return on existence and cost of vitality

In finance, cost of capital represents the required rate of return to justify investment in a company’s securities. If a company does not generate the necessary return in its debt or equity, an investor might take their investment into other securities.

I think the purpose of life, broadly, is to live a happy and meaningful life. Let’s call the amount of happiness and meaning you generate from your life return on existence. Similar to investments, life also has a cost of capital, although it probably won’t be called cost of capital. Let’s just call it cost of vitality, which includes the time, money, and energy required to do the things that make your life happy and meaningful. Also life is boring and painful, and convincing myself to live is already a hassle, which I also factor into my cost of vitality. For life to be worth living, your return on existence must be greater than your cost of vitality.

Right now, there are a series of conditions for my happiness, not limited to:

  1. Job security and satisfaction
  2. Quality of friendships and relationships
  3. Disposable income
  4. Health of family members
  5. Quality of living arrangements
  6. Physical health
  7. Number of Lululemon joggers

For my life to be worth living, these conditions, among others, must be satisfied. If one of these conditions is not satisfied, then I would be sad, but it would be manageable. If multiple of these conditions is not met, then my return on existence would be less than the cost of vitality, and then I would contemplate the possibility of suicide.

We perceive our life in periods of time. We are happy during certain periods, and sad during others. During periods in which I feel profound sadness, the only reason I wouldn’t act on suicide is if I still think my life can still generate happiness in the future. In finance, the equity value of a company is defined by the net present value of all future free cash flows. Living is only feasible if the sum of happiness generated in future periods discounted to present value exceeds the cost of capital required to sustain live towards future periods. However, future happiness is hard to visualize in the present, so there would be a heavy discount rate applied to perceive happiness generated in future periods.

Right now, conveniently, I happen to have money, time, and energy to do the things that make me happy. I have existential capital. Friends require time, energy, and money. Relationships require time, energy, and money. Art requires time, energy, and money. All activities require time, energy, and money except your job, which requires a lot of time and energy but in turn generates money to fuel other activities that require money. Also, the vibes are good, I guess, so I don’t think living on a day-to-day basis is absolutely horrible, I guess.

However, if there’s ever going to be a period where I don’t have time, energy, and money, then I will be sad. The only thing I could look forwards to is future periods where I would have time, energy, and money. If those future periods don’t exist, then suicide is the natural solution.

nothing better to do

I think one of the reasons people “settle down” is because they realize that it is becoming harder and harder to connect with people as they age. There are only so few people with whom we are capable of connecting to the level of intimacy we want. Dating is like just drawing cards over and over again, hoping something sticks, and we are unlikely to turn down a winning hand when we draw a winning card.

In elementary school, it was quite easy to connect to others. But then as we accumulate more experience, the lives of others become more unrelatable. I think that’s something I noticed as an adult. I remember in high school, getting brunch with people was sufficient. I was happy getting brunch with people. It was enough. I didn’t have much social interaction in high school, so any social interaction was better than no social interaction.

Lately, as an adult, I’ve realized that getting brunch is no longer sufficient. Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten a lot of brunches with a lot of people. Conversation over food used to be exciting as an activity to share with friends. There was a point in my life where I thought I would never get tired of brunch, but here I am, tired of brunch.

There are very few conversations I actively want to have these days. I much rather prefer shared experience to conversation, but shared experience requires trust, and trust takes time to build. It would be great if we had an AI that matched me up with someone with whom I am perfectly compatible, then go through some sort of accelerated friendship simulator to achieve the level of trust needed to share experiences together.

Whenever you hang out with people, you can never be sure if they are hanging out with you because they want to spend time with you or if they’re just hanging out with you because there’s nothing better to do. It’s hard to actually perceive which camp your interactions fall into because it’s a thought that is by nature paranoid. The closest thing we can gather is evaluating how our interactions make us feel. If an interaction doesn’t seem particularly engaging, it probably wasn’t that engaging. The real dilemma lies, however, in evaluating our feelings about our interactions are valid or not.

