In My Twenties

Whether you are two or nine years into your twenties, there is no doubt that they are a confusing decade. Entering the adult world is daunting at best and it can seem like everyone else around you has everything figured out. But the truth is, even the most ‘together’ people are winging it.

I recently started wondering what other people wished they had known before they entered their twenties and reached out to other Zürich based bloggers. And with that, this project was born.

During the project, we’ll share our experiences as twenty-somethings as well as some advice based on what we’ve learned.

 

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Kirsty 🙂

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After dark

Kirsty

I wouldn’t say I’ve ever majorly messed up – there have been little things that I wish had gone differently and I do have a tendency to act as soon as I get an idea into my head. But the only real regret I have is spending so long daydreaming about a life filled with adventures…and a boyfriend.

I always thought being single was a failure, most probably because a lot of people’s response when you say ‘I’m not with anyone right now’ is ‘ahh you’ll meet someone soon enough’. Like if I was single I should be waiting for the love of my life to come round the corner and only THEN would I be really happy.

To be honest, I always imagined I would meet a childhood sweetheart and marry them, or at the latest meet someone at uni. But here I am, 22 (fast approaching 23), finished with uni and I could not be more single if I tried. I spent so long imagining the adventures I would have (buying a house, spending weekends in coffee shops, wandering round on a sleepy Sunday) and it was only on my year abroad that I realised: you can do all of those things as a singleton.

The big plus of being single for me is that you are pretty much free to make your own decisions. That might sound incredibly selfish, but all I mean is that you can make your own timetable; organise plans without thinking about what your other half might have on that weekend and also make impulsive decisions like last minute holidays (guilty as charged!)

It’s nice to be with someone and I’m pretty sure I do want to go down the marriage and babies route on day, but not right now. There’s a saying that being in a relationship is like dessert: not always necessary but a nice addition sometimes. I couldn’t agree more and can’t imagine putting my life on hold for someone else right now…I guess time will tell!

Nia

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been told that I am set in my ways. I have a system (albeit irrational to some) which is unbreakable in it’s logic, and sense of security it provides me.

Due to my love of comfort, you can imagine how inseparable I can be from my comfort zone. This seemingly harmless love affair has always led me to prioritise stability over new experiences to the point where, as I have got older, I realise my progress has suffered as a result. I viewed complacency as safety, and inconvenience as harmful, always making excuses for my actions, and the actions of those around me.

Going back to when I was that same, stubborn, little girl, the ideals of romantic relationships started. Movies, magazines, books, all telling me how simple and perfect love is, and as a female, how my happiness depended on me being in a relationship. It may not seem harmful, but the conditioning that is enforced with love songs and romantic storylines causes many young women like myself to project their fantasies onto the poor buggers we’ve ended up with. Neither of us is at fault, but both of us suffer. It was in my first major relationship that I realised how powerful this effect was, paired with my love of safety which made me miserable for a long time.

When I was in university, I met one of my first ever serious partners, who turned out to be one of the best/ worst experiences of my life. He is now one of my dearest friends, and I wish him all the love in the world.

We were perfect in the beginning, as it usually is, completely and utterly obsessed with each other. After living together for two years, the magic was well and truly over; in fact, the magic had been over for some time. We were cruel to one another, fighting about everything, breaking things and screaming. I told myself this was passion, but in reality it was two very incompatible people getting angry about each others differences. This experience not only made me bitter toward love, but also towards life.

Break-ups are never easy, but things get even messier when you stay together simply because its what you’re used to. When you leave a long term relationship, you’ll notice that it is not just them that you’ll be leaving. You will have been building a life together, for however many years you have been a couple – all of that either gets sloppily divided or simply ends. Even years after that very break up, you’ll still notice the mark they made on your life.

I can’t honestly say I regret anything I have done, at least, not completely, as I have learnt a lot along the way. What I will say is that I wish I would have taken better care of myself and actively changed unsatisfying areas in my life sooner.

With regard to this, my ex and I had some great times together- but love is not simply good or bad. He taught me a great deal about who and what I wanted in a partner and also about how I was going to treat the people closest to me.

