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.

intensity and vulnerability

I’ve had this issue in the past where I confuse romantic attraction for intimacy. This, as you can imagine, resulted in me being hurt a lot because romantic attraction goes one way while intimacy goes both ways. It results in me feeling close to people who I was attracted to without the necessary shared experience that forms intimacy. After all, when you spend time with someone, and you are attracted to them but they are not attracted to you, the actual shared experience is drastically different between parties. You might feel a moment was significant, while for them it could’ve just been another moment.

This results in a conundrum. On one hand, I don’t feel close to that many people and want to feel closer to more people. On the other hand, I feel close to people with whom I cannot rationalize my feelings of closeness and don’t enjoy the sensation of being a smaller part in someone’s life than they are in mine. The two feelings put together results in a sort of paranoia where I try to stay at arm’s length from the people I feel close with because I don’t want to be put in the position where I feel closer to someone than they feel close with me. It’s petty, for sure, but this is a position that makes me feel my life is less significant. If I want to live my life with an existential imperative to maximize my own happiness, then I don’t want to put myself in the position where a part of my life is dedicated to someone else who does not meaningfully care about me.

The price of intensity is vulnerability. It’s a lot harder to be vulnerable nowadays because we develop better emotional regulation capabilities as we age, but every now and then I still find myself in a position where I am in somewhat a tender position.

The idea that someone is more significant in your life than you are in theirs is a delicate position. It’s an imbalance of emotional capital and a position of vulnerability. If you are in this position, you have the potential to be hurt more than you have the capability to hurt. In the case of the termination of this relationship, then the loss would affect you more than it would affect them, and that is not a desireable position to be in from a risk-management perspective.

The logical (and possibly unhealthy) way to address this imbalance is to only become friends with people where you are always more significant in their life than they are in your life. Another way of saying this is: Only become close with friends you are willing to lose. Aesthetically, this seems like a bad way to live life, so I don’t think I’ll live by this idea.

Another solution is to stop feeling the feels. I’ve tried doing this and was unsucessful.

The last way I could think of is to just accept the feels. This has its own issues because some feelings are not pleasant feelings. In fact, I would say most feelings are unpleasant feelings, yet we continue to feel the feels because there’s an occasional good feeling out there.

On balance, I think feeling the feels leads to a more meaningful life than not feeling the feels. Positive emotions can justify themselves, and negative emotions can be translated as art or fitness. Intense positive emotions are great. Intense negative emotions are not so great. But the problem with intense emotions altogether is that they make other less intense emotions feel quite dull. After I transition out of an intense period in my life, what I fear most isn’t the sadness but the emptiness that follows. Sometimes the feels lose their value as feels coming from a period of intense feels.

The price of intimacy is heartbreak. This I understand and embrace. The unspoken price of intimacy, however, is boredom in all moments of life that are not intimate.

Intimacy is probably the most addictive feeling in the world. I define addiction as a craving that negatively affects all other aspects of life that can only be resolved temporarily through a particularly addictive means. People often discuss addiction in context of substances, but I don’t think any substance matches the sheer swings of emotion that intimacy offers.

I find drinking and smoking to be quite fun — but only with friends. I’ve tried smoking once by myself, and that was not fun, and I have not tried doing it again. There’s a reason we use substances in social contexts and not in individual contexts. It’s not vodka and cigarettes that bring us our desired feelings of pleasure but the experience of sharing a plesaurable experience with someone else. Without other people, substances are quite dull.

I think The Great Gatsby has a lot of significance in American literature because it captures a lot of our understanding of what we look for in life. It is, in its essence, a story about someone who becomes rich and finds that his life is unfilled if he is unable to achieve intimacy with his childhood love interest. Some rich people are unhappy because they don’t have that many genuine relationships, although I don’t think it’s a feeling exclusive to being rich. I think most people are unhappy because they don’t have that many genuine friends, regardless of how much money they make. I think in general rich people get more attention for being unhappy because everyone likes a movie about a sad rich person.