The natural response to feeling unwanted is just to go back into seclusion. In times when the world genuinely wants nothing to do with you, this maneuver could be therapeutic. There are very few times, however, when the world genuinely wants nothing to do with you. Most of the time, we just project how we see the world as the reality of things. By hiding, we could potentially be wasting time engaging in needless therapy. There’s the possibility of friendship out there that exists, and by hiding from the world we forgo the opportunity to create additional friendship in the name of emotional fragility.

The scary part of friendship is when you feel like a conversation mattered a lot more to you than it did to someone else. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with sharing a conversation and deriving more meaning from it than the other party, but it’s a position of vulnerability. Putting a lot of value on a conversation is acknowledging that someone has a more interesting perspective than you, and wanting to be friends with them opens up the possibility of getting hurt when the sentiment is not reciprocated.

In college, I thought a lot about what constitutes a relationship being real. When experience becomes memory, we tend to romanticize it (or catastrophize it), and it’s very hard to isolate the experience from the connotations of experience derived from memory. So, how do you know something is real when you are in the middle of experiencing it?

The nice thing about dating is that it, for the most part, confirms that your shared experience is actually quite similar. Interactions are not one-sided, and you can confirm that you matter as much to them as they matter to you. There’s a calming quality to knowing that your feelings aren’t there for no reason. Otherwise, you just exist in a constant state of paranoia of pouring in more emotional labor than you are extracting, which is not a good feeling.

I like listening to sad songs because there’s always ambiguity in regards to who the singer is singing about. In some sense, you can imagine they are singing about you, and that makes your life slightly more beautiful than it was before. Relationships are not like that. They are about themselves, about you and someone else, and not you individually. The relationship only exists between two points but does not touch its sources. It requires intention on both parts. It is an act of creation, and an act of creation takes two.

intimacy as a depreciating asset

I woke up this morning feeling extremely sad and lonely. In other news, water is wet.

I’m starting to wonder if I feel lonely all the time because I just have a higher baseline requirement for intimacy than others. This is neither a positive nor a negative thing. It’s just a statement of fact, like my blood type or my hair color. I remember reading a research paper saying that the difference between introverts and extroverts is that introverts just have a higher baseline level of stimulation, so they don’t feel as much of a need to spend time with others to achieve an optimal level of stimulation. Similarly, do I just need to maintain more friendships than most people to feel not lonely?

The problem is that my capabilities of feeling intimate with others come and go like the waves. Last month, when I was still in Philly, I went to an event with some friends. It was only three weeks ago, but it seems so long ago. Moving to somewhere new tends to have that effect on my time perception. At the time, I hadn’t told my friends that I would be moving to New York shortly, but I had an apprehension that that night might be the last time I was happy for a while. It was the last time I was happy for a while, but the transition occurred long before that night. I’m running towards the end of my intimacy cycle, and I expect that it’s going to be a while before I could feel intimate with others again.

I tend to think of intimacy as a depreciating asset. Like depreciating assets, I have to mark intimacy to market every quarter to make an accurate assessment of how close I feel to the people around me. It is quite unfair to assume that our present feelings of intimacy seamlessly transition from one time period to the next without loss. When I was in high school, I no longer felt close to the same people from elementary school. When I graduated college, everything that happened before college seems like another life I never lived.

Most assets use straight-line depreciation over a set useful life. The rate of straight-line depreciation is dependent solely on the useful life of an asset.

Some assets have long useful lives. Some assets do not have long useful lives. Friendships also have a useful life measured by a specific period in which the majority of memories are formed. I made a lot of memories with some high school friends, but they are no longer a significant presence in my life. Some of my college friends are still in my life, but in a few years I suspect I won’t be talking to my college friends either. It’s the natural progression of things. Friendships do not last forever, and it’s unfair to expect that they do. Friendships run through a predictable course of getting to know each other, spending a little time together, spending significant amounts of time together, and then moving on to other friends.

Some assets have salvage values. Some assets do not have salvage values. Friendships have salvage values. Relationships do not have salvage values. If I reach the end of the line with a friendship, I could pick things back up later, granted at a lesser intensity. The promise of Saturday brunch at 1 PM, once a year or two, is still there, and this ending equilibrium is hard to break. Relationships, on the other hand, cannot be picked back up once broken. There is no such thing as keeping in contact with your exes. There is no room in the present for doing so. Keeping in contact with an ex is just keeping something alive that doesn’t have any future. Doing so would be living in the past.

