As the days get shorter, an urge to reflect seems to beget all of us.
Caught under this end-of-year spell, it dawned on me that I have entered the second half of my twenties and am making a little bit of money for the first time. Indeed, I feel like I’m — wait for it — becoming an ‘adult’, whatever that means.
This feeling is a new experience for me. And because it’s this time of year now, I wanted to take the opportunity to make some reflections about this postgraduate transition.
As we leave the factory that we call school, we are now at a play-field where we have to decide for ourselves what it means to win, yet no one has ever told us how to figure that out, nor how to figure out how to figure that out (if you catch my drift):
“Up to now, you’ve only been in charge of the micro decisions — “How do I succeed at my job as a student?” — and now you’re suddenly … tasked with answering stressful macro questions like … “What are my options for paths and which one should I choose and how do I even make a path?”” —WaitButWhy
Even though it often feels like there is, there’s no need to use other people’s metrics for deciding which paths to take and make. The biggest challenge of this life phase is, I think, to make sure that your ideas of success are truly your own and then having the guts to pursue your victory in the single-player gamethat’s life.
It’s a weird feeling to realize that I’m starting to mold myself and my life in a certain way — taking some paths and rejecting many others.
This can be daunting, but it’s necessary: 99% of the things out there are not for me, won’t make me happy. If I don’t set the sails myself, the winds are probably not going to land me near the 1%. So it’s necessary.
It seems to me that what we were told growing up that honing a well-rounded skill-set is the secret to success is a strategy that serves you only if you strive to be mediocre at some things and good at none.
Like this one, more and more cracks in the ceiling of grown-up wisdom appear. Less and less, it’s the case that ‘adults’ have a more developed way of thinking, than I.
For instance, when it comes to leading a meaningful life, the older I get, the more I realize that most ‘adults’ don’t know what they’re doing either. By contrast, I think I do. This turns the asymmetry between old and young upside down — it’s no longer the older people being wiser by default — and that is weird.
With the perspective I have on the world today, one fact became crystal clear: I am incredibly lucky. And yet, doing what you love/are passionate for/care about is not a luxury, but essential, because it’s the only strategy that yields a meaningful life.
Things are more serious now. Or I am, at least. I remember, a couple of years ago, always dreading family visits because my aunts and uncles only talk about economics and politics and other boring stuff. Today, living in Hungary, I worry about these issues myself.
Even more serious: the worst aspect of post-graduate life, for me, is aging family. I’ve already had a parent, two aunts and four grandparents die way too young. This reverses the asymmetry in a more cruel way.
I think that most people don’t realize how short life is. Life’s too short to do the things you dread instead of those you love.
But you know what? Fuck this. This isn’t me. I’m not the kind of guy who goes around telling other people that life’s too short for what they’re spending it on. I don’t want to be a preaching grandpa. I want to avoid the asymmetry.
Honestly, these days I get interview requests and reader correspondence in which people tell me I’m an example and that’s unreal for me.
Let me share something with you.
I haven’t figured it out. At all.
In reality, I’m just your friendly neighborhood philosopher (thanks Nick 😃). That’s it.
And I’m afraid.
I’m frightened that my father’s health will deteriorate. I’m scared that someone on the small list of people whose opinion I care about calls totals bullshit on something I write. And the morning after a night out I fear that I’ve shown too much of myself.
Most of all, I’m scared to love. And to be unapologetically myself.
So please forgive me that I sometimes hide behind italics, bolding, tough-ass quotes, and exclamation marks.
Next year, I’m going to try to let my light shine a little bit brighter, hopefully inspiring you to make the same effort.
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