Riding a massive sugar high, I sat in my hotel room alone.
Moments earlier, I could be found binge-eating over half a dozen warm, decadent chocolate chip cookies that kind folks at The Double Tree Inn so thoughtfully provide to its patrons. My room looked as if a small tornado had flung my suitcase across the area. Every article of clothing I brought was on the floor. All my books and papers were sprawled out across the bed. Notecards and folders were chaotically spread across every inch of counterspace I had at my disposal.
My room was a wreck, and so was I.
At this very moment, I was doing absolutely nothing.
Normally this is okay, in fact I rather like doing nothing. However, at this particular moment, doing nothing was not a great idea.
In about 2 hours I had the most important presentation of my life. I was competing in a business plan competition called e-Fest. It was a national competition that would look great on any resume, a very big deal for some people. There was also $100,000 on the line, a much bigger deal for most people.
My business plan had been selected amongst hundreds of entries, and I was now competing against some of the brightest and hardest-working 20-somethings I had ever met. Many came from Ivy-League schools. Others had started businesses that already made hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
And as for yours truly?
Well, I had a cool idea for an app. That’s really about it. I wanted to make a budgeting app to help college students transition from college to the “real world”. It was a neat idea, but nothing more than that — an idea.
I had already won a business plan competition to the tune of $10,000, so I knew it struck a cord with someone. But here? In a national competition against real businesses?
I knew I had lost the moment I walked into the first terribly uncomfortable networking event and found myself in pure awe of massive achievements of my laser-focused peers.
It was at this very moment, sitting in a Double Tree Inn, unable to think properly due to the aforementioned warm (and particularly decadent) chocolate chip cookies, with papers flung across the room, my suit severely wrinkled, and my pitch deck unchecked for grammar or spelling mistakes, that a profound question crossed my mind.
“Why am I doing this to myself?”
It seemed to echo around the walls of my head. Why in the world was I doing this to myself? I hated this. I had dedicated the last two months of my life to this. I was constantly stressed out. I missed classes to work on my presentation. I choose to read business books over spending time with my friends. I choose sleep deprivation and constant work over healthy eating and exercise.
It was at this very moment, contemplating this very question, that I made the most important decision of my life.
I made a decision that I was going to value my own happiness, my own wellbeing, and my own health more than my desires to make money and attain “success” (whatever that means). I decided I wasn’t going to work 80-hour weeks to achieve my dreams. I wasn’t going to out-hustle and grind my way to the top.
I decided I was going to be happy. I decided I was going to be balanced. I decided I was going to meditate, exercise, eat healthy, and invest in my friends and family.
I decided that I would rather live a life of love, happiness, and tranquility than one of manic depression in the name of achieving some artificial construct that society told me was valuable.
So, what did I do?
I decided not to give a fuck.
I bombed my presentation. I mean I really bombed it.
I didn’t look at my slides once. I rambled on for far too long in certain areas, and barely touched other. At one point, I saw the judges make eye contact with one another during my pitch, as if to say, “How did this kid even make it here?”
During the questions and answers section, I was asked, “Why’d you choose the name ‘FinMoto’ for your company?”, to which I responded, “Hahaha, yeah I really don’t know actually, I guess I just liked how it sounded, ya’ know?”. Jeffrey, the 57-year old CEO of a prestigious publicly-traded company, did not know what I meant, nor was he amused at my half-assed attempt to have fun (you see, fun is not allowed in the business word — old white guys like Jeffrey believe it is the antithesis of productivity and profit).
So I bombed it.
But I bombed it with so much confidence and swagger that it was almost beautiful.
As these judges picked apart my entire presentation, I stood there trying my hardest to look like I gave a flying fuck. I truly didn’t care what these judges said. I didn’t care about losing. I didn’t care about whether or not I won $100,000. I didn’t care about what my family or professors would think of my “failure”.
I had finally freed myself from the shackles of relentless greed and aimless ambition.
Within a matter of hours, I had gone from questioning my own sanity to floating on a wave of tranquility.
I made a decision to start the long and difficult process of bettering every aspect of myself. I had neglected so much of who I was for so long, and now it was time to awaken myself from the slumber of my own delusion.
It was the best decision I ever made.
I’ve gone from battling depression to being a (generally) happy, grateful, and upbeat person. I’ve gone from struggling with own self image to feeling good about who I am on a daily basis. I went from being a physically and emotionally unhealthy individual to someone who practices meditation daily, eats healthy, and enjoys to work out.
I’m not telling you this to make myself feel good, I’m telling you this because I know how it feels to really, truly hate yourself.
I still have days where I want to give up. I have days where I stay in bed and sleep away an entire afternoon despite a daunting to-do list. I have days where I fall back in to my former self, and forget who I really am.
But after I made the decision to commit myself to becoming just a little bit better, happier, and joyful than I was the day before, I never dipped back down into the pool of self-loathing that I used to drown in.
Self-improvement is a never-ending journey towards creating a better tomorrow for yourself and the people around you. It never stops, and in a way that’s what makes it worth pursuing in the first place. There is no limit to how much happiness we can feel, how much love we can give, and how much joy we can spread. Every day I work to be just a little bit better than I was yesterday, and to love myself and the people around me just a little bit more.
Sitting in a Double Tree Inn, high as a kite on chocolate chip cookies, I had finally broke through the wall that had held me back for so long.
Choose happiness. You deserve it.