The world is this big scary mega congregation of random events, unpredictable messes, and catastrophic meaningless nothings. I fear earthquakes, bed bugs, car accidents, identity theft, and under-cooked chicken.
All in all, I am a chicken.
I have to stop summarizing the things I’m afraid of; it’s giving me the creeps typing all this out at midnight. It’s whacky when a person is having one of the worst days of their life, someone not more than a few city blocks away is probably having one of the best days of their life.
My teenage years were rough because I dug out the misery for myself. I had a very negative and very fixed mindset. Back then, I didn’t know the definition of “keeping a positive attitude.” My life was tepid at best because my mindset was fixed. I know, I know, that is what being a teenager is all about. But I still hold regret that I couldn’t see these 4 simple yet profound things I learned about the world until well beyond my college years and onward until adulthood. I was definitely a late bloomer. These are the 4 things I wish I knew before growing up and reaching adulthood.
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1. THE WORLD IS FULL OF OPTIONS
My bestie in college told me if I ever decided to drop out of school, she would hook me up with her rich heir of a cousin from the Philippines who has a thing for petite Chinese girls. Sorry for the brazen example but I merely wanted to illustrate the ridiculousness of that possibility as a reflection of the number of choices one has in this world.
Here another example:
I’ve heard the stories of Internet entrepreneurs who run skimpily profitable online companies. But because they can operate from anywhere with a good Wi-Fi signal, they are considered well off in the country of their chosen operation. Very well off in fact since some of them are able to operate it completely tax-free.
When I got out of college and started working two jobs to make ends meet, I looked around and realized I was holding onto the shorter end of the stick. What was even more shocking to me was how complacent my co-workers were. My coworkers moved faster than me, they processed information faster than me and they were able to carry out tasks that I found more difficult. My coworkers made the same amount of money as I did. They were just as unhappy as I was with the organization’s lack of direction. They dreaded coming in every morning too. But they were not hatching escape plans like I was every day.
I asked my coworker friend one day:
“do you see yourself doing this in 10 years?”
“dunno.” (smile and shrug)
“right but you didn’t picture this as your job when you were a little girl right?”
“no but it works.” (another smile and shrug)
I was flabbergasted. How did she (or anyone else there) get past 8 hours of this every day, 6 days a week? Not dreaming or shooting for FIRE – not that it’s the end all or be all but just something! We had coworkers who were 10 to 20 years older than us and they have been there hating their jobs for decades. They have families now, locked in, and they have no choice but to keep working to keep afloat despite the fact that they were once brilliant and talented people.
Can’t she see the impending doom in her complacency? In a world so full of other possibilities?
I registered we had to be different creatures. They ate out more and did more “stuff” around town. They had social lives. My determined savings rate (40% at a $40k/year income) did not allow for a life and thankfully I’m an introvert so I never felt like I missed out on anything (I still don’t).
Just to be clear: my coworker friend was certainly smarter than me. She was more social, more lovable, and I admire her in a way that she could be so OK about her missed dreams when my dreams of anything more seemed more alien the further I floated from college.
There are no dead ends, the road can get rougher but there are no dead ends.
The one thing that kept me going was my unhappiness with complacency. I went through so many short-term “joe-jobs” ) and throwing resume after resume on anything that would reflect a sliver of a pride in my production.
I didn’t want to become my coworkers. They hated their job, although the money was fine enough. I suppose you can get the family bills paid and afford some dinners out which was A-OK for them. I didn’t dream much for life but I couldn’t shut off the internal scream that there had to be more than this. It couldn’t just be the money. I cared more about money than all of them. I run a personal finance blog for fruity shakes! But I keep thinking…there must be hundreds of opportunities we pass by every day that could change our lives for the better. I just have to hunt them down, keep my eyes open, always.
There are options and benefits to being in such a big wide world.
Life is wide enough to be anywhere, do anything else than settle. I was not expecting a miracle, but unlike them, I believe I fought things harder.
2. THE WORLD DOESN’T REMEMBER MISTAKES
I have to disclaimer those with criminal records; that’s not the world though, that’s the deputy’s office. The world doesn’t remember mistakes. No one is keeping a tally of your failures.
Understanding this is another form of self-love. For that point, I didn’t stand a chance. Having confidence and pride was not my parent’s priority. Traditional Asian parents want obedience, humility, and standardization from their children.
