Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Late 20's: The Selfish Years

This is a very honest blog, so if you’re not used to hearing the hard truths, read something else. You’ve been warned.

As I round the last corner before turning 30, I think it’s worth taking some time to reflect on just WTF I’ve been doing these past few years. As is clear from my blogging history, I had a lot of things that were changing back when I first started working, but not much since then. I think that I’ve acted a lot like people my age do – concentrating on my career, what I want to do in life, and what makes me happy (in the long run, most of the time ignoring the present). I’ve sacrificed a lot in the realm of relationships, family, time with friends, and the specific work at hand in order to build up the breadth of what I can do. The funny thing is though, that I still don’t know. I’ve beanstalked professionally and I feel empowered to do whatever it is I decide I want to drive towards, but I’m still floating in my own fog of semi-transparent wisdom.

In all honesty, I’ve spent these last few years getting rid of my insecurities. If you’ve ever met me, you’ll know that I’m a confident guy, but there were certain things that I needed to prove to myself. Women-wise, I’ve always been the relationship type. Back when I was 26, my previous relationships had been 2 years, 4 ½ years, and 2 ½ years, back-to-back-to-back. I can’t help it – I’m just destined to be a father and husband, I think. The problem that I was having with that was that my partners always had more experience than I did -and, I’m the man. It sounds immature, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could be that guy who could be single forever if he wanted to. Kind of, just-in-case I never get married. So, I paid a lot of attention to women and the men that were good at their craft. I put myself out there, did some bold shit, and basically became a student of getting from point A to B. I got really good at saying the right thing, making the right suggestions, and taking advantage of every opportunity. I more than doubled my count in one year, but at some point I thought that I had achieved what I set out to do. I got tired of the same routines, superficiality, feigning of interest (at times, not always), and, most of all, the bad karma from intentionally never letting anyone get close to me. I think that I'm back to being a good, relationship type of guy, but who knows because the test is what happens in practice.

The other insecurities that I’ve almost conquered revolve around being the best. In both relationships and in my job, I want to be, no, have to be the best. I don’t want to ever be in a relationship where I feel like some other guy would be a better match for my girlfriend. And, I don’t want to have a career where I think someone else could do my job better than me. My mentality in a relationship is that I have to be the best in order to feel secure every day. And, at the same time I have to be sure that I’ll never meet anybody better than her. I’m not the jealous type and I’d much rather leave than put up with any thoughts of not being good enough. Being secure to me comes down to making money (because I, for the most part, think my personality and looks are good enough). I fucking hate it when some rich guy outranks me socially because he makes a lot of money. I don’t have to be insanely rich, because at some point rich is rich enough, but I want to prove to the world that I don’t have to answer to anyone -and I made it on shit that I created, not mommy and daddy’s money. Basically, I’m becoming superficial to remove all of the superficiality of it. Once you conquer something, you no longer have to worry about it. I just want to sleep in my simple home and drive my Toyota Camry with a bank account in my back pocket as proof of my worth. My mentality in the workplace is that I’m not the best, but nobody is better than me. Yeah, somebody might be better than me at one thing, but I can get to their level and also have experience that they don’t. There are plenty of people smarter and more advanced in their careers, but I have to feel like I can get to wherever I decide to go. Am I there? No. But I’ve made progress. At 26, I had a solid background in engineering, with a BS and MS in mechanical engineering, but my soft skills and business education were huge voids. I sacrificed vertical movement for horizontal movement and a business education at Carnegie Mellon. A year-and-a-half ago I joined a leadership program in operations that would widen my network and work experience, while reimbursing my educational expenditures. I haven’t been really good at what I do, like I was with engineering, but I’ve learned from the networking and office-politicking parts of what I’ve done.

So, here I am, exactly one month from 30. This post has helped me feel a little better about spending the last 3 ½ years being single, in the same place professionally, and still doing school work on Saturday nights. I keep pushing my “actual” accomplishments towards the future, but I’m running out of excuses for being just slightly above average in so many areas. It’s almost time to exploit myself. I’m ready. The stage has been set. The lights have been dimmed. Patrons are sitting up in their chairs in dead silence of what will happen next. Behind the velvet red curtains, I’m sweating in my gaudy Italian suit. I run the routine through my mind and convince myself that I will perform flawlessly- exactly as I pictured it. But, I wonder: was all of that training enough? What if I let everyone down? What if all of these selfish years were for nothing?

Well, what’s worse is: what if I never tried?