The metric I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the average useful life of a friendship. Unlike friendship itself, this is largely dependent person to person. People who are good at keeping in contact with their friends tend to have longer average useful lives. People who are not too attached to their friends tend to have shorter average useful lives. People who prefer quality over quantity have longer average useful lives. People who prefer quantity over quality have shorter average useful lives. I’m not sure where I end up on this spectrum. I tend to think that my friendships have shorter average useful lives, but that could just be because my standards for what I consider to be an ideal average useful life is longer than what I currently perceive having.

How do you make friends in a new city? Who knows. I didn’t really make friends in college, so the bar for comparison is quite low. I think I big problem I have is that I like getting close to people quickly. I think I expect too much from meeting people. I just want to reach the point in a friendship where memories start to get formed, but it’s hard to truly understand that this process takes a very long time. I understand that the average useful life of my friendships is not long, so I want to cram as many memories into my friendships as possible before I would have to salvage it and move onto another friendship.

To be honest, if I saw someone else with my obsessive desire to be close to others, I would consider it to be a red flag. From my observations (and experience), the desire for accelerated closeness is usually the product of emotional trauma, and it often results in some pretty horrible friendships. It’s weird to know I am the red flag in this case.

the next coping mechanism

Life is quite long. It is the time of life that isn’t continuously filled with pain that is short.

The average life expectancy in the US goes up every year. In 1960, it was roughly 70. Now, it is roughly 80. By the time I will be nearing “dying” time, it’ll probably be around 90 or 100. Since I’m fortunate enough to have health insurance, I’ll probably be on the high-end of the normal distribution. It is quite a long time before I die. What do I do before then?

It is unfortunate that life gets quite boring after I would say… 23? There was a lot of novelty in life before then. Now, it’s more-or-less the same life every day. I thought it was the product of being a student that made life more vibrant. But upon talking with my friends who are doing master’s and PhD programs, it seems like they are also in the same boat as me. I guess it wasn’t being a student. I think it’s just after a certain age there are less new experiences, regardless of whether we experience those experiences in school or not.

I think the first time I took a walk around the city at 2 AM, it was a unique and interesting experience. Now, when I take a walk at 2 AM, it’s just like every other walk I take at 2 AM.

When I wrote for therapeutic purposes for the first time — I think it was when I was deferred from Penn early decision — it was super effective. I was super sad, then I wrote, and I wasn’t as sad anymore. I took a nap. When I woke up, it was fine. Since then, I’ve written for therapy so many times. Each time, it doesn’t hit the same, so I have to find new ways to cope. Lately, I’ve been singing a lot, which was effective at first, but eventually, even singing gets old. Everything gets old. Now, I’ve been running a lot. I’m figuring out what is going to be my next coping mechanism after running gets old.

I think life effectively ends when you reach age 30. I plan on moving to a gated community in Greenwich then, and hopefully, I would have enough income to pay off my mortgage and send my kids to boarding school. That’ll give me something to do for the next 20 years of my life. Kids are always up to something. I haven’t been “up to something” for a long time. Maybe my kids will teach my the latest Tik Tok dance and make life meaningful. I think there’s a 70% chance that people just have kids because they’re bored.

I wonder if people commit suicide because they just run out of coping mechanisms. There are only so many things to do before every hobby is exhausted. Then, what’s next?

altruism and disconnection

Fundamentally, I think I don’t really care about what goes on in the world at large because I don’t really feel connected to the world.

I remember I really wanted to work for some health or education NGO for a really long time in my life. I don’t think I felt connected to the world back then, but at least I told myself did I did. I felt a need to dedicate my life to something more because I don’t really know what I would otherwise do with my life. The problem with trying to achieve a position of real influence in the social impact space is that it’s quite difficult. It’s only possible to reach that level of influence with a lot of grinding, not to mention complete uncertainty whether your hard work will be rewarded at the end. For someone like me who is at best ambivalent about dedicating my life to the abstract idea of “helping people,” this life did not appeal to me. I think in the private sector, your success is a lot more correlated to how hard you work. More often than not, you are adequately compensated for your contributions to your company.

