paradisehappiness is peace
A couple months ago I got my big break. I got my dream internship at a prestigious company for the summer! The following weeks were full of joy, pleasure, and euphoria. But, those feelings were quick to leave me, and I was left with the feeling of not being fulfilled. You see, I was using the future as a goal, instead of a tool. I told myself that once I got the prestigious internship, only then would I be happy. The problem with this is that once you achieve your goal, the target moves.
The future, should be used as a tool, not the goal. It should be used as a tool to give the present meaning. That, and only that, is what the future should be used for. Any more, and you risk being in a constant state of chasing your next high. Any less, and you could find yourself not accomplishing anything meaningful in life.
For the past few months, I've almost fooled myself again. I thought I needed to chase my next high to feel happy, and to get an internship (and full-time job) that was even more prestigious than the one I already have. Only then would I be happy. The prestige trap is very dangerous.The Recurse Center
What prevented me from fooling myself again was an amalgamation of many small things. For one, talking to many people at the recurse center helped me a lot. Shoutout to my fellow batch-mate (if you're reading this you know who you are). They're coming to RC from one of those even-more-prestigious-finance-jobs that I always idolized. And, they confirmed my original hypothesis: that getting the job with the wrong intentions will still lead to being unfulfilled.Alan Watts
Another thing that helped a lot was reading Alan Watts. The book on the taboo against knowing who you are explores many themes centered around eastern philosophy, buddhism, and zen. Western society's idea of Self, and the purpose of life is quite flawed, or at least, incomplete.
...you have been hypnotized or conditioned by an educational processing-system arranged in grades or steps, supposedly leading to some ultimate Success. First nursery school or kindergarten, then the grades or forms of elementary school, preparing you for the great moment of secondary school! But then more steps, up and up to the coveted goal of the university. Here, if you are clever, you can stay on indefinitely by getting into graduate school and becoming a permanent student. Otherwise, you are headed step by step for the great Outside World of family-raising, business, and profession. Yet graduation day is a very temporary fulfillment, for with your first sales- promotion meeting you are back in the same old system, being urged to make that quota (and if you do, they'll give you a higher quota) and so progress up the ladder to sales manager, vice-president, and, at last, president of your own show (about forty to forty-five years old). In the meantime, the insurance and investment people have been interesting you in plans for Retirement—that really ultimate goal of being able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of all your labors. But when that day comes, your anxieties and exertions will have left you with a weak heart, false teeth, prostate trouble, sexual impotence, fuzzy eyesight, and a vile digestion.
All this might have been wonderful if, at every stage, you had been able to play it as a game, finding your work as fascinating as poker, chess, or fishing. But for most of us the day is divided into work-time and play-time, the work consisting largely of tasks which others pay us to do because they are abysmally uninteresting. We therefore work, not for the work's sake, but for money—and money is supposed to get us what we really want in our hours of leisure and play.
At the end of life, everyone ends up at the same place - death. (Although I'm somewhat optimistic for the singularity to happen during our lifetimes 😉). It seems like the glasses you choose to wear throughout life has a direct impact on the smoothness of this journey we call life.Substances
And of course, to top it all off, the last thing that helped was a couple of trips with mind-altering substances. Used in a safe way and environment, I think they're a great way to feel what it's like to think without the pressure of external systems like society.
And so, it was the many small things over the past few months that allowed me to have my moment of clarity — my epiphany. One night, I was reading some Glassdoor reviews from past employees of the company I'll be interning at this summer. And, I realized that the field I'm entering (crypto), is actually really fucking exciting. Crypto today is what the internet was during the dot-com boom. And, during my early twenties, I would much rather work in crypto than in regular finance. Although the cheque I'm receiving will be smaller compared to bigger finance companies (still very grateful that it's above average), I would have more fun. And, if I really want to get that big pay cheque later, I can always do so during my late twenties or early thirties. But as of now, I want a sense of adventure, and crypto will give me exactly that. I'm actually happy to continue climbing the mountain I'm currently on, instead of hopping to another one with a higher peak. I'm more than happy to climb that mountain later in life.
And, once I realized this, (at 4am in the morning), sudden feelings of relief and peace flowed throughout my body. So much weight was lifted off my shoulders. No longer did I need to collect the FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google) infinity stones like everyone else does at Waterloo. No longer did I need to get that even-more-prestigious-finance-job. No longer did I need to prove myself to the world. What I have now, is enough. And, that's when I felt true happiness.I felt at peace.
I found my paradise.
I was (am!) happy. (With my work life) I still have so much more to work on in other areas of my life.
Here's my 4am happy dance while eating some mcdicks. If you have the time, I encourage you to watch it. You can see the raw emotion in my face and body. It wasn't joy per se, but rather peace. This is what true happiness feels like.
But, the journey could have been much more enjoyable, if I followed Alan Watts advice, and treated it like a game. If, at every stage, [I] had been able to play it as a game, finding [my] work as fascinating as poker, chess, or fishing. The real challenge is to channel this mindset in the next mountain I climb.
I will acknowledge though, that it's easier for someone who has already accomplished their goals to tell everyone else to accept their current situation as enough. I'm not going to pretend and write that you should be happy working a minimum wage job for the rest of your life. I won't write that the secret to life is find inner enlightenment while still feeling unsatisfied with your current situation. But what I will write, is that you should work as hard as you need to get your personal badge. For some, that may simply be working at a comfortable 9-5 at a local company. For others, it may be getting that Google job on your resume. This basic-level badge will vary from person to person. The more society has already influenced the person, the higher the basic-badge will be. The basic-badge for someone raised on a farm in a quiet town will be much lower than the basic-badge for someone like me, raised in an environment where going to a prestigious university, and landing a prestigious job is expected.
But once you get that basic-badge, make sure to hop off the train at the next stop. Because if you stay on, well, just know that you're heading down a very dark path. You'll find yourself only enjoying temporary joy (not peace), once every few years after each accomplishment is achieved. But the majority of your existence and experience will be of void, and unfulfillment.
The real fish to fry
Jim Carrey said it the best. I think that everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer. Upon reaching my dreams, I realize that prestige, and money is not the answer. After being at peace with my current accomplishments, I started becoming aware of other, bigger, and more fundamental problems with my life. Problems whose answers will probably take a good chunk of my twenties to figure out. And that excites me. I'm so excited that there's so much more to life. So much more to be lived. So many more experiences to learn from. And, I look forward to sharing my journey with the rest of you too.
Daniel Caesar's album cover for Pilgrim's Paradise