Today is my 30th birthday. I can’t really say why, but 30 feels particularly significant to me. Maybe it is the current state of the world or maybe this is my generations coming of age milestone. Whatever the reason, it feels appropriate to reflect on my life since turning 18 and to think about where I want to go from here.
My adult life has been bookended by two “once in a generation” global crises. I was 18 in 2008, still a senior in high school living in the small rural town of Stevensville, Montana. My parents claimed bankruptcy after years of struggling to keep their grocery store running. Ultimately, it was an acrimonious relationship with a business partner that finally pushed the situation over the edge. Due to extenuating circumstances with their business, they were unable to file several years of their personal tax returns which made me unable to apply for college financial aid. Had it not been for my grandfather, I wouldn’t have been able to secure the private student loan to go to college.
I struggled early on to find my place in college. I was a small-town kid at a big state school, Oregon State University. I was all alone and starting fresh. However, after some early setbacks, I was able to hit my stride. I made friends, joined a fraternity, and settled into a new major. Those four years both flew by and seemed to occupy an eternity.
After finishing undergrad I went to law school. I almost didn’t get in. My grades were good but my LSAT scores were uninspiring. I was placed on the waitlist and didn’t find out until the last week of undergrad that I had been accepted to the University of Oregon School of Law. It was the only school I applied to.
Law school was another new challenge. I went to law school because I had dreams of being a big law corporate attorney. Studying finance in the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis, I wanted to participate with corporate boards to be a voice of long-term and ethical decision making. I wasn’t prepared though for the law school learning environment. I have never been a confident writer and I dreaded getting feedback during my legal research and writing classes. I usually had more red ink than black on my papers.
I eventually started to enjoy law school. I got involved with efforts to promote entrepreneurship around the university and found I really liked applying my legal training cross functionally more than the pure esoterics of law. I decided rather than doing corporate work for large businesses, I would like to work with startups. I saw a little bit of my parents in the founders I was working with and wanted to support their businesses.
In my final few months of law school, with no real employment prospects in hand, I threw caution to the wind and decided to start my career in New York City. If I was going to fail, I wanted to do so on the biggest stage. I didn’t want to regret never trying. So with just a 3 month opportunity at a startup, I packed my things and moved across the country to NYC.
New York City is where I came into my own. I truly love this city. For the past four years, I have learned many new skills, once again pivoted my career path, and began to figure out who I am and what I want to accomplish over the rest of my life. It took 12 years, but I feel like I am the most authentic version of myself I have ever been.
Here is a little bit of what I have learned along the way:
- I hate the heat and humidity. Linen is a life saver.
- Rarely does anything go as planned. Get comfortable with entropy.
- Let go of the relationships in your life that only take your energy and invest your time in reciprocal relationships.
- I adopted social media and then realized I am happier without it. Twitter is still under review and LinkedIn seems harmless. Social media is largely a caricature of the world.
- I am slowly becoming my father. We share backpacking stories and talk about cars.
- Your ideals and values are only as good as your personal integrity to them. You are what you repeatedly do.
- Not all the questions in life have to be personally reconciled.
- I chose what I thought to be safe career paths but found I have a habit of veering off course. I guess I am not fit for too much comfort.
- My grandfather is still my hero. I only hope I can be half the person he is when I am 90.
- Love is the strongest emotion. All things fade with time but the memories of those we love fade slower.
So what is next for me? It is hard to say. The world is filled with uncertainty but I know I want to continue to learn, reflect, and be better. Over this next phase of my life, I want to do something to significantly positively impact everyday people. I want to work on things that improve their livelihoods, wellbeing, and hopefully make society a little better. I am not sure exactly how I want to do that yet—I will know it when I see it. Until then, I will keep building my skills and learning as much as I can.
What comes next will take patience and persistence. It might take longer than I want to materialize but I will accomplish my goals. I have started over several times already. This moment in my life is yet another opportunity to build and grow.
Here’s to my 30’s. Looking forward to what the future will bring.
Some memories from the past 12 years