How do you introduce yourself?: Prioritizing your priorities

It’s hard to believe that it’s been just about a year since I published my first ever #TheLifeofJLOWE blog post, and took a little dip into the world of sharing my thoughts in writing with the world. While I certainly wasn’t publishing as consistently as I would have hoped, throughout the year, writing has become one of the most important outlets for processing life that I have. If I’m not sharing my thoughts publicly on my blog, I’m writing them and putting them away in a journal. I’m still getting things out and that has been incredibly helpful in this world where so much happens so fast every single day.

For me, this blog has come to mean something more than just a space to talk and catch up, but it’s become a pathway to understanding myself as an adult.

The importance of having an outlet

After moving to a new city and starting at my new job, one of the first things I began to look for was a new therapist – someone professional to help me ensure that I’m dealing with that transition in a healthy way. After browsing through company resources, and clicking through a mountain of portals and links, I found a list of “personal coaching services” offered by the firm.

How I stumbled upon Personal Coaching

It was November, and after doing some research into my work benefits, I realized I had 4 personal coaching sessions available to me free of cost, covered by the firm. I said to myself “Ahh, so they do offer free therapy!” and immediately booked an appointment. I booked the appointment about 2 weeks in advance because there wasn’t much availability, and I was so excited in the days leading up to it that I would finally get to talk to a professional again and find a new way to process these changes in life. Things were looking good.

Then, the day of the appointment came, and somehow I was cooking dinner and completely forgot that I had it scheduled. I got a call on my cell phone asking, “Hello? Is this Justin? I’m in the Zoom meeting.” and I was so embarrassed that I had forgotten and had my therapist just waiting on my in an empty Zoom meeting room for about 15 minutes.

I hurriedly joined the Zoom, a bit flustered, and the first thing my newfound “therapist” says to me is “I just want to be clear with you, this is not therapy. I am not a therapist – I’m a personal coach. People often confuse the two, so I want to be very upfront about that.”

Now you can imagine me, who’s been looking forward to an all-healing, eye-opening therapy session. I wanted to hop off the Zoom immediately and go back to the portal to see what the heck I clicked on if not therapy.

Personal coaching as a blessing in disguise

Fast forward to the end of the year now, and I’ve done 4 personal coaching sessions which have been less of a conversation and more of a space where I get to verbally lay out my thoughts and organize my brain with the help of another person.

We talked a lot about career direction, defining personal identity, setting goals and delineating values and priorities as a person. Through those conversations, I came to realize 3 important things:

  1. This may be the moment in which I’m experiencing a “quarter-life crisis”.

  2. That’s okay, and actually less of a crisis than a mature realization of self.

  3. This is the first time in my life I’ve been challenged to be something in life other than a student.

What is a Quarter-Life Crisis?

As I thought more and more about my conversations with my coach, I realized that at the ripe age of 23, if I multiply that by 4, I get 92, which honestly, seems like a long-life lived to me and a blessing if I get there. So in reality, this moment in time is just about a quarter of my life.

The crisis part? It comes from this slight anxiety that I’ve felt about leaving school, starting a life and deciding what I want to do with my career. It’s at about my age that most people graduate college and take the plunge into the work force and now everything becomes real. The crisis isn’t really anything more than life beginning and all the chaos that comes with learning and understanding how to navigate it.

And after a few coaching sessions, I quickly came to realize that for me, a “quarter-life crisis” doesn’t represent anything to be worried about. In fact, it’s something I share with my friends because to me it represents the ability to take stock of where you are in life, and look to the future. Yes, worry a bit about where you’re gonna go, but realizing that you’re going somewhere is the first step to enjoying the journey.

It’s less of a crisis, and more of a mindfulness of self – a realization that the world really is quite literally at my fingertips. A realization that worrying about my own future is a healthy thing, and that with the right perspective, it can be something that propels me to my success.

What’s your occupation?

My third realization from personal coaching really came when I took a flight and reviewed my travel documents and realized that in the occupation section, I can no longer write down “Student”. Yeah, duh. That’s obvious. I just graduated, right?