He also taught me how much I wasn’t in love with him, per se, but rather the idea of him. I have learnt that love is something that transcends the butterfly feeling in your stomach. It is so incredibly easy to get emotionally involved with somebody or build something special with someone. For me at least, love is the feeling you get when something goes wrong and you feel the same as when things are fine. Love is also when you have found someone compatible with you, that you want to support, not just have them support you.

Now I know what love means to me. I have a loving partner whom I respect, and care for so deeply. He has made my life brighter, balances out my more extreme traits and I find myself more and more smitten as time goes on. Although I am perfectly capable of being on my own, I don’t want to imagine life without him.

So my point is, that complacency can be the enemy of progress. So many aspects of life are mediocre, don’t let love be.

Selene

After graduating from upper secondary school I was unsure what I wanted to study. Not sure where to go, I decided to go for a “safe” choice (economics) and move to a new city. Before applying, I did not visit the city in question and barely knew where it was located. I have always lived in big cities and discovered upon moving that my new hometown was… small. But the student community was tight-knit and I quickly made new friends. 

My studies were going relatively well too. I wasn’t lagging behind, my grades were good and I was doing well both academically and socially. I just did not feel particularly interested in my field of study. I have always been interested in politics and the society around me, but I could not develop these interests at this university. I was not very motivated and the idea of working in the field for the next 50 years terrified me.

Yet I still had mixed feelings. On one hand I was enjoying myself, had great friends and a stable life. On the other hand, I was not content with my studies. I made the decision to apply for another course, this time for something that I was passionate about. After applying for political science at my old hometown, I moved back immediately to prepare for the entrance exam. I had no backup plan; I just wanted to get in and refused to think of any other scenarios. Only around 10% of applicants each year pass the entrance exam to political science, so I spent most of my time studying in the library. All those hours paid off when I cleared the exam and got in! My second ‘first’ semester started and I was incredibly happy: not only were my studies interesting, my new friends were interested in exactly same things as I was. I felt very welcome. This time I knew I would stay for good -and I did.

 

So there you have it – we might have plenty words of wisdom about how to navigate through the storm that is your twenties, but our own paths haven’t exactly been plain sailing. Whatever you end up doing, have fun and make the most of whatever life throws at you!

Insurance

In some cases, finding the right insurance can literally be the million-dollar question. When I lived at home, I didn’t give my prized possessions a second thought…mostly because I was a teenager but also because it was my Mum and Dad’s house, so surely it wasn’t my job? Even as a student, it’s not something I thought about automatically until it came to my year abroad and was deciding which valuables to take with me and which ones to leave at home.

The turning point came after moving to land of the insurance last year. It suddenly became a real talking point in my life and I had to start looking at policies for myself. To begin with, I was completely lost and had no idea where to even start. Did I need travel insurance for moving everything over? What about content insurance once I had arrived? I also had to think about health insurance for the first time, which as a British national, is just the most bizarre concept. Here are my top tips on how to navigate the world of insurance in your twenties:

Travel – Lets start with the most ‘exciting’ one. Why is travel insurance necessary? When you’ve just booked a holiday, your first thought obviously isn’t going to be what could go wrong. You’re probably going to start looking at things to do, places to visit and where to eat. But what happens if your flight gets cancelled? Or if your luggage goes missing? Can you afford to buy a new flight on the spot? Or replace all of the items in your suitcase? It might seem a bit pessimistic but sometimes spending a few minutes thinking about reality and making sure you have a back-up plan can make your trip run a lot more smoothly!

Content – Maybe you’ve always had nice things growing up – the latest phone, nice computer, expensive jewellery. But did you ever think about insuring them? I definitely didn’t when I lived at home. When you move to your own place, you should really think about how you’d feel if they went missing and you couldn’t afford to replace them. Some things (like sentimental jewellery or photos) are irreplaceable and insurance won’t change that. But things like your laptop or phone can be pretty expensive to replace without some sort of policy.