I don’t remember my SAT score. I remember I wasn’t too happy with it after I put off registering…and then oversleeping on the day of the exam…and then forgetting to bring my calculator…
My life turned out a lot better than what my SAT score predicted.
When you’re on the last train out of the teenage years, looking back, the things that happen seem to get stupider and stupider. Smaller and smaller.
They say the world is an unforgiving place. It can be. But it’s not much forgiving but forgetting. Which is what a person should do as well. The world moves fast and yesterday’s mistakes are forgotten until they’re repeated again. There’s no audience for your mistakes. And no need to dwell or look back any more than for reflection. People make a big deal about having a fresh start, having a new year resolution – no need to announce it or wait for that once a year to come around. Just do it.
It took me 2 days of trying to write out what I thought would be an easy post of a few hours max but I had a little Devil on my shoulder deleting the 4 out of 5 words I wrote out here. I keep thinking of the mistakes in everything I’ve done here. It is the worst mental plague that could nip and has nipped me in the past.
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3. THE WORLD IS NOT ALWAYS LINEAR
Sometimes the punk rocker kid sitting next to you in advanced algebra decides to set his shoes on fire in class (true story by the way) and I suppose it would be a surprise if that idiot then later grew up to own a profitable fire damage insurance company (just making this part up, I don’t know what happened to him). Although more likely than not, the guy that set his shoes on fire had poor compulsion, you never know what a person can pull out of their hat. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize the world is not supposed to be a linear place.
On this kooky rock, don’t ever assume 1+1 equals 2.
I was brought up in a linear environment and taught events that are linear in nature. If you do well in school, then you can go to a nice college, get a nice job, be part of the white-collar middle class and raise a family. My parents made the American Dream into a one-size-fits-all formula. I inherited those expectations for myself and I imagined things to work out in a linear form, just like my parents. I was ushered in like a school of little fishes from school to college and beyond. Some breather for self-discovery would have been nice.
There’s no difference in my life than the same thing that happened with the millions of others. I always dreamt of doing things my way. That’s one reason why I wrote this. All I wanted to do my entire life was to try to succeed in doing something I want to do. I am willing to struggle for my path as long as I’m not being compared with my parent’s social circle of friends and their children.
Colonel Sanders slept in the back of his car at age 65 trying to sell his Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise across the country. A girl can admire that.
Most people have linear modes of thinking because linear thoughts are safer. The linear thinking was a part of the fixed mindset I had. It took me a long time to realize these patterns are self-imposed. I had to do something shocking and twisted to move against my fate for the fate I wanted (more secrets on that next time). If I didn’t fight and complacency kept me at bay I wouldn’t have anything I have now. I would be stuck at my old job with my coworkers zonked out by routine despite dreading having to come in every day.
OK, my last mini-rant isn’t much of a meaningful thing but it is something that’s super obvious that I recently learned…in conclusion.
4. EXUBERANCE IS BETTER THAN PASSIVE EXISTENCE
All throughout my life I just told myself to exist. If my father was having a bad day and I’m bound to get the short end of the stick when he came home the only thing I had to do was exist to endure. It’s this passive, apathetic, sleepy feeling where you can be somewhere else and someone else. Eventually, I became so good at it, it was hard for me to come back down to Earth. I am a master of passive existing. There was no end goal, I was just protecting myself.
I told myself when I’m older, I’ll find someplace where I’m happy.
I continued to muddle through the teenage years – young adulthood years. Then I slowly began to realize the lessons above. They made existence better so I came back to reality and tried to be productive with a passion. I started to believe in everything (above) and changed my perspective to something better.
There are days (like today) when I want to kiss the dog drooled carpet of our house. I happily kiss my smelly husband who hasn’t bathed in a few days. I can feel every bit of my happiness simmering and stewing inside my body cavity. Lookie here, I’ve slowly carved out a fitting little knuckerhole for myself that is far better than my childhood and my teenage years combined. This life of mine might not be perfect but it is far better than what I imagined.
I have zero doubt that I would be here without gathering the 4 lessons above first. Looking at these now and calling them profound seems silly. To me, they make more sense than anything else right now.
That’s it – thanks for reading. I think this is my favorite thing I’ve written so far. I’m very tired now so good night guys. Ciao ciao ciao ciao!
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