When I brainstormed what I would write for this blog post, I started with the title. It’s so dramatic, so YouTube entrepreneur trying to sell you an investing course. I imagined talking about how proud I was that I gave up a large amount of money to “follow my dreams,” and encouraging you to do the same. I envisioned coming back to this blog a year from now and elaborating on how quitting my job was the best decision I could have ever made for my mental health. Really, I wanted to broadcast that I was a little less capitalist-minded than I was the day before. That I was noble enough to turn my back on wealth in pursuit of more honorable endeavors.
But it’s disingenuous for me to convey that I am not money-conscious or motivated by standard measures of success. I did not free myself from the bounds of our financial system or the pressures of societal expectations. I am still very much entrenched in both, try as I might. I won’t try to convince you that I’ve shifted priorities definitively, because that will only make me look like a big ‘ole hypocrite when I run back to the corporate world upon my return to the States.
What I am doing, then, is taking a break.
Moving to Japan is a gift to myself.
I’m making a conscious decision that is not advantageous to my long-term “success,” at least by the standard definition. I am up-ending my stability, slamming the brakes on my career, and straining my relationship. I am jeopardizing my way of life for a happiness that will not come easily. But I need to do it - I want to do it - because I’m curious about who I am outside of everything that I know.
I don’t hate who I was or what I was doing last month. I won’t diminish how good it felt to make “big-girl job” amounts of money or to know that my degree ultimately had a purpose. I also won’t underplay the devastation of starting work at 7 AM, knowing that I was bound to a desk for the next 10 hours. Maybe that is what the American Dream has been reduced to: watching your parents sacrifice their evenings and weekends so that you can be grateful for a 50-hour workweek.
I am cynical about working. I also think that I have the capacity for it. I garner a quiet satisfaction from leaning into my Type A personality, sitting at my computer, and doing rhythmic work. I think I could do it for a long, long time. But at night, planning the course of my life at the age of 22, the question I ask myself is, “just because I can, should I?”
The answer I come up with is “no,” so I board a plane and fly 5,108 miles away to see if I might like to do something else. I didn’t escape the capitalist machine, but I gave myself permission to become a lower-paid cog in it in exchange for free airfare to Japan and a little more free time. I’ll give myself grace and count that as progress.
What I’m hoping to gain is perspective. A better idea of what I like. A collection of memories to look back on. A newfound belief in my independence. An affirmation that I am, in fact, the type of person who would live and work abroad. I will be careful to not dwell on the opportunity costs. Life’s more fun when you’re confident that you’re exactly where you need to be.
This dream - the one where I move to Japan - is coming to light.
I am proving to myself that I am not placated by a salary, tethered to a place, or limited to a single genre of happiness. I am letting myself be young and in love with promise.
I am welcoming peace in all its flavors. It will melt tenderly on the tongue. Then, my stomach will rumble and I will have peace once more.
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