end of the day, anxiously awaiting the next activity I had on my agenda. I'd go to that class, or catch up with that friend and temporarily feel better, but then I'd go to sleep and I'd have to wake up and do it all over again.  It felt empty, pointless, and tiring.  This is when I started searching for new jobs, but only after many weeks of wallowing, and wishing very hard that the next day I would wake up and this feeling of my life not being "enough" would go away and I could live happier ever after.  But alas, the emptiness persisted.

As I started looking for other jobs and new opportunities, the thing I started to realize that the sense of "freedom" that had originally attracted me to finance - the ability to compartmentalize and the resources to live an exciting life outside of work - was not really freedom at all.  I thought being able to leave "work" at the office when the markets closed would allow me to be present in the rest of my life.  Instead, it mean I spent 12-13 hours per day at work occupied (sure, sometimes even entertained) by things I didn't really care about, desperately looking forward to whatever was next.  I was relentlessly busy and still unwaveringly ambitious, but also distracted, sad, and lacking the time and the tools to see a clear path forward.   It's hard to be able to find the answer to that critical question, "What do I want?" when all you can say is, "Not this."

I still don't know the answer to that question, but what I did start to understand is that I wanted to feel useful.  I wanted to be able to draw upon my personal experiences to make me better at my job.  I wanted to always be looking at the world with open eyes, ready to learn, and ready to apply whatever I was picking up in all different contexts of my life.  I wanted to want to wake up in the morning and go get work done. I wanted to enjoy what I was doing so much that I had no choice but to take it home with me at the end of the day because I would be so excited about accomplishing things and moving forward.  

I realized what all this meant was that I actually no longer wanted to keep my work and life separate.  Not necessarily in an obsessive, work-a-holic type way, but more of in the sense that I wanted to break down the walls and open up the doors for seeing and experience life as an individual, free of the definitions and various identities required by living in several different worlds at once.  There are lessons to be learned from how we deal with our best friends that can be applied to our clients.  The discipline required to streamline and organize one's personal finances is the same discipline required for budgeting time, money, and resources at work. There is a level of confidence and independence required to ask for what you need from your personal relationships as well as from your job.  It's really all the same, because you're the same no matter where you are (if you in fact are the same no matter where you are).  And in order to get to that point, I needed to start seeing and experiencing these parallel worlds in a unified fashion.

Now, for some very strong individuals, perhaps this is simply a mindset and doesn't require actually switching careers.  I have spent a long time wishing I could be that way, but I have always been the type of person that has had the ability to float between friend groups, to fit in and blend in a lot of different contexts.  I've always been the one that's pretty good at a lot of things, but never amazing at just one.  I generally enjoyed this because it allowed me to connect with and learn from all different types of people and experiences, but it also meant I never really felt validated or at home with any of them.  I always figured this was a result of my basically introverted qualities, destined to seek independence as the only means of regaining my energy and sense of self.  Now, I see that it's me that has always seen these worlds as separate and perhaps they don't need to be.  I'm still not sure how they will all come together, but now I definitely believe that they will, and I'm looking forward to figuring it out.