Health – In Britain we are so lucky to have the NHS. It gets a lot of bad press but that doesn’t detract from the fact that we are very priveleged to have access to free healthcare. Having private cover was something I had given 0 consideration prior to moving to Switzerland (where it is compulsory). They don’t have state care here and you are legally obliged to pay at least the minimum health insurance premium. It made me think about how often I had gone to the doctor/dentist in Scotland without really thinking about it, while in other countries people simply don’t have this luxury. Instead, they have to choose an insurance policy; deciding whether to take a risk and get the cheapest one or pay through the nose for something you might never use. It’s not an easy decision, especially if you’ve never had to think about it before.

To round of a bit of a heavy article in the simplest way, insurance can be summed up in a few words: if you value it, insure it!

taken from www.experiencecle.com

 

All about money

Sometimes the hardest thing about saving money is just that, saving it. In theory it all sounds simple: save more than you spend. Getting started however, and keeping the habit, can be a real challenge. I was able to purchase my own apartment at the age of 22, an achievement I am extremely proud of, after putting money aside for years. Now you might have different goals and/or a different background, but in this post I’ll tell what has personally helped me to achieve my biggest financial goal yet. For others the goal might be investments, retirement savings or just savings for a rainy day.

First of all I can not tell you how you should save money. There is a lot of advice out there telling you “instead of takeaway coffee, drink your coffee at home”, “eat lentil soup for a week to save money” and “do it all yourself”. They mean well, but cannot be applied to everyone, everywhere. Many of them are time-consuming, and time might be more valuable than the time spent to make lentil soup. Some of these saving tips also ignore social connections, assuming we will sit at home while our friends are eating out. Yay for having tons of money but the most boring life ever!

Whatever your motivation to save is, it should come from inside. A set goal, be it a certain amount of money for a rainy day or an apartment, can help. If you are happy   with your financial situation and don’t have any motivation to save, then don’t. This is of course to assume that you have that spare money; many people in their 20s don’t have the possibility to save.

Me, myself and I

I don’t think everyone can really save money. Unexpected life events and student life make it impossible for some people to save. If you have a hard time making ends meet, it does not always mean you have no control over your spending; we all have different life stories, some way more difficult than others.

I have been fortunate all my life and my intention is not to tell those who, despite trying as hard as they can, have not managed to save how to live their life. This is simply a story based on my own life.

Now to my area of expertise: me, myself and I. How did I save enough money to purchase my apartment? First I’ll tell your more about my financial background. I worked part of my summer holidays since I was 16. I started mostly because my parents wanted to teach me that money doesn’t grow on trees (or magically appear from their pockets). The feeling of having my own money to spend on whatever I fancied was addictive. Having my own money to spend also made me more cautious: I didn’t want to waste my hard-earned money! Ironically, having more money taught me how to save.

During my last year at university I worked one day a week. I studied four days, worked one and then relaxed during the weekends. I also worked all my university summer holidays, travelling instead during the winter or during the semester (we did not have compulsory lectures anyway so missing a week or two was fine). My motivation came from inside…to be able to live the kind of life I want to was not possible without working. 

One thing that did help a lot was having a savings account. Whenever I got extra money that I knew I did not necessarily need, I put at least half into my savings account and allowed myself to spend the rest on whatever I wanted. For example, when I graduated from upper secondary school, my relatives generously gave me money. It was all cash and I knew I would spend it all if I kept it in my wallet. From this money, I deposited 25% to my savings account and put 25% to my investments (a gift from my mother when I turned 18). Half of it I spent travelling around Asia with my friends for five weeks. After returning I still had summer holidays left so I naturally worked and saved some more but also lived comfortably, went to concerts and bought some nice shoes.

In my opinion it is really important to have separate accounts for savings and daily life. It might also be a good idea to invest.  My savings account only allows a few withdraws per year for free which meant that any money that goes there also stays there. This also applies for investing money: long term goals usually pay off. It’s also great for lazy people like me, because for the most part,  you don’t have to do anything. If I felt that my budget was too tight, I simply kept more money to spend from the next month’s earnings. With time I learned how much I was realistically able to save without struggling.

