11/14/17

Hi all - I'm an associate at a BB in NYC. Since I was an A2A promote and that I skipped a year in school, I'm only in my early 20s. I'm having a bit of a mid-life crisis except 30 years early and could use some honest advice.

Basically I feel a bit directionless - I don't really love banking at all. If I'm being honest, I like the money and the status that the job brings - but the job itself is some of the most stupid, mundane stuff that I've ever done. That's not a huge problem for me because I get my satisfaction outside of work (reading, hanging out with buddies, watching movies, travelling, etc) and banking is what pays the bills for all of that. But I'm not sure if this is really what I want to be doing long term, and I'm not sure if the usual "exits" like PE or corp dev are going to be any more interesting, I doubt it.

So let's go back and see how I got here. I transferred colleges after my first year to a semi-target undergrad business program. I busted my balls and got a 3.95 GPA, did my sophmore and junior year internships at local boutiques and was able to pound the pavement and convert to a BB full time. What this meant is that I basically didn't experience as much of the social side of college as I could've (which wasn't helped by the fact that I transferred and therefore missed out on the first year of the program). I never lived in residence and quite frankly didn't go out and party / meet people as much as I should've. A number of my peers have ended up in industry and I've realized (unfortunately) that the social side of school is as important, if not more so, than the academic side. I feel that this has hampered my network in the industry as well as my social circle in NYC since I don't know a ton of people here unlike many of my peers. And quite frankly, I feel like I missed out on the "college experience" - I know that sometimes it can be mythologized by media as being better than it is, but nonetheless I don't really look back at my college days as "fun" - more so, as a means to end of getting the job that I'm in now.

I also never really traveled during college or afterwards before I started work. A bunch of my peers went on exchange or traveled to Europe or Asia after undergrad. I was always focused on working hard, getting ready for my job, etc and never could justify going. Now I look back and think that I'll never be able to do that. I mean sure I can travel to Europe and stay in nice hotels, but even on a "vacation" I'll still be checking my BB several times a day. There's a big difference between that and backpacking in Europe for four months, celebrating St Patrick's Day in Dublin, etc..

So: I don't particularly like my job and feel that I missed out on undergrad and its freedom compared to the cold realities of "the real world." Part of my problem is that I'm really interested in a lot of different things and I really wish that I could go through life a couple of times to go down all of my different career paths. I thought I might be a lawyer before I decided on I-Banking and I've also been interested in science so thought about maybe doing an engineering undergrad before deciding against it.

I have a decent chunk of money saved up (I'm a pretty frugal person) and I'm trying to figure out what I want to do next and could use some advice. I'm thinking about pulling a Van Wilder and doing a second bachelors just for shits and not because I'm particularly keen to do that with my life (i.e. go to another target finance undergrad program, do an undergrad degree in engineering, etc) just to go back to school for a couple of years and experience some of the stuff I missed out on. I'm also thinking about maybe doing a law degree (again, not because I want to practice law per se, but just to go back to school / network / party / meet people etc). So this is where I could use the advice. I'm basically where most of the people on this forum eventually want to be, but feel relatively dissatisfied with my life so far from a social / personal perspective. The way I view it, you only go through life once and I don't want to be caught with regrets later in life (especially since you can't really do a lot of the above once you're over 30), but on the other hand I don't want to fuck up the rest of my life in the process. Thoughts?

Comments (2)

Best Response
11/15/17

I think, to a degree, this is a natural part of aging. You become increasingly aware of the finiteness of your time, the limitations levied on you by your choices thus far, and the narrowing of options that seem to lay ahead. It can be hard not to feel claustrophobic. In today's age it's probably exacerbated by the diversity of experiences, careers, and alternative lifestyles that appear on the periphery either just beyond or just within reach.

As you yourself alluded too, life is a non-repeatable experiment with no control. It's hard not to look at the lives we didn't lead, the paths we didn't take, and the revelry we didn't experience. Before giving my advice, I'd remind you that advice is the product of the person who gives it, and that truth to one may be a disaster to another.

If you want to be happier and more fulfilled, seek to understand the person not the goal. It seems like a blinkered and relentless pursuit of goals up until this point has left you, the person, relatively hollowed. Goals are inflexible and unremitting, while people are pliable and constantly evolving. By the time you reach your goals, the person and perspective that originally desired them may be nothing more than a remnant. Goals are constructive for developing good habits, but not for finding purpose. I would urge you to choose a way of life that you know you enjoy, otherwise you may find that when you arrive at your pre-defined goal it has wilted away.

When among the disenchanted you are left with two choices: accept what is, or seek something else. Again, the choice must be grounded in you the person and the life you want to pursue. I, nor anybody else on this forum, can help you decide if giving up what you have to look for something better is worth it. Or, if in the end your search will be vindicated. Take an honest inventory of what you have to lose. If it's largely limited to unhappiness, comfort, and security then perhaps that's not enough.

As I mentioned advice is the product of the person who gives it. I will leave you with a quote I keep framed as an important countervailing force to the lure of comfort:

"Let us visualize the secure man; and by this term, I mean a man who has settled for financial and personal security for his goal in life. In general, he is a man who has pushed ambition and initiative aside and settled down, so to speak, in a boring, but safe and comfortable rut for the rest of his life. His future is but an extension of his present, and he accepts it as such with a complacent shrug of his shoulders. His ideas and ideals are those of society in general and he is accepted as a respectable, but average and prosaic man. But is he a man? has he any self-respect or pride in himself? How could he, when he has risked nothing and gained nothing? What does he think when he sees his youthful dreams of adventure, accomplishment, travel and romance buried under the cloak of conformity? How does he feel when he realizes that he has barely tasted the meal of life; when he sees the prison he has made for himself in pursuit of the almighty dollar? If he thinks this is all well and good, fine, but think of the tragedy of a man who has sacrificed his freedom on the altar of security, and wishes he could turn back the hands of time. A man is to be pitied who lacked the courage to accept the challenge of freedom and depart from the cushion of security and see life as it is instead of living it second-hand. Life has by-passed this man and he has watched from a secure place, afraid to seek anything better What has he done except to sit and wait for the tomorrow which never comes?"

Financial Modeling
11/15/17

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