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Five years ago, a naive and nervous 21-year-old version of myself walked through my office’s front doors for the very first time. Fresh out of college, wearing an ill-fitted suit and a bad haircut, I couldn’t have been more clueless about the life I was about to begin. What followed that fateful day has been years of meetings, emails, Excel spreadsheets, procrastinating, and quite a bit of growing up. Through it all I have become a functional, albeit boring and somewhat jaded, adult. As I look in the mirror at my now 26-year-old face, I’m not upset with how it all turned. I enjoy my life thoroughly. Yet I still worry an unhealthy amount. Not about the past or even the present – but about the future. About my future as an employee, an adult, a boyfriend, a son… about who the hell I am going to become. I spend endless nights tossing and turning just thinking – is it time to start trying?
Let me elaborate. My job is steady, money is okay, and my personal life is perfectly healthy. I am not fat, while also not skinny, and if my overall well-being was being graded like a research paper, I would be a strong C+. All in all, things are fine. If I just put my life on auto-pilot for the next five years nothing remarkable nor horrible would happen – I would probably just wake up holding a middle management position at my current company with a wife and kid on the way. This is all well and good, but what if that isn’t what I am destined to do? Or, what if this isn’t even what I WANT to do? What if I put the pedal to the metal and just gave a shit about anything but beer and sports? What if I just tried harder at life?
The fear I have is not really about failing – it’s about succeeding. Grinding it out and being a normal dude with a normal life doesn’t scare me at all, what scares me is just blindly accepting this fate. As college posters and motivation speakers love to say – it isn’t the “what if I hadn’t” thoughts that keep me up in a cold sweat. It is the “what if I had?” ones. What if, at 26, I decided to go get an MBA? What if I focused on writing and pursuing hobbies that I actually enjoy instead of watching TV every night? What if I went to the gym more, or picked the guitar back up, or just spent a few more weekends improving myself instead of boozing? There isn’t anything wrong with striking out, but I think need to take a few good cuts first.
I realize I won’t be promoted or get shredded overnight; these things take time. The problem is, the clock feels like it is ticking faster and faster. Every day I don’t do something productive is another day closer to accepting mediocrity. This all could be part of a quarter-life crisis brought on by an incredibly slow work week, but it feels like something more. Something deep inside is telling me to go down swinging, invest in myself, and quit blaming other things and people for not going for what I want.
I know I am not alone. In fact, I imagine most people my age think the same thoughts too. Is part of growing up just learning to repress these thoughts? To ignore them? I am sure once people get a family or advance to a better position in their career these long nights filled with uncertainty ease up a little bit. But they likely won’t go away completely. I don’t want to be that 40-year-old guy stuck in traffic on his way to some job he hates, thinking about what might have been if he just tried a little harder when he had the time and energy. I guess it is like they say, there is only one way to build a brick house: one brick at a time. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think it’s time I start building. .
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