No guilty pleasures

As you might have figured out by now, I am not a big fan of restrictions. Dieting and saving are a little similar: everyone knows that crazy kale-soup diets don’t work in the long term. After all there is only so much kale soup you can eat during one life…focus on the bigger picture and don’t mind a few missteps. Too much cake at a party won’t ruin your diet if you continue your healthy habits the next day. One or even a few big splurges won’t ruin your budget either! Personally, expensive shoes are my weakness. I’m a big fan of one particular brand and do not feel guilty buying them one bit. Sure I don’t need these shoes that are mostly both impractical and unsuitable for the climate I live in but they look so pretty!

Now that I live in the middle of Europe, I also spend a lot on travelling (in fact I’m heading to the airport in an hour). I don’t have a family to worry about or a tight work schedule so I want to enjoy as much as I can. This might not be possible in the future for whatever reason, so I might as well do it now.

Things I do not spend money on are takeaway coffee and unnecessary shopping. My mom once pointed out how expensive and unnecessary takeaway coffee is. Because I’m such a good daughter, I listened to my mom and never bought takeaway coffee again. But like I said, if takeaway coffee keeps you sane and happy, go for it! You might see my shoe shopping as unnecessary.

Other things I don’t spend much money on include food and expensive skincare. Food was not a conscious decision, I just like to cook my own food and it’s healthier, too. I do eat out, but I rarely buy ready-to-eat food to eat at home. My diet staples, including lentils, various vegetables and rye crispbread (very important!) are all cheap and nutritious. With the exception of cheese and butter, I don’t use animal products at home. I’m not sure if this saves money, however I do believe it is good for the environment and for myself.

Reaching out for help

If you show your parents that you see working hard towards saving and making sensible future decisions, they might be more inclined to help you financially.

The best financial advice I ever got was from my mom. Our parents have more experience, therefore we do not need to repeat the same mistakes. My mother also has access to my bank accounts. It is one story to convince yourself that you need those shoes but it is quite another to convince your parent. My mom has also helped me start investing and advised how to use money wisely. Your parents will keep your feet on the ground and remind you of all the responsibilities you have in your life or in the future. Parents want the best for their kids even if they do annoy us sometimes.

Parents can also help us with bigger purchases. If you are young, ask your parents for help. I have asked my relatives to put money directly to my savings account instead of giving cash to save it. My own parents have also given generously money towards my education, renovation of my apartment and other somewhat necessary things.

This of course is to assume they have the means to help you. I do acknowledge it is way easier to reach your goals with some help or security that I have been fortunate enough to have in my life. I am aware that not everyone has the same opportunities in their life and I hope this comes across in my article. 

My mom and I had made a deal that she would pay the rest of my apartment if I managed to save a particular amount of money. This motivated me to work towards my goal of my own apartment. After years of saving I had around 15%-20% of the price of my apartment. I was able to purchase my dream home! It was in a need of renovation and to save money we renovated quite a bit ourselves. Again, my mother and my other relatives gave a helping hand. Reaching out to others really helps, especially to those close to you.

Special thanks to my mom and grandma for helping me!!!

Here I am painting the wall before papering. Nothing better to do on a Saturday night! Having a social life is so overrated…

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Here is the particular corner of the apartment after renovation!

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Being invincible

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‘Young and healthy’ smiled the forty-something year old Swiss nurse looking down at me from my hospital bed. There I was, a concoction of anxiety (I’m terrified of needles) and agony awaiting my shot to prevent blood clots as my foot was, and still is temporarily out of service due to torn ligaments. One single action lasting seconds caused my foot to snap, resulting in weeks of immobility, moments of frustration and fundamentally, a tonne of reflection time. Young and healthy? How could I feel that way when I’m bed ridden, yet only moments ago I had been running to catch a tram in the city without a care in the world? Still, I smiled back at her, gave a small nod and most importantly, kept my cool. No one is to blame here. Not me, not the elderly woman who fell on my foot, nor the friendly doctor about to stab my leg. These things just happen.

At 23 years old, this was not my first encounter with the unexpected. During my twenties I have had my drinks spiked, been in numerous fights, lived on antibiotics for what seems like an eternity, and seen members of my social circle pass away when no one was ready for them to.

