For the last two and a half years, my life has ostensibly been incredibly chaotic. In early 2012, I basically cried every day out of sheer frustration and misery with my job. A dramatic turn of events on the trading floor led to the firm abruptly firing the people that sat directly to my left and to my right. I, myself, quit only a few months later to join a start up. My first day on the new job, my boyfriend told me he was transferred to Hong Kong and would be leaving in a matter of weeks. I moved apartments four times in six months. My parents sold the house I grew up in, then moved into separate homes and ultimately separate cities. I decided to move to the other side of the world, where I started General Assembly in Hong Kong with exactly zero contacts and zero idea where it would lead. I moved in with my boyfriend. I broke up with said boyfriend. I moved out and started living alone for the first time in my life. My parents got divorced. I hired a team of six, then left General Assembly HK in their capable hands. I traveled on my own for the first time, then I started an entirely new job and career in angel investing, an area I have no experience in whatsoever... I think you get the picture. There's certainly no denying that my recent past has been rather noisy.
Funnily enough, however, things have gone quiet lately. Sure, things have been busy and lots of change is always happening, but today I stopped for a moment. I looked around, sipped my coffee, checked my phone, and then realized that nothing is wrong. I am now two months into what can only be identified as the best job ever. I'm reeling from how incredibly fortunate I am to be working with early stage startups in the way that I am. I am constantly learning new things, working with people who are both intellectually and emotionally intelligent, meeting passionate and talented founders, investigating all different kinds of industries, products, and businesses. I'm clarifying the things about which I am personally passionate (education becoming the more and more obvious choice). I feel acknowledged, appreciated, and valued by my teammate. I have a huge amount of flexibility over my lifestyle, my schedule, and my goals. My typical day is mostly self directed and I have nearly unlimited opportunities to delve into whatever I find interesting. I get to help identify problems and find creative solutions. I play a role in empowering others. All those things I've always said I wanted to do. For now, it feels like I am doing them.
The rest of my life is pretty good, too. I have healthy communication channels with my parents, I am eagerly rooting from the sidelines as they move forward in their new and separate lives. I'm learning how to actually let go of myself in a relationship and support someone else unconditionally instead of constantly trying to have the upper hand (yeah, I tend to do that.) I have been doing more yoga, sleeping well, maybe still drinking too much caffeine but overall I am feeling healthy, stable, and motivated. I feel... incredibly grateful. Might I even feel happy? What the hell is this?
I can't believe how unusual and shocking it is to actually feel okay. In fact, as stated above, I have always found happy people to be incredibly boring. Since a young age, I have not only prided myself on my cynicism, it has become an integral part of my identity. Being cynical makes me interesting, real, and I like to think it's even kind of funny sometimes. Whether I’m aware of it or not, I’m used to leading with the negative as a way of disarming others and relating to them. Look, I even did it in this post.
Sharing about things that are wrong with your life is much, much easier than simply talking about how great things are all the time. First of all, it signals that you're not full of shit and that you're not faking perfection for the sake of your own image. It makes you much more interesting and approachable. It proves you're not blinded by optimism and therefore cannot be easily taken advantage of. I will also admit that presenting the worst also means people sometimes end up feeling sorry for you, which can also occasionally have positive externalities. Indeed, it's pretty frightening to truly realize how much being moderately dissatisfied has become such a big part of who I think I am and how I relate to the world. Will people still find me to be authentic, interesting, and funny if things are generally going well and I’m open about it?
Not only that, but I suspect that a nagging disappointment with the way things are and a corresponding fear of contentment have kept me moving forward for most of my life. Being constantly focused on what’s next because what is now is never good enough is a pretty strong motivational tool. In my previous post, I admitted that one of my factors of success thus far in my life has been perpetuating an endless cycle of negative self talk. Similarly, I think that as much as I may say I want to be happy, the promise of "I'll be happy when...." has kept me working hard for a long time. I tell myself, All I need is to get to that next step and I'll feel better. I just need a little more money, a new environment, a shorter commute, more support from my team, and then I'll be able to sleep better at night.
Well, Allison, here you go. You're lucky as can possibly be, you're in a great spot, you've got what you were looking for (at least recently) and it feels damn good. Now what? How do I remain motivated in the face of actual satisfaction, contentment, and genuine optimism? Will I be able to keep moving forward if I'm not running away from something? Am I losing my edge?
I hope not. This really deep guy named Robert Frost once said, "Nothing gold can stay.” Things surely won't be this great forever, but for now I'm just going to embrace it and worry about it later. I'm scared of happiness translating into stagnation, but I know I am still moving forward because I'm still learning. How else can you define moving forward, anyway? And as for relating to others... if you don't like me when I'm happy, then as another prominent wordsmith of our generation, Cee Lo Green, once wisely stated, “Forget you. Oo ooo ooo." I guess we'll just have to see how it goes.