Exploring a Millennial Dilemma

posted by on 15/03/2016

It’s been a very long time since the site has seen a truly personal post, since one of us has shared how we’re really feeling. It’s been almost two years since Yin published, Losing Your Equilibrium, which I remember impacting me greatly when I first read it, one of the lessons he imparted upon us was to ‘Be energised by what you do.’ At a time when I don’t feel particularly energised, let’s return to that idea, hopefully this’ll be cathartic for me and in sharing my feelings I can put some other people at ease by letting them know they’re not alone.

For the first time in my life I feel like I’ve hit a stand still, the ebb and flow of my life’s ocean that has slowly carried me away from the shore on which I was born and allowed me to discover new lands and new waters has become still. I’m not where I’m supposed to be, I’m not lost but I might as well be, I’ve been here too long and become far too familiar. I’ve reached the edges of my map and I must now begin drawing my own, I have fragments given to me by others I’ve met on my journey but I must piece them together myself, my compass spins and spins and spins.

Up until now I’ve had this beginners map that comes with the “Western Life Starter Pack,” it roughly guides you through school, college, university and into work. Despite a few diversions (I saved enough money at university to travel around Asia immediately afterwards while everyone else slept, panicked or worked) I’ve generally followed it. It hasn’t always made me the happiest but it’s always kept me moving and that’s what’s important to me. It’s always led me to something new, challenged me along the way and helped me to expand my understanding.

The map however has led me to it’s furthest point, now it suggests I hang around in these waters, maybe find someone else to share a boat with and some land to enjoy, exploring only the ocean I know from now on, this is the ocean of existence and this is where I should stay.

I’m sure this is really nice for some people, there’s less chance of getting sea sick or having your boat overturned, it’s comfortable. Unfortunately, I hate the idea of ever being comfortable for too long, being comfortable makes you lazy, discomfort forces you to adapt and grow. I’d rather battle high seas, discover unfamiliar waters, drown in the depths of adventure and uncertainty than float in the ocean of mere existence.

This isn’t the first time I’ve felt like I’m not where I’m supposed to be. Sixth form for example, I knew there was something else I could be doing to add as much, if not more value to life without having to be penned up and treated like a child. I think this was also the beginning of my dislike for imposed structure. Don’t get me wrong, I love structure, I just prefer to structure my own time over having someone do it for me, it’s my time after all and it’s the single most limited resource we have. The difference in this instance however is that I was still moving and learning, meeting new people, eventually turning eighteen and having new social experiences, I even got into a relationship (massive learning experience). This time it’s different, this time I’m at risk of resting on my laurels.

Casey Neistat, who’s daily vlogs and movies are a constant source of entertainment and inspiration, recently made a video that summed up this dilemma. He said, ‘this plateau, which is comfort, when you’re doing the same thing day in and day out at your job, is when your value starts to atrophy, if it isn’t going up, it’s actually going down.’ He goes on to say that you should take one of two courses of action, work harder and find further value in what you’re already doing or move on and find it elsewhere.

I don’t want to over exaggerate my efforts and say I’m already working super hard but I’m definitely working to increase my value; running Yin & Yang, social media accounts, working out daily, reading everything I can get my hands on… all while squeezing everything I can from the 9 to 5 and trying to get eight hours of sleep a night. I’m not trying to show off my “mad productivity skillz,” because I’m also a serial procrastinator, I’m just trying to tell the full story so that hopefully you can relate in some way. These things however are only adding so much value, I can only make so much time for the additional activities and side projects when the rest of it is spent floating around in the ocean of existence.

So what do I actually want? I want to do work that I feel has purpose and meaning, I want to work on things that add value to me and hopefully to others. I want to create my own structure, as I said previously, time is our most limited resource, yet we let others dictate what we do with so much of it. We don’t let others dictate what we do with our money, so do we value something that regularly comes and goes (money), over something that is literally ticking away and never being returned (time)? The “digital nomad” concept is to me the ideal lifestyle; it presents the opportunity to work hard at something you love with no imposed structure and no location restraint, a slower pace to that lived in London. This lifestyle would also allow me to focus on some of my other goals, to travel more, read more and spend more time with myself and those who are important to me, I also want to get back into training jiu-jitsu! To some people this might sound like laziness but as Tim Ferris writes in the The 4-Hour Work Week, “Doing less meaningless work, so that you can focus on things of greater personal importance, is NOT laziness. This is hard to accept because our culture tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity” (at this point you’re likely thinking, ‘ugh, typical millennial’).

More specifically, I’m fascinated by storytelling. Writing and photography have been my mediums so far but I’d love to expand into video making and even podcasting. If you ever see me wearing headphones I’m probably listening to a podcast, and if not, grime. Whether it’s working on freelance projects or personal projects I want to make my passion my living, creating things that spark curiosity, inspire, provoke thought and induce awe. I don’t want to travel just for myself, I want to travel to share the experience and hopefully inspire others to do the same; when someone reads a travel piece I’ve produced, nothing makes me happier than hearing them say, ’this has made me want to travel.’ I don’t want to read more just to store information in my head and pretend I’m more intelligent than anyone else, I want to share what I learn and use it to make my work better.

Right now I’m not living by my own standards, I’ve always told myself that I’d put happiness and value before money, that if I wasn’t happy and fulfilled in doing something then I’d stop and do something else. I can blame other factors but the only thing really standing in my way is myself, I’m allowing the fear of failure to stop me from potentially succeeding and being far happier in the process. At the end of the day if everything crumbled around me I have family and friends who will support me no matter what I do, a home that I’m always welcome to return to and food on the table.

I’m also letting other peoples definition of success give power to the fear, making massive amounts of money on a traditional career path while being fairly unhappy five days a week don’t equate to success in my eyes. A feeling of fulfilment and purpose do.

To do what I want to do is hard and it is fairly scary but in my eyes playing it safe runs a greater risk than taking and making my own opportunities. One puts my life in the hands of someone else, one lets me take my life into my own hands. The risk of one day looking back at time spent and saying, ‘I wish I’d taken this opportunity and done this,’ is a greater risk for me than potentially saying, ‘I tried this thing once, it didn’t quite go to plan.’ I’d rather replace my fear of the unknown with curiosity than let fear win and never discover what lies beyond my map.

I’m never going to be 100% ready, there will never be a perfectly opportune moment. So maybe I set sail into new seas, until then I spend my time preparing for the change, making my boat stronger, “sharpening the axe” as they say. If it doesn’t work out, well I’ll have a better boat, I’ll be a more competent captain and as crazy as it may sound, the world will keep on turning.

I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who feels this way, I’ve spoken to numerous people who have this same sense of curiosity and drive. It’s motivating to discuss ideas with likeminded people so if you know someone who’ll find this motivating, please share it with them because this isn’t all about me.

If you’re that person then hit me up on Twitter (@AaronHowes_), I’d love to talk!

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