These issues, albeit shitty, simply come with our age group, no matter what time period. They also tend to catch us off guard, reminding us of our fragility.

Fundamentally- we’re not invincible, and life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. But there’s more! What about the additional problems that only millennials (those of us in our twenties and thirties) have to deal with?

For starters we are the most qualified generation on the job hunt, University fees (especially those acquired in the UK, USA for example) leave us in crippling dept, gender roles are in limbo for us, and we basically invented the quarter life crisis. Before we can figure out how to deal with these issues, let’s elaborate on them.

Millennials are the most educated generation in recorded history, and are the largest generation (just overtaking baby boomers). Most of my friends have Bachelor degrees, many have their Masters, with some even attaining PhD’s. A degree is no longer a safe choice for job security- it’s a necessity. The job market is full to bursting point with qualified candidates, but with far fewer spaces.

With regard to gender rolls, women now have the luxury of choosing a career, and/ or a family. A look into the lives of my settled friends shows me how the dynamic has changed in parts, but remained conventional in others. Of these couples, there are two partners with equal income, one male breadwinner, and three female breadwinners. My issue here is not with gender, simply the role of said breadwinner. In all but one of the above relationships, the women do most, if not all of the housework, even though they work 9-5. Also there is still a lot of pressure on men to be providers, so it can be difficult to tackle respecting work loads for either partner, with traditional perceptions peaking through the cracks.

Lastly, our mental health. A survey conducted by the Varkey Foundation found that British millennials have the second worst mental wellbeing in world, with Japanese millennials in first place. According to the Business Insider, we are the most stressed-out generation to date. This is connected to unhealthy coping mechanisms (drug dependencies, addiction), with ties to general and mental health issues such as high blood pressure, anxiety and depression.

Dealing with any of this can be daunting, especially given that we have been raised in the age of information, where the prior coping strategies of previous generations simply don’t apply anymore. Our need for instant gratification can be a real bitch here, and brushing things under the rug no longer suffices.

Now we’ve figured out what our problems are, how can we deal with all of this?

My short answer- it’s simply different for everyone. Accepting support from others and not neglecting my problems has made a huge difference to how I deal with things. Those suggestions may seem obvious to you, but how many of you twenty- thirty year olds apply this in your daily life?

Switch off

Young people are credited for our short attention spans, with very little acknowledgement of the fact that we are constantly balancing two active social lives – online and offline- and we are the first generation to do this. The internet and its accessibility has disrupted the social fabric of our daily lives, and sadly, those of us in our twenties are essentially the guinea pigs for it’s effect on society. Staying focussed on reality and being present helps us connect to the world around us in a healthy way, thereby also helping us deal with our very real issues.

A few years ago I decided things needed to change for me. I now read more non-fiction, I hang out with friends, and when I can, I take time away from technology (this I cannot recommend enough). I’m well aware that a life completely without technology is simply unavoidable for a functioning member of society, and as a young adult, my smart phone, MacBook, tablet or iPod are never far from my person. While I fully appreciate that this is easier said than done, just looking away from your screens and living in the moment at least once a day can really make a difference. My main restriction is with my smart phone, which is essentially all of the above devices combined. My friends would probably say I’m hard to get a hold of, as I have got used to ignoring my phone and taking in the moment. To them I say, thanks for being patient with me! But my mental health is pretty happy about it. I see more sun, have more time for hobbies, and allow myself time to be pensive.

Relax

Along with my new social presence came confidence. I don’t make apologies for my opinions anymore, or feel guilty for enjoying myself. I prioritise my comfort and well-being, which is something I can’t sell enough. Perfectionism is a plague for our age range, where enjoying yourself can be a one-way guilt trip to I’mnotworkinghardenoughtown. Contrary to popular belief, time spent enjoying yourself is not time wasted.

It’s all about you. Accidents, embarrassment, failure, reflection- they are all a part of life, no matter when you were born. Negative emotions are crucial elements to our happiness, even though it never seems that way. It’s up to you how you prioritise your energy. Allow yourself to be happy- do things you enjoy doing and don’t make excuses for it. Also allow yourself time to heal, if something is bothering you- face it. Since we are so stressed- use it to your advantage! It is not simply negative; it can be your biggest motivator.

