Change or Reconfirmation?

I’m noticing a pattern with some of my friends, same age as me, that are approaching 30 or are past 30 years old, but are not yet married.

A former classmate and current friend of mine has lived in Thailand for more than a year, and has decided to get into Thailand politics. Prior to this, he was a software engineer in the states. He started out in the defense industry at a small company in California that eventually got bought out by Raytheon. He was paid well, did his job well, and garnered high respects from managers and his colleagues. But then he got tired of the politics, incompetent management, bad coding practices…just to name a few. He felt those were the reasons why he didn’t enjoy going to work anymore. He decided a new job would solve the problem. He found a new position at a start up company in Michigan. 10 months later he was let go – perhaps even fired. He got along with his coworkers, but he didn’t fit into the culture. He didn’t like drinking. He wasn’t used to the code structure used by the company. Eventually the big boss decided he wasn’t a good fit for the company in the long term. When he was let go, it hurt. He felt like a failure. His parents couldn’t understand what went wrong. Without getting into too much detail, he decided that he needed to get away for a while, so he went to Thailand to try business and also help run his parents’ business. But that year was not about business – it became a year of self-exploration, almost like a journey within himself, i.e., self-evaluation. Eventually, he accepted that he no longer enjoyed his line of work, regardless of the company he was at. He decided that he could only fool himself for so long before everything came tumbling down. Turns out, being let go was one of the best things that ever happened to him, because he ended up reinventing himself. But in the process of reinventing himself, all he simply did was accept himself for who he was, and stopped living a life that he thought he should be living.

Today I had the pleasure of catching up with a former co-intern from Citibank. I happened to bump into him this past Friday at a local Starbucks in Beverly Hills, while I was out with my clients on a day trip. I quickly exchanged phone numbers with him since I didn’t have time to speak with him. Turns out, like me, he switched jobs a few times. He started at a large media company, and then eventually moved over to a major social media company. Later, he decided he needed a change. He thought changing companies, but within the same line of work, would solve the problem. He’s now at a startup, still working as a software engineer. The job is great: awesome pay and flexible work hours (he also works from home). However, he told me that he realized nothing had changed in how he felt. It was clear he needed a real change, so now he’s looking into purchasing some kind of retail business or sandwich shop. Yep, a total change. He doesn’t want to stay in software engineering anymore, it just didn’t feel right for him. He wants to start fresh in something else.

When both of these friends described their thought process and emotions that led them to where they are today, it only confirmed one thing – I’m in the same boat. I did the same thing they did. I thought changing jobs was the answer – but it wasn’t. My new job is great on paper. It is more than most could ask for: the pay is great, the hours are flexible, and the politics is nearly non-existent. My coworkers only focus on doing good work for clients. I told myself, before leaving my last job, this was what I needed. I got it now, but it only felt right for a short while before things came tumbling down again. In addition, my outside investments are performing well. With these tough economic times, most people would do anything to be in my position. But yet with me, something still feels terribly wrong – hence I’m leaning towards taking a six month break to let my mind sort things out. I simply don’t know any other way to do this.

But one thing I can say for sure – it’s not that I need to find something else to do. Granted, yes I do feel less confident about my current career. What I need the time off for is to sort things out and decide if I really do need a change or I am actually doing what I want to do. Hence, it can either be a change or a reconfirmation of my current path. I don’t mind if I return home and decide to get back into the same profession, as long as I feel confident again that it’s the right path. Simply put, I need to bet on myself for once, and not be too hung up on what society’s blueprint has drawn out for me.

It’s comforting to know I am not alone.

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