Now that I’m back in Buffalo, I’ve been spending a lot of time hanging out with old friends. Yesterday, I spent the evening with a group of friends who’ve all turned 30 during the course of this past year, myself included. We walked to a cafe, ordered salads and soups, then walked to another local coffee shop down the street for our nightcap, if you will, although a cappuccino (no sweetener, and an extra shot of espresso, please!) would hardly aid anyone in falling asleep, not me though! We occupied a couch and couple of chairs, Friends-style, and talked about all sorts of things.
As we were leisurely strolling back at the end of the night, we walked past a bar where we used to once hang out. Looking at the crowd inside, loud and packed elbow-to-elbow, I couldn’t help but observe, “that used to be us once“. It’s not that we don’t go to bars anymore, but they’ve become rare occurrences now compared to what they were up until few years ago. Nor is it that we decided one day that now that we’re thirty, this is what we’re going to do. In fact, it has been a very gradual, organic transformation and we hardly ever notice it until something like this happens.
One of my friends is pregnant, so there was a lot of talk about babies. Politics, of course, is a subject that is omnipresent these days, and we discoursed at great length about the ongoing Presidential race. We talked about fitness and how we’re all making healthy lifestyle changes (hence walking and ordering salads). I shared my ‘before’ picture that I took last week. Now that I have all the time in world, I have decided to dedicate most of it to fitness. I start my day with an intense cardio workout, followed by a wholesome protein smoothie. I eat fish and salad for lunch, and chicken breast for dinner. And every other day, I do strength training in the evening. Today, however, was my rest day! At 30 years old, I’m in the best shape of my life right now, better than I was in my early 20’s, but I want to see how much better I can be if I’m dedicated. And I want to do it the right way, by eating healthy and working out.
As the evening progressed, the conversation steered towards more intellectual subjects. We were talking about various socio-economic issues and related studies, and soon about our own expectations from life. I slowly started to notice a theme, no one is truly satisfied with what they’re doing. I am, of course, an exception right now, but even my friends with steady jobs and big paychecks seem to feel that they’re missing something at a deeper level- a feeling of fulfillment. Thinking back to the time when I was still with my previous employer, life was much the same for me too. Work-life balance is getting more and more skewed in corporate America, with the work-end slowly tipping the scales. Annual compensation packages sound great at face value but when you do the math to see how much you make per hour for the number of hours you actually put into the job, the result is rather dismal. This is assuming you’re an exempt employee, which was the case with me and still is for my friends. And after all that hard work, there is very little of significance to show for it.
This part of our conversation really got me thinking. I’ve undergone many transformations during the past few months, most of them life-altering. A part of me wants to share what I have learned with the rest of the world. Life lessons don’t come by easy. We have to fall first in order to learn to stand up on our feet again. And the harder the fall, the tougher is the struggle to get back up. I cannot make another learn this, everyone has to do it themselves. When they’re down, they have to find the strength to pick themselves up. But perhaps I can share with them my own experiences so that they know there is hope, and that they can do it. The more time I spend away from the daily, mundane grind, the more I feel the urge to do something on my own. And do it not for money but for the sole purpose of giving back that what I’ve learned.
When we were 20-somethings, we all wanted to look good, have high-paying jobs and drive around in fancy cars. A decade later, we don’t just want to look good on the outside, we want to feel good on the inside. We don’t just want to make big bucks, we want to make a difference. We don’t just want material acquisitions, we want spiritual enrichment. Perhaps this is what quarter-life crisis looks and feels like. But it’s a sure sign that we haven’t just grown in years but also in intellect. I don’t think this is a ‘crisis’ though, it’s our individual quest for a greater purpose, it’s a process of defining what ‘success’ really means to each one of us.
Fortunately or otherwise, this process has been fast-tracked for me. I have been yanked away from the life I had become so used to. With this downtime that I’ve been given, I am now trying to figure out what I want to do next- go back to that life, or make a radical change. Change is never easy but sometimes it is imperative. Having undergone so much in less than a year, I almost feel it would be unfair to not make a change, to not have a worthy outcome of this mayhem when the dust settles. Sure, the lessons I have learned will always stay with me, but is that enough? If everything goes back to the way it was, over time it will seem like none of this ever happened, that it was a bad dream, and that I’ve woken up in the same rut in which I once was. I want to wear my scars with pride, not let them fade. I have relinquished all control over my destiny to life right now but I’m hoping to have some of it back. I’m turning to the Universe for signs. If life hasn’t allowed me to fast-forward my challenges, I will not allow it to hit ‘reset’!