I’ve been obssessive lately on personal growth because I feel I have little control in my social life. It seems, at least aesthetically, to be an unhealthy thought, but I can’t exactly pinpoint why. Maybe it’s because it shifts the responsibility of making friends away from me, which could potentially result in a feedback loop where I exhibit Bad Faith again in my life. Although I’m still figuring out how much control I have over the entire friendship-making process. I feel too close to some people and too distant from others. There are limits to how much I can control how others perceive me and how close I feel with other people. If I try to achieve intimacy and am unsuccessful, is waiting a viable strategy?

modern portfolio theory and the optimal allocation of emotional resources

There are many times over the past couple of months where I thought to myself that I should probably move to New York, yet here I am still in Philly. Part of the reason I’ve been reluctant to leave Philly is because I still thought that there were some friendships with room for growth. I didn’t want to cut off funding for friendships that have not reached their full maturity yet.

If I really wanted to prioritize my career, I probably should have moved to New York ages ago. Although remote work has saved me quite a bit of money on rent, it probably isn’t that great for a career in the long-run. After all, there is only a finite amount of time you have to build you network before you have to actually leverage your network for professional purposes. But I stayed in Philly because I thought that there was something worth staying for.

But now, as my summer friendships reach their maturity, there is less that’s keeping me in Philly. I feel my friendships have reached a point where revenues have plateaued and additional profits come from streamlining operations as opposed to organic market growth. Although I won’t be selling my positions in them (I’m not sure if there’s actually an equivalent for this in friendship), I don’t feel the need to provide additional capital to my summer friendships to achieve their operational targets.

Every day, we are faced with options of how we want to allocate our energy. In simplistic terms, we can allocate our energy in two ways: into our relationships or into ourselves.

Although life comprises of more than work and relationships (barely though, in my opinion), work and relationships comprise the only real uses of energy in my life. Art, fitness, and music are constants. These activities take virtually no effort on my part, and I engage in these activities regardless of my priorities. There is no real trade-off between my lifestyle choices and art, music, and fitness. The real constraint is the balance between work and relationships. Large decisions including where I reside and settle down are the product of either work or relationships, which have thus far not been at odds but could be at odds in the future.

We allocate more of our energy into our relationships when we see significant potential for growth in our relationships, and we allocate more of our energy into ourselves when our potential relationships do not have the same risk-adjusted yields.

The function of career and time is fairly linear. The progression from analyst to associate to VP is dependent on a set amount of time and a reasonable expection of productivity growth. With each promotion comes with a sizeable increase in total compensation as well as hierarchical importance within the industry. As long as I stay on the path I am on, assuming I don’t accidentally blow up my career, I could get a promotion every 2-3 years. I could become more competitive with additional certifications like the CFA or a master’s degree. When I’m around 28, I’ll evaluate whether I want to go to business school and restart my career in another direction. If not, I’ll be pretty happy working in finance my entire life.

The function of relationships and time is a random variable (pronounced: complete shitshow). Sometimes you could meet someone from the weirdest contexts and get very close to them very quickly. Other times you can just not really click with anyone for awhile. There’s little inheritance you receive from your past relationships. While for careers being an associate at one company allows you to apply for associate roles at other companies, you can’t just make another close friend after you made one close friend. Most conversations don’t really lead into anything. Yet, we still continually meet new people because there’s a chance that we could make a friend. There are a few interactions that translate into something meaningful, and that makes all the difference.

Investing in your career is diversifying across US treasuries and some large-cap dividend fund. Other than a few hiccups onset by a recession here or there, the growth is steady and constant. You can’t go wrong by investing your career, but there are opportunities that you might be missing out on because of its “safe” nature. Investing in your relationships is like dumping a quarter of your savings into a pre-revenue frontier tech company with completely unproven technology. If it works out, the reward is immense. It has the ability to convince you life is meaningful, even for a little bit. If it doesn’t work out, it sucks, but it’s not the end of the world. There are more opportunities in the future.

Relationships are high beta investments. They are only worth it if the expected emotional value of its future free cash flows are better than those your career can offer.

Modern portfolio theory suggests that we should allocate along the efficient frontier, which represents the optimal allocation between risk and return. Our immediate investment opportunities are presented to us through our immediate surroundings. We can perceive the potential growth for each friendship from how quickly we perceive feelings of intimacy forming through random interactions. If a certain threshold of intimacy forms without initial investment, we could throw in a Series A and spend time intentionally outside of random interactions and turn to low-level interactions through meals or drinks. If intimacy continues to grow, then we can add additional investments into the friendship with a higher valuation through higher-level social interactions like trips and music festivals. If, at any point, the formation of intimacy slows, we lower the valuation of the friendship and stop adding additional capital.