I find it harder to care about the world when I’m unhappy. I used to really care about making the world a less fucked-up place, but now I just want to be happy. I’ve noticed that the magnitude in which the world is fucked up doesn’t have an effect on my happiness. I’ve read that people supposedly find helping people to be fulfilling, but I’m not sure I feel this feeling. I help people when asked for help because I recognize that I’ve received a lot of help over the years, but I certainly don’t go out of my way to find new ways to help people. I don’t really feel that sense of fulfillment a lot of people discover when helping people. It’s hard to rationalize making other people happy when it doesn’t do anything to alleviate your own unhappiness in the process. I’m could do all of this, but I would still be so unhappy, so what’s the point?

I believe that my happiness is solely a product of how close I feel to my friends. I would happily trade my career prospects for friends. I would probably be more interested in making the world a better place if I felt at all connected to it, or so I tell myself. The problem is that that is not a choice that I have in my life. There’s a difference between choices and options. I have the options to make friends or make money. However, I can choose how much money I make. I cannot choose how many friends I have. Choices imply free will, but options don’t. I could focus on my career and try to be a millionaire by age 30, or I could make a friend and get on with some other missions in life other than to make money. These are my two options. However, considering hard difficult I find it to make friends, there is realistically only one choice. At this point, I think it’s much more likely to be a millionaire by age 30 than it is to make a friend. There’s not much of a decision involved.

The thing is — I would always prefer making friends to making money. The problem is that this option is always presented to me. I wish I had the opportunity to shoot the shit with some friends, but instead, I just work in Excel all day and listen to some emo trap album on repeat while wondering why I am unable to have the level of intimacy I want with people. I work because there isn’t much of an alternative. All I want is to do something else.

past happiness is not indicative of future happiness

Investment research always ends with the phrase: “Past performance is not indicative of future results.” This is to indicate that performance during different time periods is not correlated.

I’ve begun to think about my happiness in a similar light. Just because I was happy in one period does not necessitate that I will be happy in a future period. Just like investing, there is some skill involved in being happy, but performance is also dependent on the state of the economy and aggregate investor sentiment, which we cannot control. We can do certain things to be better at being happy like eating healthy or yoga, but at the end of the day, it is also largely subject to a variety of forces that are hard to control. Just as it’s hard to invest well during a depression, it’s hard to be happy when you are depressed.

I was reflecting on the instances in which I was happy in the past. There aren’t that many, so this train of thought didn’t take long. I remembered that during each of these periods, I thought that my happiness would last forever. When I was happy, I thought that I would be finally free from feeling sad. I thought that my hard work in developing a more positive mindset had paid off, and I would be able to be happy for the rest of my life.

There’s something about happiness that seems to wear off. Happiness can be intense at first, but then happiness also wears off because it’s hard to sustain happiness for prolonged periods of time. I don’t know if there is a neurochemical explanation for this or if I’m just speaking purely out of experience. I suspect that this cycle won’t change. I’ll be sad for the next couple of months. If I’m lucky, then I’ll feel happy next summer. If I’m not, then I’ll still be sad next summer. This just might be the way things are.

up or out

A big part of finance culture is that if you don’t get promoted, you usually are asked to leave the firm. This is known as “up or out.” I’m not quite sure why this is a thing since a third-year analyst almost always has more value-add than a first-year analyst, but that’s just the way things are. I suppose this culls each level of the hierarchy to fit the desired ratio between analysts and associates or associates and VPs or VPs and directors. Either way, some people stay, some people leave voluntarily, and some people are forced to leave.

Friendships and relationships are different in this regard. Friendships can stagnate, but relationships cannot. If a friendship goes on pause — for example, if one of my friends decided to move to Egypt for a year — I would be able to pick up the friendship whenever we were in the same city together again. If that is not feasible near-term, then there are always options of chatting on Zoom every couple of months. If a relationship does not advance, however, then it must end. There is no such thing as chatting every couple of months in a relationship. The purpose of a relationship is to reach a state where both parties want to marry. If at any point in a relationship it is clear commitment is not mutual and that marriage is not a plausible destination, then there is no purpose to the relationship.

