The criticism never ceases. "There's more to life than money," I'm warned. "As long as you get paid, nothing else matters in the long run," from the other side. Somewhere in the middle, I remain besieged in a fortified castle of my own self-confidence, wishing to be asked, "What makes you happy?" out of genuine curiosity.
Some people have it in their minds that my recent interest in the stock market has me lured into the corruptive world of greed and wealth, and away from more fulfilling, impactful, and creative pursuits. They don't want to see me get to the point where that's all I think about. Money shouldn't consume my life.
Others say that if you're not happy with your work (web design), it really doesn't matter. You still get paid, and you move on. It's not your responsibility to worry about the final product, because you did what was specified and that's it. Money would seem to be a good thing no matter how it was received. Streetwalking, apparently, is a respectable way to make money.
Yet, despite all this, when I meet people for the first time, they, not knowing one thing about what I do for a living, or what my main hobby of the moment is, seem astounded when I tell them I'm a Latin major with strong leanings towards language and writing. They ask me, "What do you plan to do when you graduate?" "How do you expect to make any money?" "What future is there in dead languages and liberal arts if you're not going to be a teacher?" "Why would you compound a Latin degree with years in ancient Greek and French?!" They do NOT ask me why I'm so interested in the stock market, or tell me that I need to keep working and working and doing every little money-making project that comes my way.
People, apparently, love to talk, yet rarely listen. People define potential and success in others only in terms of how they've done in their own life. People seem not to be very well-rounded. People lack exposure to different areas of expertise and thinking. People, I emphasize, do not have a fucking clue.
I try not to talk to people much, unless I need something from them, or if they pique my interest because I see The SparkTM in them. I've never really been able to speak to people about things I'm interested in, simply because what I'm interested in isn't what others are.
When I was in elementary school, there weren't exactly a lot of kids around school who played organized baseball. I was big into baseball when I was young, but most of the other kids hadn't really gotten into it yet. Same happened when I got into tennis. Looking back, almost everyone on my baseball and tennis teams pissed me off. Sure, you could talk about the sport they played, but you couldn't talk to them about much else. When I was in high school, I was probably one of the few who actually used online networks in any serious depth. The old days of Prodigy, and then The Sierra Network (both networks being predominantly full of adults), and naturally, some BBSs. Even in my latter years in senior high, I must've been one out of a small handful of people who used the Internet beyond e-mail and the Web. Around then I started learning HTML and graphic design, and certainly there was no one else to talk to about that, my age. I took Latin in high school and continued it all the way through, along with ONLY three or four other students. In college, I started working in web design. Other web designers my age were pretty shitty. I also started reading more literature and learning programming languages on my own. I met Anna, one of the main people in my life to open up the gates of life and show me how much literature and music and language and culture and food and LOVE that I had been missing. Most recently, I was nudged into the stock market by my parents. At my age, at least there was a handful of people on campus in the business department that I could talk to about that. Of course, most of them are convinced of Dow 36000 soon, but anyway...
Okay, so look, I REALLY hate to sound like a fucking elitist shithead -- you know I detest that -- but the journey of my life has altogether been a solitary one. Most of the people I've talked to at length have been ten or more years older than me.
These last couple of months (and you can tell, since I started falling seriously behind on the Soapboxes around when school started), I've been working constantly on sites and schoolwork and generally doing things for other people. It's consumed virtually all my time. My sleep in the last couple weeks has been virtually nil. Catnaps when I get them. It's good money, I'm told, but that does not mean I enjoy it. I'm at the point in one project where it starts to be less creativity and more deadline/grunt work. And it occurred to me that the money is so unimportant. It's a waste of time, soul, energy, and health.
Which isn't really a big shocker to me -- I've always just wanted to have enough to be comfortable -- but why it was such a revelation was because everyone around me would only talk to me about how good/bad money was. I complain now, yes, but I found myself one night, after staying up until 7AM or so, wanting to study French and learn new web technologies like PHP instead of working, just for FUN! I realized how much I ENJOY learning languages. I realized how much I enjoy writing for the hell of it, or reading a good book. I realized that when I DO have free time, I do NOT just waste it. Often when I have nothing else to do, I will stay up extra late to try to get a grasp on subjunctive verb conjugations or function scopes. This should be no shocker to you either -- when you do what you love to do, on your own terms, you're always more happy.
Few times have I felt more within me that I am a creative animal, and more importantly, a PRODUCTIVE creative animal.
I've found that few people agree with me when I tell them that most web sites are fruitless efforts and demand MORE content and MORE functionality (like the site I'm working on now). I maintain that it is not enough to just have a web site any more. You're wasting your money if you pay someone to build a site and the site has nothing useful to the user on it. But that's still the mindset people are in -- must have a site! Must have it NOW before it's too late! Panic.
Equate this to the serious stock market discussion right now, in which many are saying there is a coming crash that will wipe out all the speculative froth which has built up in the last few years. Most folks will say that it doesn't matter how good a company is or what its fundamentals are, you must own it! It doesn't matter what the economic fundamentals of the country are either, because this is a bull market and we're going up and up and there's no stopping the Internet. It doesn't matter that there've been two interest rate hikes and a tightening bias, the advance/decline ratio is abysmal, the gold market staged a massive rally, the US dollar is weaker, advance/decline ratios are still negative even on positive gain days, and so on. The bond market? Hah! What do they know? They're just nervous Nellies. Investment firms are coming out with their absurd price targets again and pundits are calling an August bottom even though the NASDAQ is about to break its record highs (probably on Monday). None of it matters. It's all good! As long as you're making money, who cares about happiness or other underlying factors? Who cares if most all of the big-name tech stocks are posting earnings warnings or supply problems?