Support

As for allowing support from others into my life, that took, and still takes a lot of courage. Being perceived as weak or vulnerable is not an easy feat but it gets easier when you surround yourself with people who care about your well-being. Create friendships that will last- ones that you can talk about anything, help one another grow and be there for each other. This time in your life is when you start to see the solid difference between ‘nice’ and ‘good’ friends. Being nice is all very well, I have met many nice friends. But good friends are the ones you can trust, and that stay in your life. Not sure how good your friends are? Next time things get rough, keep them in the loop. Those who stick around are keepers, and those keep their distance are useless.

I am lucky enough to say that my family is incredible, but I have always been private about things that truly bother me- only now realising that no one can see when something’s wrong with you, no matter how close they are, if you don’t actively show it. For example, my mother would describe me as horizontal, because in her eyes I’m incredibly laid back. However, my boyfriend knows I’m a frantic worrier and have a tendency to overthink absolutely everything. It’s a matter of perspective, you control how you are perceived by others.

Summary

To conclude, we actually have a lot to complain about, and starting the conversation is a step in the right direction. Also remember it’s not all doom and gloom, we also have a hell of a lot to be happy about. We’re ambitious, politically aware, critical thinkers who not only have a much healthier attitude towards sex and gender, but also to other races and communities.

My advice on dealing with the shittiness that is adult life? Communication. Not just with others around you, but also with yourself. What’s really important to remember is that we are all going through this adventure head first with no training- no one is expecting us to get it right all the time, or to be constantly happy. Although it doesn’t seem like it sometimes, you really are not alone.

If you suffer it is because of you, if you feel blissful it is because of you. Nobody else is responsible – only you and you alone. You are your hell and your heaven too.– Rajneesh

Getting the work-life balance

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Kirsty

 

Getting the work-life balance is arguably one of the hardest things about adulting. As a student, I didn’t find it as much of an issue because I knew that I only had one shot to work hard and get the best degree classification I could. I figured that it would be easier to take time off as a graduate but it would appear not.

It can be hard to make the transition from student studying all the time and always working towards something to a working professional who has actual free time. What do you do with this ‘free time’? What even is ‘free time’? Is it a myth? How should you spend it? I think it takes some time to find the balance and not feel guilty about taking time ‘off’ after spending several years working hard all the time. Of course, everyone is different and if you haven’t worked all that hard at uni (we all know that one person who breezed it, somehow) then you probably won’t be bothered by the freedom of working life.

I’ve always been a bit scared of missing out on anything (I don’t sleep much, either) so I think my reluctance to take time ‘off’ is largely because I am scared of missing opportunities. Realistically I know that no job is going to appear and disappear in the same day and I do believe that if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. I try my best to ignore the niggling voice inside my head telling me to work 24/7 (and you should, too). One of the most important and effective ways to take time off is to find out what you really enjoy doing. I’m much more likely to cancel plans if I’m not that bothered about the activity (or people) in the first place than if I’m finally going for cocktails at that bar I’ve had my eye on for weeks or am visiting somewhere new.

I’m slowly learning that even if things aren’t going exactly as planned (and lets face it, they rarely do), you need to take time out to have a clear head and to regain focus. Overworking your brain will only lead to you completely losing the ability to concentrate and could negatively impact not only your work life, but also your social and personal life. I really like the saying “do we live to work or work to live” and am 100% on the work to live side. Yes, I have high hopes for a successful career that will only happen if I work hard in my twenties…but I also hope to be a Mum one day telling stories about my adventures to my little people as I tuck them into bed. It’s all about the balance.

Que Sera, Sera

Learn how a father and son’s (very different) experiences in the world of work lead them to believe that fate often intervenes when you least expect it

Rumi:

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When my son was deciding what branch of studies he should pursue at university, I told him he was very lucky that he even had a choice. In my day, my father told me what I was going to study and I had no say in the matter. My sons reply? “That would have been much easier!”

