A Reflection

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A reflection of the Jefferson Memorial in the Potomac.

I haven't talked much about my trip to DC. Excuse me, but I am going to write train of thought again, I hope I don't aggravate you.

My brother lives there, with his wife and one year old daughter. I arrived Wednesday night, and we broke open a bottle of wine and had a chat with him, his wife and his wife's in-laws.

It was a good talk, and it really did reveal a lot about me. One of the themes of our discussion was that i'm "risk averse". This isn't the first time that someone told me this, but it didn't really strike as hard as when you hear a family member say it.

My brother and my sister-in-laws mother were basically saying "You have to take more chances in life."

I didn't disagree with them. It's part of my nature to be very careful, for various reasons. I don't know where it all started from, to be honest. Some examples of my risk adversity were even moving up here. I would never have moved if my boyhood pal, Brad, wasn't already living in Brooklyn Heights. Even then, my father basically told me that I had to leave my house in Gwynedd Valley and find a job in NYC in August 1994. He wasn't throwing me out, but gave me a stern shove out of the nest.

I remember moving up here, and looking at the run-down houses along the BQE. I think I was in a state of semi-shock. My brain couldn't process it. I wasn't excited. I was terrified. Frozen with fear, I think my first week in Brooklyn Heights I stayed in my room for most of the day. I would look at the news paper and I couldn't even comprehend what job to apply for. I blindly sent out resumes to job offers, just trying to get a job, any job.

Did you know what the first job I got in New York City?

Starbucks.

Yep. In 1994 there were 3 stores open in the big city. They had a training program on Bleeker Street. They would bring in a barista, train them for 2 weeks on how to make a cup of coffee, latte, cappuchino, etc. I was very impressed with the training program, but also in the back of my mind I could hear my father's voice saying, "We spent $80,000 on a Villanova education so you could pour coffee?!"

Lucky for me another job offer showed up.

There was a medical university that trained doctors in the caribbean and their home office was located in New York City. I was to be an administrative assistant of sorts. They were offering $19,000 a year. (Again, it's 1994, people).

I was about to get that job when a guy named Scott Lyons called me. Its odd because I also had a neighborhood friend with the exact same name (no relation), too. He told me about a company, about 10 years old and worked in the financial community. I had no idea how this guy got my resume to this day. I remember my father told me that whatever company I chose to make sure they had a "Dun and Bradstreet" report. I had no idea what that was, but I asked Scott if the company had one. I remember him laughing, it was like a scoff, like it was absurd I asked, and he told me that they did.

I went into this new company and as soon as I stepped off the elevator, I knew this place was different. I was up in New York for about 2 months. I went on various interviews with various companies. I remember once that one company wanted to know how fast I could type and sat me down on an archaic PC (even in 1994 terms), and tested me. I don't remember how I scored, but I remember that it was very good. But I looked around the office and it was just...depressing. The office was dark and old. The people there were all like something out of the 70's. I couldn't get out of that office fast enough because my chest was tightening with fear from the idea that i'd work in such a dungeon.

I would see various headhunters, too.

I remember one headhunter, who worked near the Chrysler Building, looked at my resume and said, "After reading your resume it looks like you were just another frat guy in college who had a good time and didn't accomplish very much."

She was blunt. I was embarassed because she was basically right. I never did great in college, except in courses that I actually enjoyed. Anything I liked, I would get A's. Anything that bored me, i'd get C's (and even a D+ in Statistics 101, damn you!)

Once I got off that elevator, I looked around the office and it was alive and buzzing with young 20 and 30 year olds dashing around the office. Everything about the place exuded "cutting edge" and "cool". While I was standing there I remembered what my father told me: Before any interview to remember to mention the "3 R's", Responsibility, Recognition and Respect during the interview. Responsibility: That you are someone looking to take on new tasks that make you responsible. Recognition: To be recognized for working hard and for your accomplishments. Respect: To earn the respect of your peers through hard work and dedication.

Wouldn't you know it? It worked.

What does this all have to do with being risk averse?

Well I have been at that job for 12 years now, and i'm starting my 13th year. I worked hard. I have been rewarded for it. I have saved a decent amount of money over my years and hope to become a homeowner someday. I have zero debt (well, let's not count PSE&G, because technically I can pay that off with one check, but I am gonna make them wait for it!). My credit rating is stellar.

But after that first night down in Bethesda, I sort of felt like I even after everything I did over my last 12 years, it wasn't worth as much as I thought.

Oh, i'm proud of my accomplishments. But its hard to argue with my brother who is extremely successful and sitting in a house worth nearly seven figures.