Relationships are like corporations. They are entities with a lot of power over our lives despite having no tangible form in this world. Spending time within a relationship is a lot like a job. We spend a lot of our time in relationships, and we only pursue relationships because there is a mutually beneficial arrangement given our participation. Relationships reduce our feelings of loneliness, but our romantic partners also add value to our personality and networks. Like our jobs, we can choose to leave at any point when we find other opportunities that offer us more value than our current arrangement. In addition, our relationships, like our jobs, eventually become a part of our identity. At a certain point, we stop looking for other opportunities and settle for the job or relationship that has been a part of our identity for so long.

In this regard, there’s quite a substantial transactional nature of relationships. It would be nice to enjoy spending time with your romantic partner, but ultimately there’s a purpose in making each other a priority. I think people were able to “date for the sake of dating” in college because there’s a genuine desire to explore personalities to understand what we value in a romantic partner. However, is there such thing as dating for the sake of dating once we are aware of what we are attracted to and what we seek in a long-term partner? Don’t we, at a certain point, crave permanence?

At a certain point, I think there’s a point in our lives when we discover that there are more important things we want to accomplish than just dating around. When we reach that point, the appeal of dating around becomes a lot less appetitizing, and we devote our attention to finding a long-term partner as opposed to just riding the intimacy wave again.

At a certain point, it becomes very explicitly transactional.

It reminds me of this text exchange between my friend and I:

I think there is a lot more value to MBAs than just the dating scene, but I still think that’s a pretty significant part of it. Dating was a very big part of undergrad, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t be a big part of an MBA. Although, I would say undergrad is quite different because there is a significant process of self-discovery involved in undergrad dating. When you go to an MBA, assuming you have 3-6 years of work experience already, you already went through four years of undergrad and several more years of adult life. When you go to an MBA, you have a clear idea of what you want from a romantic partner, and considering what types of people an MBA attracts, having a six-figure salary is probably a big criterion.

Sometimes, I read some biographies of famous hedge fund managers and tech founders, and I always wonder why they chose to get married at such an early age. Is there something about successful people who settle down at an early age, or is precisely the fact that they chose to settle down at such an early age that they become so successful?

I think when I was an undergrad, I focused too much on chasing girls and too little on figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. When I wasn’t studying, I was always pining over some girl as opposed to thinking what classes I wanted to take or what careers I wanted to pursue. Maybe if I introspected more about what I wanted out of life instead of writing about how I felt when my crush hugged me, I wouldn’t have had to do three unrelated internships to figure out what I wanted to do in life. Alternatively, maybe if I focused more on girls in high school as opposed to school, I wouldn’t feel the need to date as much as possible during undergrad to figure out what I wanted out of relationships.

Even as I’m writing this, I’m not sure if I’m completely convinced at my own thoughts. I’m not entirely sure what drove me to date people during undergrad — I wasn’t thinking about it at all — but it certainly wasn’t transactional. There wasn’t this thought of up or out. It was just taking things one step at a time. Sadly, I’m not sure if I’m able to approach things like that anymore. There’s just so much I want to accomplish before I die, and I don’t know if dating for the sake of dating can offer me the same fulfillment anymore. It probably can offer me the intensity that I want in my life (probably). But lately, I’ve been thinking there’s more to life than just intensity (like making a billion dollars).

I’m not sure if I would be able to accomplish all that I want to accomplish in life, but I’m pretty certain that I wouldn’t be able to if I just continued to devote my attention to finding the next person I want to date. At a certain point, I want to accomplish something in life, and there’s more meaning in permanence than intensity.

i miss listening to “youth” by daughter

…In a parked car next to a playground on one of those foggy winter nights. One of my friends pulled the song up on Spotify, saying that one of her friends had introduced it to her, and I listened to it for the first time despite having heard it already. There’s was a sort of vulnerability in those moments, sharing a sense of disappointment when your life didn’t match the glamour you thought you would have. Something about those breathy nights that seem to have lost its glitter. Gone are the days when I would wait in my driveway as my friend would pull up in a 2005 Toyota Corolla. I don’t expect that I’ll be able to reclaim that surbuban romanticism again, at least not as a adolescent.