Although virtual communication has made significant progress over the past year, I don’t think there’s ever going to be a point where friendship isn’t dependent on interaction in a shared physical space. As a result, we can only make friends with the people who are immediately around us. From experience, most of the friends I make are just a progression of mutual friends. It is quite a limited environment, but it gives a good overview of potential friendships to invest in. At the end of the day, our decision to value our career or relationships depends on our perception of the socioeconomic environment at a given moment. If the small-cap intimacy scene is prime for investing, we invest. If it is not, then we focus on higher-yielding investments on a risk-adjusted basis like our career.

becoming beautiful

I don’t want to be the type of person that makes drinking alcohol a regular habit, but there’s something about being hungover that allows me to work at peak productivity. There’s this weird focus I get where my mild headache liberates me from the distractions that surround me. It doesn’t matter if I’m working next to a construction site (which I am right now); the only thing I seem to be able to focus on is my work, and it’s because this mild feeling of pain allows my mind to finally concentrate on something. It makes me think, if I drank less water after a night out during undergrad, maybe my grades would’ve been better.

It’s one part of my sense of aesthetics that is rather at odds with what our current society considers to be aesthetically acceptable. I hate to be the one to advocate for causing mild pain to yourself to live a more fulfilling life, but old habits die hard, and this is just what I’m into. At this point, the entire reason I exercise or study or add chilli pepper to my pizza is because it’s a more socially acceptable way to hurt yourself. People won’t ever admit that they enjoy hurting themselves, but I don’t think there’s ever been a point in my life where I didn’t want to hurt myself. For me, it’s just a matter of what means I channel it through.

There are more “unhealthy” means that I’ve tried when I was younger, which made me somewhat a social outcast growing up. Eventually, I figured out a way to make it societally acceptable to hurt myself. I could study until my brain turns into jelly or run until my lungs bursts like a balloon — all of which hurt immensely — but I could say I do in the name of “hustle” or “health”. Maturity, to me, isn’t so much a matter of becoming more comfortable with yourself that you become immune to the opinions of others. Lately, I’ve thought of maturity as reconciling the frowned-upon parts of your identity with societal expectations of what is considered an acceptable and desirable identity.

The thing about money that I like is that it truly has the ability to create a desireable aesthetic out of anything. It’s funny; I remember during undergrad how I read a lot of critical theory about how capitalism creates structures in the artistic world that reaffirms its own legitimacy and how we reached a tipping point in the popular consciousness where it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism (see: capitalist realism). It’s funny because the agenda of critical theory is to encourage people to, well, critique capitalism, but my main takeaway from those readings was that I should accumulate as much capital as possible to shape what people consider to be an ideal life under capitalism.

It’s hard to imagine a world where capital doesn’t translate into aesthetics. Money doesn’t buy style, but enough money allows you to hire a personal shopper that could shop for you, which does indeed buy style. Another way of looking at it is that it’s hard to imagine a world where ordinary people aren’t interested in learning about the lives of the rich and wealthy.

I’d like to think that if I accumulate enough capital, eventually people would care about what I have to say. Given the capital I’ve accumulated over the past year, it makes sense that no one really cares about what I have to say. However, if you make a billion dollars in a year, then all of a sudden people from the media want to interview you. You can say anything you want, and people would write about it. If you can create art that reaches people, then you have even more aesthetic power in communicating your ideas than if you didn’t create art. When enough people write about your ideas and share your ideas, eventually your ideas end up being a part of the popular consciousness and actually shape people’s sense of aesthetics.

I think art for art’s sake is a neat idea, but to me that’s more of a motivation as opposed to a goal. I can’t imagine any artist would who prefer to create art viewed by no one.

It’s unfortunate that there’s such a distinct relationship between capital and aesthetics in this world. It’s unfortunate that art created by artists who have not “made it” (and thus do not have seven-figure savings) does not hold as much attention in the popular consciousness as artists that have indeed “made it”. It’s unfortunate that media outlets continue to glamourize the lives of the rich and create content that makes ordinary life seem inadequate. But, above all, it’s unfortunate that we, as consumers, have allowed and encouraged this system to exist as it does because of our own obsession with money and wealth.

