The Problem with too many Opportunities

When I was younger, my highest vision of myself was as a very intelligent, driven visionary who could do anything I put my mind to. In my mind’s eye I saw myself as fierce, as a person who lived life inquisitively. More importantly I saw myself as a person who could transition from one area of expertise to another without too much trouble. I strived to understand the world and it’s people so that I could be in a position of power and understanding.

My imagination allowed me to entertain the ideas of numerous career and life choices. I enjoyed writing, so I wondered what life as a writer would be like. I loved math, so I imagined one day being a world-renowned mathematician. I even played with the idea of starting my own company¬† (I wanted to start a hedge fund, another time an organization based on finance/economics and mathematics which served to alleviate poverty, yet another time I wanted to start¬† a school for highly gifted individuals (not just children and young adults) that is unconventional in it’s ways of teaching (I’ll probably write more thoroughly on this topic at a later date). I was inspired by well-done movies, so I envisioned being a director: what touches people? what fundamental truths do we need to convey? what about the human condition? what about relationships? what about drive? How do we capture the formative events of childhood? what about Genius? Tragedy? Religion? Love? Psychology? History? Motivation/Inspiration? At one point, I began to write a still-unfinished movie-script whose main character is loosely based on my person and on my life.

These aspirations were very real to my younger self, and they’ve been a powerful driving force for a lot of the things I did, and they probably had a large influence on my personality. As I get older I realize how very little time I actually have to explore a lot of these things. Yet, in many ways, I’m still trying hard to not define myself by just one label. I still want to be in that childhood world where
the possibility of being anything I want to be is real and attainable. I’m still fighting the event horizon in an effort not to be sucked down the black whole of an inescapable career and destiny. But it’s occurred to me that unless I change some of these career aspirations to ones more in tune with my biological needs and wants I may be fighting a battle which I can’t win.

The ability to realize the objects and desires of our mind has never been greater than it is today. The lives of previous giants who have brought humanity to it’s current level of technology and information have been, in comparison to ours, restricted in many ways (not to mention those of more ordinary people). In wealthy and progressive countries a lot of individuals are in a position where they have the opportunities to be many things, the only limitation is time. I’m reminded of part of the lyrics of Aqua-Barbie Girl when Barbie sings “imagination, life is your creation”— indeed life is our creation… but at the very least the implication of this is that we spend a lot more of our time wondering “what if”. Unfortunately, it seems that while our life-span and energy is very much comparable to those people who lived 100 years ago, the possibilities for how we live our lives and our technology have advanced drastically faster.

One of the reasons I did not continue with theoretical math is because of the seclusion and lack of impact I felt in this field. Also, I felt that theoretical mathematics impaired my ability to give back the way I wanted to, and it made me feel that unless I spent every waking moment immersed in it, I was not going to discover something new. In short, when under the “influence” of theoretical mathematics I was really living in my head (I still feel like this a lot of the time, but less so than before). Now the past dream of renowned mathematician is become less likely (after spending what seems like a lifetime working in theory, it was not an easy thing to accept, not the impossibility of fame, but the loss of those rare yet intensely rewarding moments doing that kind of math brings) so I’m faced with the task of doing something equally meaningful, equally beautiful, and all the while it must bring me the satisfaction of interacting with interesting people and of giving back to the world something I am proud of. It’s not an easy feat to find the thing that moves you most when you’re swimming in a sea of opportunities knowing that your time is very much your biggest handicap. So while Barbie can go on singing and entertaining different life-scenarios, us mere mortals must eventually get close enough to some event horizon to get sucked down a path which will ultimately give way to our destiny.