But there was some power in acknowledging that life had not only changed because I started a job, but it had changed because all my life I had only ever been a student. Sure, I interned last summer so I technically was working, but at the end of the day, one of the primary ways that you introduce yourself in life while growing up is by what you study or where you go to school. That had changed, and the way that I identified myself suddenly was called into question.

“Do I write down “Financial Analyst” on the immigration form? That feels kinda weird. Hmm, what else could I put? Yeah, I mean I guess that’s my occupation now, right? Wait, is that what I want my occupation to be? If someone didn’t know me, got my file and read it, that’s now on paper as one of the defining features of who I am. Wait, is it who I am?”

From student to self

No longer being a student means beginning to unpack how I want to define myself in the world and how I want to be perceived. Think about it – you meet someone new. What’s the first thing that you tell them about yourself? Why’d you say that thing first? Is it because that’s the most important thing to you? Is it because you think you have to introduce yourself in a certain way?

Let me give you an example:

  1. Hi, I’m Justin, I write a blog called The Life of JLOWE and I live in Miami, Florida.

  2. Hey, I’m Justin, I’m a Jamaican Chinese steelpan soloist from Kingston, Jamaica.

  3. Hi, I’m Justin, I went to Cornell University and recently graduated with my Bachelors degree in Economics.

  4. Hey, I’m Justin, I’m a runner, and I’m actually training right now for the Miami marathon in January.

  5. Hi, I’m Justin, I’m a financial analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and I work out of their Miami office.

Same person, five different introductions, completely different connotations of a personal identity – which one do I choose and why? What is it that is a priority for me and which one of those do I identify with the most? Why?

The all-encompassing bio

As an abstract thought experiment, I’ve thought about a scenario in which I travel to somewhere in the Eastern Hemisphere and meet someone new – someone who lives a non-Westernized, radically different life from me.

How do I introduce myself to that person? To that person who doesn’t have any concept of this capitalistic idea of high school to college to labor force to retirement. Someone whose metrics of success in life are completely different from mine and so what is “successful” or “important” to me is only another fact in their brain about me rather than anything impressive or anything that holds weight.

How, then, am I introducing myself? What’s important to me as a person, that when all of the weights and expectations of society are lifted, this is how I introduce myself? What’s that all-encompassing bio that makes me satisfied that I’ve shared myself with this person, and not just my college, hobbies, occupation or origin?

That’s the question that I need to answer. That’s the question that solves the quarter-life crisis. And the beautiful thing about it, is that it’s not a perfect answer, nor is it even necessarily an answer that you’ll ever find – because it will always change. But for me, thinking about that abstract question helps me to begin to figure out my priorities in life, and more importantly, ensure that I’m giving enough time and energy to those things in life that really are priorities for me.

Conclusion

So as I go into 2024, a new year, a new opportunity to set goals, straighten out my priorities and reflect, I’m only just beginning to understand my priorities and beginning to decide what is important to me as an adult.

I’m out of the mentality of a quarter-life crisis and into the mentality that I’m at a point in my life where I have my whole life ahead of me, and that realizing that now gives me the time to create the life that I want for myself by devoting time and energy to the things that are important to me.

I think that there’s a lot to think about for anyone when it comes to their life ahead and how they want it to go, and to be very honest, sometimes it’s not always possible to enact radical change in your life at this very moment. Maybe right now you can’t quit that job, or drop out of school or drop everything and go travel to find yourself.

However, to me, the most important thing that I’ve done in the past few months for myself is to simply think. Begin to think about what’s important to you. Begin to imagine the life that you want for yourself. You’ll never change where you are if you don’t realize where you’re at. Read that again.

You really have one chance at life, and while it’s the hardest thing in the world to get it right, the most beautiful thing is being able to get it wrong. Again and again and again. Learning from each mistake, drawing inspiration from each downfall and then understanding what you want and more importantly what you don’t want.

And then, slowly but surely, beginning to get it right.

Happy New Year, welcome back to the blog.

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