There’s a part of me that wants to reclaim this vulnerability but another part of me that wants to move past it all. It’s rare to get caught up in your feelings nowadays. There was a time in my life when I had a strong desire to make friends, and I wasn’t selective with who I spend my time with. My behavior led me to feel sad a lot, but it was the sort of sadness that flushed my life full of emotion, regardless of whether it was positive or negative emotion. Now that I’ve become more mature, I’m more aware of the difficulties of making meaningful connection, and I’m less inclined to sacrifice my mental health to adopt the same attitude. Experiences that were intense at one point become more mundane, and we seek new experiences with new people to replace our fading feelings of intimacy and intensity.

I remember when I smoked at the Belmont plat, it was a pretty memorable experience. The first time I traveled with someone I had a crush on was also a pretty memorable experience. The first time I made out with someone in the backseat of my mom’s Honda Accord was a pretty memorable experience. The novelty of those experiences was quite overwhelming, and I don’t think I was aware of how intense those experiences were until I compare them to the boring reality of adult life. But now that my experiences have become more mundane, I reflect on these experiences fondly because it proves to me that my life wasn’t always filled with routine. I always thought that I didn’t fully take advantage of my youth, but thinking back to some of my more memorable moments, I realize that I probably gave myself too little credit. I did things, and it’s the desire to keep doing things that continuously drive me to live a life filled with experiences.

I think I’ve changed for the better, but I also think my current self is a more hollowed out version of my former self. The underlying systems of governance are still the same, but I feel things less strongly than before. Heartbreak used to kill me, but now it’s just a mild inconvenience I could just vent out by running and singing. This life I have is almost unrecognizable to my former self. I used to make fun of people for owning Airpods. Back then, there was something about Airpods I found extremely aesthetically displeasing. In college, I used to pride myself in owning a Thinkpad when everyone else owned a Mac. But today, after my Thinkpad gave out for seemingly no reason, I bought a Mac for the first time. Now, I’ve become the person I used to make fun of. I own an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Macbook Pro, and Airpods.

Life moves so quickly. Before you realize it, you become someone you thought you would never become, like how I was when I started to use Apple products. I’m not sure if this is the life I signed up for, but I’m not entirely convinced that it is not the life I signed up for either. This life is a product of my choices and my limitations. There were things I was able to control and things I was not able to control. I continue to live to the best of my ability, understanding that not all of my choices are going to work out for the better. Eventually, these choices will cause me to change. Eventually, enough change will come to the point where I won’t notice that the person making the choices has changed.

A part of me just wants to speedrun life — move to Greenwich, have kids, and call it a day. Another part of me wants to be a digital nomad for a year or two. The dilemma has always been the same since high school and college — security or novelty — but the calculus has evolved to include a stronger sense of responsibility and risk-aversion. The window for making mistakes has closed, and every action requires diligent risk management. I’m not able to indulge in moments of emotional turblence and a frantic desire to prove myself. Everything requires more planning now. Even when I decide to take risks, it’s a part of a plan. Whatever the case, the progression of my life is inevitable. In due time, reflection is all I have left.

I don’t know if Greenwich would offer me the happiness I am looking for, but being young has been causing me a lot of pain lately, and Greenwich seems like the last place a young person would want to be. I need to get away from all the young people in the world because I don’t want to be reminded how I don’t feel the way I once did. I wish life was more intense, but it’s harder and harder to replicate those same moments of intensity. Maybe I should leave everything I have behind and embrace some radical uncertainty. I don’t know if I would want that though. Why has it come to the point where I need to sacrifice anything to feel something?

existential imbalance

There are a lot of instances in the past when I’ve been affected by someone I’ve met for a very short period of time who doesn’t really remember who I am.

