I’ve been avoiding writing this type of “annual reflection” post because everyone does it and it consumes our feed and annoys everyone. But I have to admit, year-end summaries are a great way to reflect and bookmark the progress made over a set time period.
At the risk of feeding into the trend and sounding like a broken record, this is my entry into what 2018 was like for me. I will warn you, this is going to be all about me, but hopefully, you can take something out of what I learned as well.
Summary: it sucked to realize how much of an idiot I am and sit with pain, but I am now much more excited about 2019!
2018 sucked for me because I came to the realization that I am lost and don’t know what I truly value. It was a huge wakeup call that it continued dragging me down.
Coming from the previous years, I didn’t think it was that bad. Everything was going well for me. I graduated from my top choice school, started a lucrative career in technology consulting, gained a lot of skills and experience in different industries, even bought a house and a new car! On paper, I’m not lost at all. I have no reason to complain or to be discouraged and negative.
But over the past year, it slowly hit me, I have no clue what I’m doing!
The source? I never solidified or reinforced what I truly cared about.
I’m generally a free-flowing guy who takes life as it is and I used that to justify my pursuit of happiness. I figured that being fully in the moment was how I can stay happy. But that also meant not defining and reinforcing my boundaries and vision for my future.
As a consultant, you mostly have to deal with whatever is given to you. You don’t have much control over where you go and what you do. Depending on your client and the project, you will be at their bidding most of the time. I took things as they came, allowing the company to tell me what projects I would work on.
Mind you, this was my first job fresh out of college. I was happy to just have the job! I’m aware that I don’t have as much control in the type of work I want to do in an entry-level position. So I was fine with all of that and did whatever they needed me to.
Unfortunately, this adaptability started eating away at my own values and boundaries, which weren’t aligned to the game I was supposed to play. For those who liked it all and was able to work it, they were all-stars.
I want to add the caveat that consulting is not as bad as I’m making it sound. It just wasn’t for me and I might have realized that too late. I didn’t understand enough about “the optics.” Not only do you have to do good work, but you had to show off your good work in front of the right people.
At my company’s annual social event in 2017, I ran into one of the Managing Directors that had left the project that I was also on at the time. I thought a better opportunity was calling them. Instead, they revealed to me that they were pushed out and that I was a major contributor to their downfall.
I was hurt and shocked in disbelief. I had no idea. I didn’t even work with them directly, they were part of Leadership, I was a lowly Consultant. For me to have that sort of impact was news to me! Shoot, if I knew I had that, I would have been out playing golf with the president!
Regardless of whether or not they were exaggerating, telling the truth, or trying to find something and someone else to blame, it was still a thought that was strong enough for them to vocalize to me. I played it cool and apologetic, but deep down, I was sad.
A couple months later, I was pushed out myself. Along with that and the accumulation of a thousand cuts over the year might have been the start of my mild depression. I lost all motivation to continue working. I became disheartened that the work I was proud of was completely overshadowed by how it was all perceived by the higher-ups. Respect, admiration, or praise for my capabilities was never given to me because I didn’t know how to socialize it in a way that would impress the client. Looking back, that’s where I lost confidence in myself.
Meanwhile, I was in ignorance. The rest of the year, I didn’t take responsibility for anything. I kept telling myself it wasn’t my fault. Leadership just didn’t know what they were doing, they were overworked, emotional, and stressed with budget constraints. Plus, I didn’t care anyway. I actually wanted out of that chaotic project. So it was mutual.
“Blaming anyone or anything else for your failures only grants you helplessness.”
In reality, I was just stalling to avoid taking control of my own life. I gave up in trying to get a promotion, wanting to avoid playing the game or taking on too much. Even when younger cohorts started getting promotions and surpassing me, I still didn’t care.
I shrugged it off, gave excuses that I didn’t try hard enough anyway, that I didn’t find inspiring projects because of the practice that I was in, or because my career counselor didn’t have the right connections, my talent manager gave no f*cks, and the economy was performing poorly. That’s why I’ve been stagnant.
This is where 2018 slapped me in the face and taught me to trash that thinking. Blaming anyone or anything else would mean giving them all the power to control my life. That would make me helpless and that was not how I wanted to live.
But the process of owning up to that responsibility was such a hard pill to swallow.
The year of 2018 was like waking up from a nightmare I didn’t even know I was in. But it was like one of those “Inception” nightmares because I was still in one, a nightmare within a nightmare. Now I was aware of my lack of motivation, but still unable to do anything about it.
The rest of the year continued down many spirals, but not without some great wins. I started a website. I met some amazing friends and mentors, strengthened my relationships, had a lot of profound conversations, and even broke down my whole world in what a relationship means by dating a couple of polyamorous women (which I’m still on the fence on, but more on that later)!
The spirals I’m referring to are the mental ones. This was the year I started really addressing the state of my mental health and wow, was I scared to do so. I was in so much “comfort” in my oblivious state and didn’t want to go into the “deep end.” But something in my life had to change, so I jumped in.
The awareness blew up everything. It questioned my irrational neediness for security around finances, romance, and passion. It made me rethink how I want to live my life, what life and death even meant. It overwhelmed me with responsibility, blame, and sadness. Worst yet, the increased self-awareness made me torture myself for not taking action. I bullied myself for all the traits that I didn’t like about myself.
I still struggle with the stress of responsibility today, but it’s a lot more manageable now when I make the conscious choice to see it not as anxiety or fear, but as empowerment.
I know everyone says it, This year has been such an amazing journey for me! It was full of shit, but I learned so much about who I am and who I want to be. It’s true, I did. But more importantly, I also know how much I don’t know, even about myself. Knowing that is actually a relief to me because now I can just have fun.
It’s OK that I’m lost. It’s OK that I still don’t know what I value exactly. Our values change over time anyway. What you care about today might be important for you a year from now, but it also might be completely irrelevant. That’s the beauty of it all, it’s dynamic.
Paraphrasing from one of my favorite books, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,” ironically, the more we want something, especially of the intangible, the more we realize that we don’t have it and we’ll forever be in a constant chase.
In all the years before 2018, I thought I wanted happiness through a fulfilling career and money, or even a relationship, and that was going to be the only way to get it. Now, I don’t know sh*t. And that’s what makes 2019 so much more exciting!
I’ve collected 11 ways that have been helping me improve my own emotional intelligence in order to live with more intention and fulfillment. It’s a constant learning process, but I love sharing what I learn along the way!