A lot of philosophers I read were angsty incels who never received recognition for their work during the time they were alive. While recently it’s been more chic to live the “outsider” aesthetic, I think that Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard all had profoundly unhappy lives due to their inability to achieve recognition and make lasting relationships. Personally, I think all of their problems could’ve been solved if they made a billion dollars. As much as I like some of their ideas, I’m determined not to follow in their footsteps.

A lot of the time, I feel that I am not beautiful. My solution is to do everything I can to maximize my chances in becoming a billionaire, so I can finally feel that I am beautiful.

what is best for us

It’s raining in Salt Lake City right now. There are some mountains in the distance, but at the moment it is covered in clouds. I like this weather. It is the type of weather that makes me feel completely at ease being indoors. There is nothing going on in the world outside. The rain made sure of that. Because there is nothing going on, there is nothing to be missed by staying indoors. There’s no need to feel more alive than I am right now. The life I feel now is the extent of what life can offer at the moment. I can fade out of existence for a little bit, and there would be nothing wrong with that.

In middle school, I remember I used to voluntarily wake up at 6 AM before an exam to reluctantly study for geometry. Back then, I thought that getting a B on an exam was the end of the world. Now, I involuntarily wake up at 6 AM and voluntarily log into my virtual desktop to finish work that I don’t need to finish for another couple of days. It’s funny how math tests was my biggest source of stress back then. It was so one-dimensional; either I did well or I didn’t do well, and how well I did on a math test was completely under my control based on how much I studied. Now, I just do work for the sake of doing work, mostly to ignore some of my other issues that don’t have an immediate resolution.

It is unfortunate the adult world isn’t like middle school. I wish hard work equated to success the same way it did in middle school. Now, it’s more about figuring things out than working hard. We can all control how hard we work, but we can’t exactly control how well we figure things out.

Hard work seems more-or-less a given now. I don’t think there was a time in my life when I didn’t work hard, but it’s certainly a lot easier to work hard now. Waking up at 6 AM is easy nowadays. I set an alarm, the alarm sounds, and transitioning between states of consciousness takes a lot less time than it did before. It hasn’t, however, gotten any easier to understand how to navigate the world. Each day, we are constantly introduced to new complexities, which are different from the complexities we have dealt with in the past. However, we can only use our past experiences to make sense of current problems, which doesn’t always allow us to live our best life. Every day of existence is like asking a ML model to predict an out-of-sample prediction when it has been trained exclusively on in-sample data.

We don’t know what is best for us, but we have act every day as if we know. Indecision is a decision itself, so most of the time we have to act on faith as if we know what is best for us.

Why is it that what we want most is usually what is worst for us? Why is it that the life I find most aesthetically desirable is the antithesis of everything I’ve worked so hard for?

Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if I just left my life behind me and ventured into a world where I had no friends, no money, and no idea of what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I think that a lot of modern life has separated us from the anxieties of life before civilization, when whether it was going to rain or not was a genuine concern of life and death. Now, I just stay indoors and grab food from my fridge whenever I’m hungry. If I feel the desire to splurge, I might get some groceries from Instacart or some Indian food on Doordash. This life is quite boring, unfortunately. It is free from anxiety. Yet, there is a part of me that wants that anxiety back and an even greater part to be free from anxiety about my lack of anxiety.

My life is mostly set, if I choose to live my life this way. The question is: Do I want to live with myself this way?

There’s something about anxiety that makes me feel alive. When I accidentally went off-trail down a bouldering path on my hike last weekend, it was exhilarating when I found my way back to the main trail, where there was people, because it meant that if I fell and broke my leg, I wouldn’t die. Experiences like these make me more appreciative of being alive. The absence of these experiences make life quite boring.

I wish that I could be comfortable living a more boring life without the desire to push my limits to what I believe is a “full” life. My life would be so much easier if that were the case. I think about someday in the future when I decide to move to some suburb outside Greenwich and wonder if I would be happy with my life when that day comes. If I don’t raise successful kids, I’m not sure I would be satisfied with my life. But raising successful kids requires a complete dedication to the task. I don’t know if I would be able to live life to the limits I want to achieve while also dedicating all of my energy to raising kids. It makes me realize that we are able to do whatever we want, but doing some things means that we have to give up other things. It’s just a matter of what we value most at the end of the day.