Being forced into a career in finance and systems led me to change jobs every 3 years in my twenties. Each of these jobs was mechanical and I could not see myself growing to become successful and fulfilled in any of them. I did not have much opportunity for interaction with other people and I felt isolated. However, this helped me to get experience in diverse industries ranging from construction to mechanical engineering. It was only when I moved into relationship management, more by accident than by action, that I found job satisfaction. Here, I was dealing with people and solving complex situations, each one being unique. This helped me to believe in my abilities and gave me a sense of purpose. I have been working for the same institution for the last 25 years and continue to do so with pleasure.

Zaosh:

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Unlike my father, whose choice was mercifully removed, I was faced with the task of finding my needle in the haystack of options post-graduation. When thinking about my future I always felt like a middle-aged man trapped inside a teenage body so I decided prudence would be my course of action. I chose a degree in management and, as the ghost from the Indiana Jones movie might say, I chose…poorly. Luckily I had been sufficiently inspired by my high school maths teacher to pursue a dual degree in maths and management. I found that even with the best teachers, I disliked the management half and even with some terrible lecturers I enjoyed the maths bit.

Nevertheless, my soul now pre-emptively going through its’ midlife crisis, I spent the majority of my second year applying to corporations for careers ranging from management consulting to auditing and actuarial services. After countless rejections I finally received an internship and spent a summer working as an actuarial intern. I came away from that experience with two things; a profound hatred for triangular sandwiches and the realisation that if I was going to spend my life behind a screen it’d have to be for something I believed in. Money just didn’t seem a good enough reason.

If this sounds sanctimonious, believe me, it was. I was a 23 year old whose idea of financial responsibility was having daddy pay for his tuition. Don’t worry, this arrogant so and so is about to have an experience that will knock some sense into him. As a Swiss national I was “drafted” to serve in the military. Deciding to make the best of a burden, I used the opportunity to fulfil a childhood fantasy; one that some grow out of but I didn’t. For 10 months I became a rescue soldier or military firefighter. The experience was far from a fantasy but did help me to build tenacity and allowed me to experience camaraderie as well as practice two additional languages. With all of this in my mind I sat down to make a decision as to what to pursue next. Being the nerd that I am, I did this with the help of an excel spreadsheet but I am getting ahead of myself.

Interlude: The field trip

Sometime after I had completed my service, a friend of mine asked me if I could accompany his students on a field trip. The students were mostly aged 9 and were loud, hyper and asked extremely personal questions. Despite this, I found myself wanting to stay and help the teachers out after the field trip. This compared to someone who would watch the clock after lunch and calculate the time left till I could call it a day.

Naturally when I crunched the numbers in my spreadsheet it came out as a dead heat between being an actuary and becoming a teacher. I spent some time shadowing my friend in his school to really be sure of it, but looking back, I knew from that first day that this wasn’t just what I wanted to do but who I wanted to be.

What we learned

Rumi:

Sometimes when you go with the flow, it is easy to be swept away. But ultimately, when life throws you the proverbial lines; you just need to know which one to hold on to. Mine materialised when I landed a job that I enjoyed doing and brought food to the table. Though the build up may have taxed me for a few years, my passions in life e.g. dancing, helped to fill the void of satisfaction. I wanted to channel the fulfilment I received from dancing into something positive.

Zaosh:

Being a mathematician, I’d like to believe that my path was calculated with precision. But the truth is I was clueless and annoyed until I lucked into something as unusual as going on a field trip. Even after finding something I had loved I couldn’t find the impetus to commit my whole life to it. It was a friend who gave me the final push when she said “Instead of searching for what you want to do most in this world, try figuring out what you mind the least.” This idea untangled the sense of finality when making my career choices. I was free to give this seemingly odd passion of mine a real chance and so far it has served me well. I am not a clairvoyant, as much as I pretend to be in front of my students. However,I feel fairly confident knowing that even if teaching didn’t end up being my passion, I would still prefer the version of me that tried and quit to the one that never did and wondered what if. My Dad loved to sing to me when I was younger and one of his favourites was “Que Sera, Sera”…I guess I should have listened.