Threads and Tapestries
Today is the last day of the last semester of my junior year of college, and it’s been quite the trip. I’ve finally been able to take really challenging classes, and I’ve been quite busy, but I relish the challenge. I’ve had five massive art projects due, and balancing all of them was a test of creativity, the likes of which I’ve never had before. But somehow, against all odds, it all got done. I achieved everything I set out to, and summer is upon me.
But for some reason, it doesn’t feel as good as it should. The feeling of crushing a challenge, which I’ve been looking forward to all semester, never quite arrived. I haven’t been at my happiest in quite some time, and I thought that finishing all of these projects would get me there, but it didn’t. I was not thrilled about this revelation, and spent a while trying to figure out the reason. Then while I was watching Billions (clearly the only show at 9pm on Sundays worth your time), I found the answer.
For the past few months I’ve had lots of tasks, but I didn’t have a mission. I had no reason to get up in the mornings other than to complete my to-do list. There was nothing connecting these projects, no vision I was working towards. I had nothing to fight for, no skin in any game.
The brilliant Showtime series may be a soap opera, but it taught me that human beings are at our happiest when we’re fighting for something. We do our best work when we have a massive goal that we internalize so deeply, it becomes inseparable from ourselves. It’s easy to stumble through your life on a day-by-day basis, but that does not lead to fulfillment.
In the past, I always thought that the key to being happy was staying busy. But that clearly isn’t the case, as I had a ton to do this semester. Simply having tasks isn’t enough, they have to be part of a larger tapestry that means something. Nobody wants a bunch of pretty, unconnected thread on their hands.
I’m at a bit of a crossroads in my career right now, as I’ll soon have to start making real choices that will determine the path I start out on. As I analyze these decisions, and the different trajectories they lead me towards, I’ll be sure to keep this in mind. Fifteen years from now, I need to be working somewhere that is a part of my tapestry. I need to feel like I’m in an important fight, and that I’m using my skills to help win. Small enjoyable projects, without meaning, can only get you so far.