Quarter Life Crisis Series: Losing yourself

So this is the official sequel to my QLC series. Yeahhhh. (I sound dumb here). The reason why I keep talking about QLC is simply because I’m 25, and there are a lot of people in my generation who are:

  • Experiencing it right now (MAN! if you guys could see the casualties)
  • Experiencing it but are in denial or oblivious about the actual “crisis”
  • Clueless on when it started, how long it will take, and when it will end

Let me start by a brief intro on my childhood: I was born and raised in a family which didn’t know an inch about being warm. Here in the Philippines, there is a really really strong sense of family. In fact, a lot of people find it hard to leave their houses at age 30; because their homes were built with the warm, tender love a family is unconditionally willing to give – NOT ME. NOT US.

I’m not in any way bitter or regretful about this. In fact, it had a lot of perks for me, growing up. But as they say, childhood experiences build the character and competencies of each individual.

My Mom and Dad weren’t the traditional, hands-on, supportive and assertive types. They were lax. In fact, with no exaggeration, all they did for my schooling was pay tuition. That’s it. And that goes for my siblings as well. I never sought for extra attention, and never wanted them to be more warm to me. Growing up, I really didn’t feel like this had an effect on me in anything. But now that I’m on this age, I now understand the reasons for some of my personal characteristics.

I am admittedly a highly aggressive, and self-motivated person. And I didn’t say that to brag. Believe me, I think it has a lot more downsides than good ones. I’m the type who doesn’t get contented easily. I’m the type who looks at a good sunset, and doesn’t sigh. Instead, I’ll ask myself what I did for the last 24 hours, assess if those activities were productive, then come up with a list of to-dos for the next day.

This overall personality got my career sky-rocketing. I’ve had multiple promotions in a few years, across several departments. I also got positive attention from the CEO’s of the company. Soon enough, I had enough money in my bank account to pay for grad school – So I went. I balanced studies and work, and believe me, I still did great. The thing was, for all those years that I spent balancing good grades and work-related performance… I lost my life in the process.

I’m sure that these stories all sound too familiar. But what my story leads to could be something worth sharing.

I lacked sleep throughout weekdays. I often still did work on weekends, but definitely, I needed to study after work and on weekends. Looking back, here are some experiences resulting from the track I pursued for my life:

  1. Sleep – On weekends, I would sleep for nearly 12 hours. Believe me, sometimes, when I wake, I go right back to sleep for another 2 hours – this even happens multiple times per day.
  2. Food – At times when I can eat, my cravings usually take a hold of me. I eat enormously due to stress. There was a time wherein I’d consume at least half a chicken or half a pizza in one meal, yet, I’d still be craving for dessert.
  3. Vices – It came to a point where I’d smoke almost one pack of cigarettes a day. And when I got to drink, I’d make sure I’d max out my alcohol tolerance.
  4. Money – I spent huge amounts on almost everything. Gaining weight, I had to buy new clothes. I spent a lot of money on food and booze and coffee at this time, so I didn’t really notice the difference in my salary every time I get promoted.
  5. Attitude – I was always on-edge. The littlest things, such as trash near my office, would piss me off. What’s more, I forgot to care about what people think of me. My job as a Manager was so tough, that I always felt like being nice was the least of my priorities (my deadlines went first). There was one point where I got so mad in the operations floor, and I shouted at my boss in front of some people. Not a good sight for everyone.
  6. Friends – I almost never saw my regular group of friends. I still remember choosing sleep or just staying in over gatherings because my body was too tired to move during weekends.
  7. Dating – That track definitely cut me off the dating world. Stress was all over my face (and body), and I locked myself in the office, school and my house. I also didn’t have the self-esteem to go “out there” and meet people, knowing that all I can ever talk about was work and grad school.

Basically, ladies and gents, I lost myself. Success is blinding. It’s a great feeling, especially to people with low self-esteem like me. My ultra-driven personality grew more and more hungry for high performance and success, until a point where I didn’t know when to be contented anymore.

I was burnt out. And it was then when I realized that I needed a change in direction. I knew that this person wasn’t me anymore, and it got me so depressed. I started asking myself a lot of these questions: “Where did this all start?” “Am I happy?” “Is this what I want to become?” “Do I see myself here forever?” “What will be left of myself if I continue being here?”

Being in grad school had its perks. I started thinking about what I really wanted to do in life (like most people), and thought about what I should do with it.

I hear A LOT of people saying what they want to do in life, but I can only mention a few who were really serious about pursuing what they want in life. And I said to myself, “I’ll be one of them”.

I gathered enough courage to leave my job, knowing that I don’t see myself there in the next couple of years. I continued kicking ass at grad school because I like being there. And soon enough, all my decisions were aligned to my life plan. Believe me when I say that the things I did to get to this track wasn’t easy, and no way were they practical as well. A lot of people keep telling me that I was so brave in dropping a big job like that, putting my financial security at stake.

I just knew I had to do them. I just knew that this time, I had to think about what I really wanted in life. I always thought that we were only given one life to live, and so we must make the most out of it. Staying in a place that doesn’t make you happy, for me, is a waste of time. It isn’t anywhere close to “living your life to its fullest”.

It took me some time to realize all these things, and it was a bloody journey. When I think of all the casualties of my decisions, I almost want to regret ever bit of it. But hear this: “Life wasn’t meant to be easy”. And happiness, my friends, doesn’t always come gift-wrapped. Sometimes, people have to work and shed blood in order to achieve it. 🙂

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