A Journey – Part 1: Following the Path in Front of Me

By Jim Malone

This post was written on January 24, 2016

I was 18 years old. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to go to University. I didn’t know what I wanted to major in, but I knew that economics and business would get me a job.

I was 20 years old. I had yet to declare a major. Up to that point I had taken some courses that interested me. I had taken others than my friends were taking. The time had come to declare. When I looked at the courses I had taken and what degree they were setting me up for, it appeared the answer was a business degree.

I was 22 years old. I didn’t know what job to take out of school. I knew some people were determined to get jobs in Investment Banking. I didn’t really know a lot about it. I knew that the hours were brutal. That was it. So I applied for the odd jobs that interested me and fit with my business degree in finance that wasn’t Investment Banking. It was a recession, so back then I was thankful for anything. I received an offer for the only job I seriously interviewed for.

I was 23 years old. Everyone I knew in finance was doing the CFA designation. The CFA consists of an annual exam to be completed in three-year successions. The exams are categorized by three levels (one for each year). The process was considered a brutal war of attrition, where few came out on the other side with a shitty piece of paper. I decided to enroll.

I was 25 years old. I was passing my CFA exams and bored in my job. I needed more of a challenge. I decided to enter Investment Banking. Everyone else was doing it.

I was 28 years old. I had completed my CFA and spent my days toiling in the purgatory world of Investment Banking. I decided I needed more work-life balance and could sense the good times the Investment Banking sector were going through was going to end at some point. I found a new job, in Corporate Finance for a major company.

I was 32 years old.  I was bored with the city I lived in. I was bored with my job. I was bored with the relationship I was in (which I got into because at 30, the natural step is to consider marriage). I cut off all of it when I found a job in London. This would give me the chance for big change.

I was 35 years old. I hated the new job. It was no different from anything else. I needed a change. I need to get out of the industry and do something I love.

I was 37 years old. I got out of the industry I was in, but I remained in Finance. This meant more spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides. I knew right away when I took on this new job I would hate it. Everything had changed, yet everything was the same.

I was 40 years old. I couldn’t switch jobs again. I kept changing jobs and it was leading me nowhere. If I saved a bit more money in the job, perhaps I could leave finance entirely, move somewhere cheaper and live a quiet life doing something I like?

I was 45 years old. I found myself with a wife and kid. I definitely couldn’t leave my job at that point. I had to put my family first and focus on their security.

I was 64 years old. I would have to work a few more years. The market crashed and the kids’ education cost me more than I had planned for. I didn’t have enough money saved and my pension wasn’t enough to retire on.

I was 68 years old. Retirement. Finally. I could look forward to a peaceful existence.

I am 70 years old. How did I end up here? How did I spend the better part of my life miserable, always looking for the next move to give me happiness and the answers I was searching for in life? Why didn’t I ever do something I really wanted to do? Why didn’t I at least try? Could I have had a family if I had chosen a more unconventional path, or was this the only way?

When I look back, I realise that I never took control over the major decisions in my life, they were always in control of me.

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