I wish my sense of aesthetics were more aligned with my professional and personal motives. Life would be so much easier if that were the case. I wouldn’t feel the need to pursue life in two directions. Everything could just be focused, and there is so little internal conflict to be had once we obtain focus. I could just work in Manhattan for six years and then move to Greenwich for the rest of my life. I could send my kids to some Connetticut prep school, and they would go to Penn and then I wouldn’t need to worry about them anymore. That is happiness. Unfortunately, since my aesthetic interests are not aligned with my professional interests, I have to deal with trying to pursue both fronts half-heartedly, hoping that one would win over the other eventually. More likely, I will have to choose one or the other eventually if I want to live a focused life. Or, I might not live a focused life at all.

Last night, I was watching some David Rubenstein interviews with some famous hedge fund managers and tech executives. I search each of the interviewees on Wikipedia during the interview to read their “Early Life and Education” sections, and I’m just always in awe of how people can achieve so much in their life. I wonder how focused they were in obtaining their goals. A lot of them, allegedly, said that they didn’t know what they were going to do when coming out of undergrad, and that they were just figuring things out as they go. I wonder if they knew that their hard work was going to translate into that much power and influence when they were younger.

I think we inherit our first sense of aesthetics from our parents in our youth. Then, we create our second sense of aeshetics as the rejection of our first sense of aesthetics. Finally, we reconcile these two sense of aesthetics together to form our third sense of aesthetics. Supposedly, we would be able to navigate the world once we have our own sense of aesthetics, but when does our sense of aesthetics become ours? If we assign meaning to things in retrospect, does our sense of aesthetics only form once we lived out the life we accidentally chose for ourselves?

farewell dream world

Before I fell asleep today, I was feeling stressed over a certain situation in my life. In the spirit of mindfulness, I closed my eyes and focused on my breath for a couple of minutes. Eventually, this source of stress melted away, so I fell asleep.

Then I woke up at 3 AM, still fresh my mind this vivid dream. It played out this source of stress, which somehow touched upon every stress I’ve had over the past four years of my life. Most dreams span only a scene or a moment, but this dream contained within it multiple years of my life, starting with memories from high school (that didn’t actually happen in real life) to my life now. It was oddly cathartic. I never had a moment where all of my stresses were bundled into one moment, but in the few seconds between unconsciousness and consciousness, this was that moment. I felt like I was about to die because I saw the entire extent of my conscious life until now. I don’t know how to describe it, but everything made sense in that moment of waking. I made the realization that everything that stressed me over the years had the same source, and that source is my humanity. How I felt about different people and events in my life was just a projection of the same desire.

I was able to experience a life different from mine for an instant, where the source of my stress was resolved. My life played out differently from the path I have chosen — the counterfactual life — but being able to live a life that is not your own reminds me that there is no life in which I would be completely happy. I lived a life that was, in theory, the life I wanted to live but chose not to live. This dream world was far from the world I occupy now, but there were still problems in that world. Problems that were not resolved. Funnily enough, my subconscious projected that the solution to my problems was still to move to a hut in the countryside of Utah, which I know now from experience is not the solution to my problems.

The people that surrounded me were different, but the problems were the same. It is funny that even in my dreams I still have ample issues to deal with in my life. Even in this ideal world I have created, which fulfills all of my most immediate desires for connection and power, it still wasn’t enough. I still felt used, betrayed, and distant. I was still chasing for a life that was not my own, even as I was living out a life that supposedly fulfilled all my desire. What this tells me is that there is no point in life where satisfaction occurs. All we can do is to try our best to forget about our desires in the present in order to forget about our dissatisfaction.

I hate to say to myself I enjoyed this dream. It was so different from the mundane experience of everyday living. I don’t think I was happy in this dream world, but I wasn’t sad exactly either. I was disatisfied as I am now, but for different reasons. At least I wasn’t lonely in this dream. We seem to be quite incapable of feeling loneliness in our dreams. This dream contained people in my (real) life such a different role to the role they currently play in my life. Some close friends were distant, and some distant friends were close. It was a sort of parody world to the world in which I live right now. I don’t think I had any real friends in this dream, but I wasn’t aware of that I didn’t. And when you aren’t aware of the fact that you have close friends, then you can’t stress about the fact you don’t have any close friends.

I consider myself deeply not superstitious, but there’s a part of me that wishes that there was something more about dreams that connected us with the people we dream about. Realistically, this is just my subconscious trying to make sense of the desires for intimacy I have in my conscious mind. The dreamscape favors individuals who have more cultural capital than others, individuals who are more relevant and attention-consuming in your life than you would probably let on. We want to feel connected to these individuals, but we are unable to do so in the real world, a world we did not create. But I think there would be something cool about humanity being connected through a subconscious sphere. If only.

