I spent my last evening as a 24-year-old treating myself to some delicious (and expensive) sushi while reading articles about “turning 25.”
I’ve been feeling pretty sad and emotional the last few days, partially because Chase just left after spending two weeks here in HK visiting me, and partially because I don’t really want to turn 25. It feels like being 25 is such a big milestone – a lot of the articles I was reading tonight talked about how people freak out when they’re about to turn 25 because you’re a quarter of a century old and you look back and are just like, “What am I doing with my life? What do I want to do?” And it’s a hard question to answer. I’m not sure that I am where I want to be at all, and it’s scary to think that I’m only growing more adult and less child and I’m worried I’ll be unsure forever. Since this blog is a way for me to figure out my life, and I’m now reaching the end of my 24th year, and I’m feeling kind of nostalgic, I want to look back at the different stages of my life and the most meaningful takeaways from each period:
1. (Age 0-7) Childhood in Japan. I truly think being raised in Japan set the stage for being a courteous, polite, considerate member of society from a young age. I love that Japan is very much a part of my identity even though I have no Japanese blood, and I will always remember how sad seven-year-old me was to leave the only home I’d ever known – I was already emotional at a young age.
2. (Age 7-10) Assimilating to North America. This was pretty challenging for me, because I had to learn a new language (English), make new friends, and basically adjust to a completely new environment. I remember missing home (read: playing harmonica upside down while crying), but I know that this was a crucial time period for me to learn to be adaptable, flexible, and malleable.
3. (Age 10-14) Discovering my skills/what I’m good at. Late elementary school and junior high was when I started to discover what I was good at and what I liked to do. I’m ever-thankful to my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Gowler, for giving me a 105 on my exposition essay about flamingos. In all seriousness, though, during this time period I had not only become fluent in English but also was placed in advanced/gifted programs, and started feeling like I was actually good at something (in this case, school).
4. (Age 14-18) My Glory Days, aka High School. I cannot stress how much high school shaped me into today-me. I had the most incredible teachers and coaches, who helped me to become so confident in who I was and mentored me to be a better student, better leader, and a better person. I like to call high school my Glory Days because I got voted Homecoming Queen (lololol) but even that, to me, was a testament to how being nice and talking to everyone indiscriminately is just…right. Also extremely important to me was Snowball, which helped me uncover my passion for uniting people across cliques/social circles/academic backgrounds and really getting to know each other as peers on a deeper, more meaningful, dare I say life-changing, level.
5. (Age 18-21) College Transformation. I became super Christian for the first three years of college, which in a way was great because it only deepened values that I already deemed important: loving others, being caring and kind, looking out for the less fortunate, etc. While I unfortunately eventually fell away from the actual theological aspect of religion, I think that the way it helped my heart to develop was crucial in my role as an RA junior and especially senior year. Being an RA meant the world to me and is to date THE best job I’ve ever had by far. I loved my residents to death and once again I realized just how much I care about caring, how much I care about building community and about peoples’ well-being and happiness.
College is also where I discovered that I was no longer that special or unique, because literally everyone else around me was just as, if not more, intelligent, successful, and driven.
6. (Age 21-24) Real Life. I started working at a large bank out of college, following the path I’d chosen by studying finance and management. Living in New York was a struggle in the beginning; I didn’t particularly care for the city (it just wasn’t a great fit for me, I thought) and I was still trying to figure out how to build my career, how to make the most my position, and how to be proactive. It’s fun being an adult and having ownership of your finances (read: buy whatever food I felt like buying), but I struggled to find the union between career and passion. To compensate for that, I got involved in “extracurricular” activities. I’m not sure how useful that ultimately was in helping me bridge that gap between career and passion, but it at least got me thinking about this: I’m not drawn to social ventures or nonprofit just for the sake of “doing good,” but I do want to make a difference – nonprofit or not – in an industry or topic that I actually feel passionate about.
7. (Age 24-Now) Back to Asia. I never, in a million years, thought I’d get to work in Asia. But as it was, I got the incredible opportunity to work in Shanghai for 9 months, and am now working in Hong Kong for 9 more. The pros are too many to count: I’ve made so many new friends, learned a new sport, ate amazing food, and have just had so, so, so much fun. The flip side is this: I’ve essentially put on hold the journey to discover what I’m “passionate” about, instead continuing to work in the same industry/department (slightly different roles) as I have been since I’ve graduated. Don’t get me wrong – I’m so thankful that I have gotten these opportunities through my company. And the life experiences I’ve gained from the past year are absolutely irreplaceable – in fact, I would call this past year one of the best years of my life – but that being said, I’ve been incredibly hedonistic and very lazy in figuring out my actual goals in life, choosing instead to just go out and play basically every day after work.
And that’s where I am now, on the cusp of turning 25 – sitting in my room in Hong Kong, musing about where on earth my life is meant to go. So…where does this all leave me?
If there’s anything I’ve realized more and more over the last few years, it’s the fact that I’m not that talented, I’m not that unique, and I’m not that special. And I don’t mean it in a self-deprecating way, I’m just being realistic: I’ve met so many people, and read about so many others, who are far more accomplished, successful, and talented than I am. But most importantly, I’ve realized the one trait they have in common (which I really lack), and that is discipline. I look at my friends that I most admire and consider most successful – Chase, Sanette, Nelson – and I see how hard they work, how much time they put into achieving their goals. Whether they’ve reached that goal yet or not, I’m confident that they eventually will because of their hard work combined with existing talent. Any start-up book will tell you that a successful startup comes from working hard, not from having a unique idea; and while there are those who work hard without ever getting that lucky break, I know that there will never be success without first putting in the hard work.
In my last hour as a 24-year-old, I implore myself: I’m about to be 25 years old, and I HAVE to stop wasting my life. I have to stop wasting time on Facebook or reddit or whatever it is that I spend my time doing and start actually being dedicated, being diligent, being not only ambitious but also hardworking – because that’s when I will truly become successful. Maybe I still won’t figure out my passion right away. But the only way to get there is to put everything I have into whatever inklings are already there and to give it my 110%.
So there we go…25, here I come!