Last year, I spoke to one of my childhood friends who had already graduated university and asked him how working life was. He told me, “to be honest, it sometimes feels like there’s no longer a light at the end of my tunnel…But it’s cool though.”
To my fellow seniors at Haas, realizing and dreading day by day that the carefree bubble of school we foolishly complained about for 4 years is coming to an end, this one’s for you.
At the beginning of my senior year, coming off an amazing vacation in Hawaii, investment banking offer signed and tucked away, I was in a great place. Happiness was a permanent state of being.
And true to my status as a senior, I disassociated myself from the clubs and activities I was doing, took a light load of classes, and prepared myself for a semester of absolute freedom.
But after a week, and then another week, and then another week, and then another week, of waking up at noon, watching YouTube for hours, and lounging around while the world buzzed on around me, the strangest thing occurred to me – I was…kind of dissatisfied.
“What am I doing…?” I said as I looked at myself, unshaven, in sweats and a t-shirt, eating my 1pm bowl of cereal.
Even though I knew I had so much to look forward to, it started to feel like there no longer was a light at the end of my tunnel – and I hadn’t even graduated yet. The repetitive boredom of being a senior with no responsibilities became even more unbearable than the longest night working in an office.
Ultimately, I realized that it wasn’t being relaxed and free to do whatever I wanted that made me unhappy – it was the fact that for the past 4 years, I’ve woken up every single day knowing what my purpose was. And now that I was a senior, suddenly not having a purpose was miserable for me.
I was craving that same pervasive determination to set and accomplish crazy, ambitious goals – the audacity to dream.
Near the end of last year, I was chatting with my dad about how bored I’d been, and I told him I wanted to challenge myself with something crazy again. And my dad, who’s toiled away in the same job for decades, said: “You know…sometimes I wish I had the opportunities that you have. When you’re young, you can really do anything.”
And like a good son I responded, “It’s not too late dad. Do whatever you want, no one’s stopping you.”
And you know what? He did. Soon after, he founded a winery. He joined a gym. He even started doing yoga on Sunday mornings. Damn dad! I’ve never seen my dad happier and more ambitious than he is today.
And this semester, I started working again, just to learn and improve my understanding of finance. I trained for a half marathon. I’m taking a full load of classes. And although my schedule is packed to the brim and I’m busier than ever this semester, nearly all my time is now being spent meaningfully working towards new, crazy goals that give me a sense of purpose.
I’ve realized that we all may someday lose the light at the end of our tunnel after we graduate, whether early or later in our career. Unhappiness and dissatisfaction may find us if we lose sight of the bigger picture. Therefore, we need to hold onto our reckless, youthful propensity to hope for bigger, better things; the crazy ambitions that many of us have right now; the ones that people said you were ridiculous for even trying to accomplish.
As Steve Jobs once said to an audience of graduating seniors, “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”
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