I don't really believe a crash will occur, although there are a TON of people who DO think it will happen in a couple weeks (predicting the market is always dangerous to bet your money on, but perfectly okay to talk about hypothetically), but the likenesses to previous crashes (they're comparing 1999 to 1987) are very similar, plus the Internets need to feel maximum pain once more. I think there'll at least be a resumption of the selling and right now is just an oversold retracement... Time table is the next two weeks, since the market may reach important resistance levels if it continues to go up. But the bullish trend right now is hard to ignore, huh?
The market's all about money, and yet, in many ways, it is about so much more than just money. That "so much more" part is what I like.
The truth is that everything seems to lack content these days. Universities are basically vocational schools, books and music seem to be waiting for something, the Internet still clings onto its novelty, and, to further the explanation, the stock market "experts" proudly claims it's safe to buy Yahoo! at $190/share. I listened to one guy tell another that he should add databases to his site to make it really "awesome". I told him that you need to have something to FILL the database with, and THAT is what makes a site "awesome". His eyes glazed over.
I'm not a nazi when it comes to content. Far from it. I can't stand the guys who cling onto Yahoo! as the future of web design. I'm as much a junkie of the Fox channel and of pop culture and of flashy sites as the next guy -- I just don't see much desire in others for improvement, for actual content and substance. I see others treat money as if it's either an evil thing or the most important thing in the world. I myself see it as a vehicle to allow me to learn more. All I desire to do for myself is improve. Money doesn't accomplish that.
I feel it in me. As soon as I stop doing creative things in order to work more, or to concentrate on something else and stop cultivating myself, I have more nocturnal dreams, I yearn to study more, I desire to write a few Soapboxes. I'll want to stop and look at stock charts, or learn about Macromedia Flash, or go on the Web and read a biography of La Rochefoucauld or something.
I am not obsessed with money, and I never will be. I am not lazy, either, for I will work hard. It's just that the most crucial thing to my life is LEARNING. Any money I make through trading or working is secondary. It's a bonus. What I do should be something that pushes me to succeed and to improve and to be innovative, creative, and disciplined. It seems to me that it's more others who are obsessed with money. I just enjoy the challenge of the experience. I enjoy being proud of the work I do. Work does not equal a money reward. Good work equals a money reward.
And obviously this is a journey I'm going to be walking by myself. I can't ask others for help, because the truth is that they don't know enough to answer. I've had it happen too many times that I've received an "I don't know" or an "I'm too young to think about that stuff" or a "Who cares? It's not important".
I care. I think it's important. The things that aren't important are often what's actually most important.
And, I mean, thank god for the Internet. It's let me learn just about everything I've wanted to learn, all on my own. No one pushed me to learn what I've learned. No one pushed me to make this web site. No one told me to do what I do. I do it because I feel it will help me become a better person. Instead of wasting my time and finding someone who maybe could help me with something, I can get the information I need to pursue my curiosities quickly and easily. The Internet hasn't really given me many people who are interested in the various things I like, but it's given me access to very specialized forums and archives of information to tap into. One skill I've picked up is learning how to fit into radically different groups, in order to get information. So rarely do groups cross over into each other these days... You can't be a one-trick pony.
And as far as I've come, don't you think it's about time my decisions stopped being questioned? I'm not talking about purely rational, logical decisions where what's best for me is not what's best for everyone else. I'm talking about matters that affect ME directly. ME.
Yes, remember me? It's me. There is a person behind these words, these pages, this web site. Did you know I've completely stopped replying to e-mail? I'm tired of it. I've given enough through this damn web site, and that should give me the freedom to not respond to someone without feeling guilty about it. There are too many people who have told me I spend too much time online, or I spend too much time talking about stocks, or I don't meet enough new people, or whatever. The way I see it, the reason I dig things like the Internet and the stock market is because they are gigantic and complex organisms, networks of millions of radically different and opposing minds joining together to bring something to life. They are not simple, and can never be controlled completely, and there's so much to learn from them besides what you would expect. They expect nothing from you. They don't get upset if you insult them. They are as faceless or as interactive as you want them to be. There is no one way to succeed through them. Yet you get a free ticket to watch and to learn from them, and eventually to capitalize off them. They accept you for who you are.
God forbid one day people stop thinking of me as just "that stocks guy" or "Latin major with no future" or whatever, and start saying, "I wish I could be more like him", or, more importantly, asking, "How are you feeling?" or, "What is your ultimate goal in life?"
People need to challenge themselves more. They claim to do so, but that's not how it really is. People disappoint me so often. They've been forced to learn most of what they know. Yet, they never cease to talk.
The secret is to just do what you love, and then the REALLY big bucks will come in. Do your own thing and the rest will follow. That's what I did, and it got me a soul, a love, and a job. There may not be a lot of people down that path to meet, but those you DO meet will be more important to you. I'm not stopping now.
So stop trying to talk me down. How often am I wrong about this sort of thing?
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