For a long time, not only did I not think about what I wanted, it didn't even occur to me to think about what I wanted.
Sure, I might want a gadget here and there. A new toy or a set of golf clubs. But the more fundamental questions, like where do I want to live, what do I want to do, were always driven by things that I perceived were outside of me.
Like my parents' expectations, or the pressure of other people. I was smart and successful in school. What do smart successful people do? They go to more school. They become lawyers. They go to big cites. They buy big houses in the suburbs. Their kids go to private schools. Maybe they add on a summer home and exotic vacations. They live the upper middle class version of the American dream.
There is nothing wrong with any of this, except for the fact that, for me, it was ultimately unsatisfying. There are a lot of people who figure out the emptiness of the path of achievement a lot earlier than I did. There are a lot of people who figure out that stuff doesn't make you happy (and even imprisons you) a lot sooner than I did.
But my repeated mistakes gave me the advantage of learning those lessons very, very thoroughly.
You want to know why the big house isn't satisfying? I can tell you, because I have one.
You want to know why striving for and getting the partnership in the big consulting firm is unsatisfying? I can tell you about that, too.
I can tell you about the insecurity of a life based on status rather than connection. I can tell you a lot about what not to do. But unless you've seen it yourself, you're probably not going to listen. I know I didn't. I kept thinking that fulfillment would come with the next thing, and failing to see what I had right in front of me.
I used to think that people who talked about that path not being satisfying were just people who couldn't hack it. Now I know better. I could hack it. I did hack it. For a lot of years. Until I saw that, for me, it wasn't bringing satisfaction.
But the difference now is I see I don't need to get satisfaction from my job, or in my stuff. I can find fulfillment right here, no matter what is happening. I don't always see that. I don't always remember. But more and more, I see that the only source of frustration, and the only thing between me and happiness, is my own thoughts.
In many ways, I am still doing the same things and living the same life that I always have. But at the same time it couldn't be more different.
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