Two months ago, I pulled the trigger.
I told myself that I should give myself a chance to pursue something more with my life. I have spent 30+ years of my life pursuing things that both my brain and my family told me to pursue – college, law school, full-time position at reputable multinational companies, and climbing the corporate ladders. However, I have failed to listen to my heart. My mindset had always been, “when I make enough money, I will reassess what I want to do in life.”
If the pandemic has taught me anything, life is too short to hold off on things to be reassessed in the future. There were also multiple catalysts that pushed me to make such a decision.
- Health – After I graduated from law school, I noticed my health began to deteriorate. All the late-night studying for finals and bar exams did no wonder to my lower back and nutrition. By the time I passed the bar exam, I was 40 lbs heavier than when I first started law school. Shortly after that, I noticed my fingers began to tremble involuntarily when I worked late. My heart was palpitating during the weekends. At that time I had no idea these were the symptoms of anxiety disorder. I knew I loved studying in law school, but I never learned to draw a boundary between work, study, and life. After a few years, my conditions have gotten worse, especially during the pandemic lockdown when everyone in the office work remotely. I started having anxiety attacks and chronic numbness/pain throughout my extremities. That’s when I knew I needed to make some changes.
- Discovered FIRE community – I also began to read materials related to FIRE (Financial Independence; Retire Early), which made me realize that if I do not face the question on “how much money I make is enough,” I can never be able to get out of the meaningless rat race that is slowly eating my health and mind away.
The FI number formula made me realize that I should look at my financial wellness from a different angle! Instead of focusing how much more I will be making year over year, I should focus on how much I need at the moment in life, and work backward from there. What’s the point of keep pushing for raises and promotion in the detriment of my body and health? Through podcasts like ChooseFI, I learned to cut back on my spending and developed habits of saving and investing. I am definitely far from reaching “FI”, but the tools I learned from the FI community gave me the confidence to tell myself – hey, it is ok to slow down and reset my life for a little bit before I figure out my next steps.
- Discovered improv/comedy writing – I wanted to be a writer ever since I was little. Growing up in an immigrant family, however, being a writer has always been equated to a hobby. “That’s a good hobby! just make sure you have a full time job first, and you can do writing on the side or may be after you are financially stable.” My family often said.
But what is “financially stable”? Nobody ever gave me the answer. Is it by the time I get a full-time job – no, I will have to pay off my student loans. Is it by the time I have a family and buy a house – no, I will have more financial obligations. Is it by the time I retire – which means I have to hold off to this until I reach 65? Do I want to be trapped in this rat race?
I believe my family advice came from a place of love and concerns. We do not know anyone who is living comfortably as a full time writer – but we do see a lot relatives and friends living comfortably as doctors, lawyers, accountants, or working in IT. These are the professions my immigrant family see as pathways to upward socioeconomic mobility, and the term “financially stable” becomes a precondition for me to pursue anything that my family are not familiar with.
A couple of years ago, I started doing stand up, performing improv, and writing comedy sketches in New York City. I rediscovered the joy of writing and self-reflection in the process. I found the fun of spontaneity and being able to collaborate with different people. The most satisfying part was getting the laughters from the audience. I had no idea that would motivate me so much. I used to have huge stage fright and self-conscious that people would not stand my immigrant accent. However, the joy of making people laugh overcame that fear. I also begin to see more diverse comedians and comedy content in the industry, which makes me feels more confident – people might be interested in hearing what an Asian immigrant has to say. So I told myself – I need to give this a try. If I could pass my bar exam, I think I will make this work – whatever that means.
I am the only person who is responsible for my own pursuit of happiness. There shouldn’t be anymore excuse.