My first job after graduating college was with banking giant JPMorgan Chase. The offer letter was signed October of my senior year for a job that didn’t start until the following August. To say my final semester of college was fun would be a severe understatement.
Yet during the summer months leading up to my start date, I couldn’t kick a nagging feeling of sadness. Part of it was fatigue from repeatedly talking about starting something for 9 months. Eventually, you just gotta start the damn thing. But a deeper source of the gloom was that I felt my freedom slipping away. I was leaving my easygoing and untethered days behind and entering the machine of a 250,000 person company and an uncertain future.
This surfaced itself in varying thoughts and projections of how the future would look. I wondered how I’d be able to fully express myself at a company with strict corporate policies against blogs and social media. I even fretted about small things like if I’d ever in my life be able to have a shaggy haircut, because the conservative company had such a (literal) clean cut image.
More importantly, I felt that my life’s story was written — and the story was not what I wanted. Work at the same big company for 40 years, three weeks of annual vacation, house in the suburbs with an hour commute, capped off by a Florida retirement to play golf 5 times a week. The future was frightening
Upon starting the job, I was busy enough that those feelings were temporarily kept at bay. But like a cyborg assassin, they came back. Was this really going to be the rest of my life?
Fast forward a couple years and my story, one that I was convinced to be set in stone, turned out to be as unpredictable as shifting sand dunes. I quit my job, spent 4 months traveling, moved to a new city and started working in a different, exciting industry. My fears were blown out of proportion.
That’s the good news.
The bad news? For the first time since that youthful summer, similar fears have returned. With the world under quarantine and social distancing measures, the future feels scary and extremely uncertain. Will we live like this forever?
But I’m trying to remind myself of the lesson I learned 10 years ago: Uncertainty is a part of life and the future isn’t the sum of worst case scenarios.
I think Ozan Varol put it best when he said, “uncertainty rarely produces a mushroom cloud. Uncertainty leads to joy, discovery, and the fulfillment of your full potential. Uncertainty means doing things no one has done before and discovering things that, for at least a brief moment, no other person has seen. Life offers more of itself when we treat uncertainty as a friend, not a foe.”
It might not be tomorrow, next month, or even next year. But life will be very different from anything I can imagine today. I just need to treat the uncertainty as a friend.
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