The jist of it is that I should take more chances in life. I should go out and find out "WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO". Even after 12 years I still don't really know that answer. I mean if I could make a list of jobs, if they paid the same money that my current one did, that I could like to do it would be:

1. Writing something creative (commericals, movies, books, stories, poems, etc)
2. Being involved in the entertainment industry, by writing or directing. I'm convinced we are near a new age of entertainment. You get a digital camera, a few acting buddies, a good script and YouTube and you can make the next Blair Witch Project on the internet if you are creative enough. Look at "Lonelygirl15" as a good example of this.
3. Game Designer (either writing video games or producing them or working on a game like Warcraft)
4. Archelogy (the concept sounds fascinating, put me on a dig where I could research lost civilizations sounds wonderful to me, but I know the reality is more of living in libraries researching).

It is hard in life to say, "Well it's been fun, but time to change". Plus, I think we all have to be REALISTIC of what we can or can't do. At 34 years old, it might be hard for me to switch gears and try Acting. Now, writing may be something more realistic or game designing...I have a serious interest in trying my hand in producing 10 minute short films, but I have no training in how to do this. I just have a vision.

Like I wrote, I first move up to New York because of my father. He was adamant about me getting that first job. About getting my foot in the door and getting something on my resume. I was extremely, extremely lucky. I got a great first job, with a great company that has treated me better than most in this city.

But even now, after all these years, I really don't know what I want to do with my life, much like I didn't know in 1994, nor did I know in 1990.

I envy those who have a driven spirit. I don't. Like I wrote a few weeks ago about being "Driven", it was not only me questioning what she meant by it, but me questioning it in myself. Was I driven? What would she, or others, think of me? Would I be a driven person?

Technically I would say that I have done well, but I wasn't driven. I didn't have a long term goal. I was doing my job, saving money, but in all realistic terms just plodding through life like 50% of the rest of the world. Maybe the other 50% got that law degree or the PhD or was gunning to become a CEO.

Not me, really. I don't think it was my risk aversity stopping me. Well, actually it was. I mean I have a good job and its my fear, once again, that is stopping me from saying, "All right. I did well. I saved some money and I can take a risk with a new venture."

But even then, I don't really know WHAT that new venture...is? But part of me really feels like finding out and a whole 'nother part of me just likes the status quo.

Wow. Maybe I should change the blog name to philly2hoboken2midlifecrisis.com?

4 Comments

you've written about this topic (being "risk averse") many times. It's interesting to read, but at the same time frustrating because nothing changes between postings. I suppose finding a new "career" might be one way of jump starting things and getting more out of life, but I'd start with small things first. How about buying a place, have you looked into that at all yet?? Have you made any changes in your social routine? Is there any area that you've pushed yourself a little to see what resulted? Try something little to spark some kind of change. I think a lot of people throw around the "finding the dream career" thought, but it's unrealistic 90% of the time. If you have the stamina, motivation, and pure raw ambition to do it, you'll be the 10% that suceeds. But for now, you still dealing with your apt and roommates and the PS&G bill--so try attacking those areas first and making concrete changes there. The motivation to do that should come from not wanting the same exact life 10 yrs from now (unless you're ok with that). Those're my thoughts...not that you asked ;). Good blog though, I like the self-reflection.

Janine - agreed, but I think the first step in fixing a problem is to identify it.

Then obsess over it. Weep a little. Try to ignore it and hope it goes away. Buy something really shiny (like a new TV!) and forget your risk adversity.

I dunno, it is something that I am thinking about, but how I deal with it, who knows.

I read your blog all of the time, but have never met you at the bar. I felt compelled to write after reading this post. I am 34, graduated BC in 1994, and for years felt the way you do. After graduation, I went to work for my father's electrical contracting business and stayed in the union for 12 years (what an English lit major was doing in construction is a totally different issue). This year I decided to chuck it all and pursue what I really loved, which is cooking. This was an incredibly difficult decision, especially as a married man with a pregnant wife. Taking a seventy-five percent pay cut is not an easy thing. I did it anyway. I am currently set to graduate from the French Culinary Institue at the top of my class and am working at one of Hoboken's better restaurants as well as interning in the city. It is exhausting and extremely rewarding. I don't know if this is helpful, but I just want to let you know it can be done if you go for it. You seem like a bright guy, but paralysis through analysis can be lethal sometimes. You have the advantage of only having yourself to worry about right now, so even if something doesn't work out, you could most likely get a comparable job in the same field. I hope this helps in some way. Maybe I'll pop into the bar for a drink one day. I am a Guinness drinker and a good tipper (not one dollar at a time), so things can change. Take care.

So you're not a risk taker. I personally think that it's cool that you've been at your job for 13 years and that you're saving your money for your own place. Sometimes you just have to take the plunge and not think about it too much. I'm only saying this because I'm risk adverse as well. I changed jobs about a 1 1/2 ago after being at the same job for over 10 years and it ended up being a good move for me. I'm now thinking about moving again to a better position and I don't think I would be thinking this way if I had not taken the plunge over a year ago. You can wait until you feel ready or just take the plunge. Think of it this way, what do you have to lose? From what I've read on your blog, you seem to have a good circle of friends and family and that will help you through it. Good luck whatever you decide.

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This page contains a single entry by Furey published on November 29, 2006 12:57 AM.

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