There’s a part of me that wishes I never woke up, so I would be able to see how that story played out. I was around the same age in the dream as I am now — although maybe older by one or two years — and it would have been nice to see what my future life would hold. Before long, as I continue to become conscious, I will lose my connection to this dream world. It will exit my immediate consciousness, and the reality of this current world in which I occupy will settle in. This is the world I live in, and the dream world is one I can never return to. I hope my future in this world contains a life that isn’t as turbulent as the one I have now. I also hope my future contains a life that still interests me and does not leave me bored out of my mind. That would be nice.

inherent motivation

Why do we do anything? Personally, I think it’s a mix between boredom, insecurity, and fantasy.

I think we are all fundamentally driven by this notion that our past lives did not live up to our expectations for what we wanted it to be. It could also be just me. We work towards our future lives in hopes that it will be better than our past lives. We create a fantasy to drive ourselves — a fantasy of a future that redeems our past. In a small way, it is a revenge fantasy. We are taking revenge on our past selves for what we could not become back then. Sometimes, we are trying to prove others wrong. Part of working towards revenge is demonstrating that we could achieve what others did not expect us to, but it is more what we did not expect ourselves to do. We understood our potential through rejection by others, and by rejecting others we are also rejecting our limited potential.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to truly free ourselves from the influence of other people. Even when we set out to achieve we want to achieve — and end up achieving it — we still are burdened by the insecurity in which that drive to achieve incepted in the first place.

A lot of spiritual healing advocates for purging negative vibes from your body, but I generally think negative vibes are on aggregate good for humanity. If we didn’t have negative vibes in our lives, then we wouldn’t be motivated to do anything. Can you imagine if we lived in a state of complete satisfaction? It sounds horrible. There would be nothing to be done because there isn’t any negative energy to drive us. What would we do, twiddle our thumbs while listening to the same Taylor Swift record for the 100th time? There probably wouldn’t even be any Taylor Swift music because Taylor Swift probably derived her artistic inspiration from the sublimation of negative events in her life. Do you really want to live in a reality where there isn’t any sad Taylor Swift music to vibe to? It’ll be like “Our Song” Taylor x 100.

People say that writers are sad all the time. I generally disagree with that, mostly because I believe it’s unfair to extrapolate a writer’s personality from their writing. If you only read my writing, especially the writing I did in college, you would think that I only existed in a state of perpetual sadness. But in reality, I’m mostly content with my life. It just happens that the only time I ever do anything is because I feel annoyed, bored, or hurt.

Whenever I am asked, “What is your biggest weakness?” in a behavioral interview, an answer I like to give is, “My biggest weaknesses eventually become my greatest strengths,” and then I list out my strengths. It’s a cop-out answer, I know. I still think it’s a pretty fricking good answer though, mostly because it speaks to some truths about the adaptability of the human condition. Just because it’s a politician’s response doesn’t mean it’s not true. I genuinely believe that our weaknesses become our strengths, and I would say the same thing about our insecurities… but only in circumstances with the proper defense mechanisms.

If insecurity is met with denial or projection or repressed, it will not result in positive change. If insecurity is acknowledged and sublimated, then there will be progress made towards building a stronger character. In this regard, much of our life boils down to resilience. Are we strong enough to turn weaknesses into strengths, or are we going to fall in a negative reinforcement cycle? A lot of the time, it is easier to hurt ourselves because it saves us the pain of being hurt by something we cannot control, but internal resilience is not built through self-destructive behavior. Because we have internal resilience, we have the freedom to become stronger people. We also have the freedom to reject our internal resilience and fall prey to our insecurities.

In life, we respond to our insecurities. Most of these times, these responses are instinctual. But just because a response is instinctual doesn’t mean that it’s not a choice. It is our choice how we respond to insecurities, even though a lot of the time we convince ourselves that we do not have a choice over what we are insecure over. It may be an instinct, but instincts can be tamed with reason. Instincts can be controlled with reason. We may not have control over how we respond to something in a given instance, but we do have control over how we respond to something over a period of time. We were born with the gift of conscious effort, and our freedom is stratified to the degree we exercise conscious effort.