I’m thinking back to when I was recruiting how there was this one girl I talked to at an information session who convinced me to recruit for finance. Recently, I saw on LinkedIn that she had started a new role at some VC firm in Europe, and I was happy for her. It’s been around two years since we last talked, and I suspect she has a hazy recollection of who I am, at least requiring ample reminding. I was not a big part in her life, but she was a big part in my life. It is weird to know I probably won’t interact with her for the rest of my life.

I remembered I followed up with her a couple of months after I started working, and we had a nice chat on Zoom. I forgot exactly what we talked about, but I remembered that it was just a normal chat like those you have senior year when you bump into someone you met in a freshman writing seminar — a bit nostalgic but mostly procedural. For most of the call, I was just thinking about how grateful I was to this person for the help she gave me during the recruiting process. She doesn’t know that, of course, but that’s how it was.

It’s so random how I ended up here at my current company. Recruiting, in general, was a shitshow because I had no idea what I was doing. At the time, I was trying to explore all of my options as quickly as possible, so I went to basically every info session across every industry I could. I came into this particular info session late because I was coming from another one across campus. I talked to a lot of people after the presentation, but she was the only person whose email I remembered. We had a 20-minute chat and exchanged a couple of emails afterwards, and then I eventually I received an offer at my current company. It really made a difference in my life, and it’s hard to imagine my life currently without my current job. I’m not sure I would’ve landed this job without the help she gave.

Now that I’m on the other side of the boat, it’s hard to imagine myself in her position. Recruiting is such a routine part of professional life, and I have roughly the same conversation with most prospective candiates. When I receive an email from an undergrad, it doesn’t really matter to me if I respond or not. My day is more-or-less the same regardless if I take any calls. I sometimes forget how clueless I was during undergrad, and how helpful certain conversations were in helping me figure out what I valued.

It’s weird how some people have a very large impact on your life, and they might not even now it. I don’t know what I would do with my life if I didn’t work in finance, and it’s hard to imagine my life, in retrospect, taking another direction because it’s such a core part of who I am.

Outside of the professional world, there are a lot of people with whom I’ve spent a very short amount of time but have changed me in pretty profound ways. I think certain teachers I’ve had both inspired me and disillusioned me in both a positive and negative manner. Some teachers inspire me; other teachers just make me dislike teachers. It’s a delicate balance. I think a lot of girls I used to date have informed me of what I consider to be attractive. I think there are also girls who I didn’t date who have the same effect on me. A lot of my personality is shaped around impressing certain girls in college, and these personality traits I’ve picked up have tended to stick around even now.

I go back and forth between thinking this is a bad thing or a good thing. On one hand, it is a position where I don’t have power. By definition, other people are influencing me significantly more than I am influencing them. Lately, I’ve begun to think about it differently. At the end of the day, it’s my personal development. There is always going to a positive in the past, when I was weaker, to now, when I have more control over my life, where I am put in the position where I am influenced. I can’t help but ask how inevitable it is in a world where a small selection of your interactions with people informs a majority of your personal development.

There’s a desire to be close to the people who have influenced you in your life. I want to be close the people who have shaped me, but I understand that this might not always be the case. More obviously, I can’t exactly be friends with Lana Del Rey. Less obviously, there is a lot of spontaneity and randomness to the creation of intimacy, and the opportunities don’t always present themselves. I’ve realized that it’s also okay to let go to be close to the people who have shaped you to become the way you are. Not all influence has to be equal, even though sometimes we want it to be.

For a long time when thinking of this imbalance, my mind goes directly to shame. The thought goes: I feel shame for allowing my life to be affected by someone in such a significant way when I have not had the same effect on them. I think, in a lot of cases, I am thinking this in context to negative emotions like grief, heartbreak, and longing. After all, it’s not a great feeling to pine over a one-night stand who probably forgot your name a week later. I frequently forget about the positive instances of imbalance because it doesn’t fit this narrative I created in my head. When I do remember the positive instances, I do exercise gratitude, but remembering those positive instances doesn’t really come naturally to me.

I think moving forward, I’ll try to be okay with letting myself get affected by others. It shows that I am connected to people and that I am allowing myself to be changed. I am taking part of the intimacy process, even when it puts me in a position of weakness.