Security. Engrained from a very young age my parents taught my sisters and I to establish security in life. Security in the form of education, relationships, career and finance. Like most immigrants, my parents had to work extremely hard to provide for us in a new country starting from zero. They went through real struggles that my sisters and I were fortunate to never have had to go through and because of the adversity they faced, my parents know what works and what doesn't work to create and maintain security. Cultural norms is at a competitive 1st place battle in the Chai's parental style and you can read more about how it influenced my upbringing in my earlier blog "[Not So] Crazy & [Not So] Rich Asians".
"When the wind of change blows, some people build walls and others build windmills" - Chinese Proverb
I recently connected with close friends of mine who are from different walks of life about their perspectives on where they see themselves now and where they are headed towards. Most have settled and are raising beautiful families of their own while rocking their own professional lives on the side and a small handful, like myself are pursuing passions. One friend made a statement during our coffee date that stood out to me and they said, "I feel like almost every time we get together I don't have anything exciting to share and when I hear about yours, you have so many things going on - I feel like my life is so boring". This got me thinking about the following: although we are all on our unique paths we have this in common. We all grow up with certain expectations or goals to achieve at certain points in our lives.
A very cut and dry depiction starts from the age of 5 or 6 when we start kindergarten and work towards graduating high school. After high school is attending University or College to receive higher level specialization in the fields that we choose that will determine our career for the next 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years. Next we meet someone, fall in love and get married. Next step is starting a family and raising our own children to be successful, happy and positive contributors to society and as parents, we can "let go" and tell ourselves that the job has been done (this is probably the number one goal for Asian parents). As most of you know I dutifully went through the motions and have attacked life with the mind set of creating security for myself in my professional life. But ever since high school, I knew I wanted something more and something different from the mainstream and that was music. I heard about the "struggling artist", the dog-eat-dog culture of the entertainment industry and how the chances of "making it" is 1/1 million. Realizing that the odds were already stacked against me, this propelled me towards my pharmacy career because I knew I would obtain self-sufficient security with this profession. Smart? Maybe. Practical? More like it.
A lot of people may categorize me as being successful and "set for life" in this profession and being in management bumps up the prestigious card. I honestly don't care. My picture was apparently in the Walmart flyers for a few weeks and a lot of my patients have congratulated me (even cut out copies from the flyer to give me!) and some have even said to me, "Natalia, you are rising to the top!" I am very humbled but I also found this peculiar because I didn't feel nor see myself in that way in pharmacy. Then I started asking myself why is that? It came down to the realization that I was not satisfied with the status quo even though I have security in my life. I remember to this day the feeling of "impending doom" when I took on management and for 5 years (2&1/2 years of management) I was really struggling despite how it looked on the outside to others. I am grateful for the opportunity because it has taught me so many things about myself and many life skills and yet I was not happy and felt empty. Some of you may be thinking, "Natalia, you're crazy!"
The flyer that my patients are congratulating me on about! Some patients said I need to actually "smile" lol
Status quo is predictable. Status quo is comfortable. I was muddling through my work day, work weeks where change was minimal (with added unnecessary stress) and I was working all the time in an "auto-pilot" lull with the predictable routines of my day. Please do not get me wrong - I am very grateful for having a job during a time when so many are not so fortunate. But my life became mundane. I've become a maintainer of life and it felt very much like I was living for other people's expectations. I wasn't content with doing things the way they've always been done. I was frustrated with myself that I couldn't make a change because I was so focused on security. So focused on that one thing that I was letting the status quo limit my potential and abilities. Then once upon a time, I decided to take a chance on music and I found the hunger for that something different I felt in high school. Isn't it ironic?? For someone who is all about security I took a chance on something that represents the complete polar opposite - can you wrap your head around this? Let me explain!
Deciding on music was one of the best thing that I could have done for myself! For those of you who don't know already, music has always been a part of my life. I was classically trained in piano and then moved over to R&B/Neosoul. Music has literally saved me during my darkest times and one of the greatest feedback that I received about my work was how it helped others through theirs. I'm not arguing the fact that being a pharmacist I don't have an affect on my patients because I am reminded everyday by them that I am valued in their lives. In fact my patients make getting up for work a little more bearable - they have become my family. But I still somehow felt unfulfilled. The profession was predictable and I was at a status quo. I found myself becoming frustrated, anxious, exhausted, stressed, complacent and unmotivated to grow in this field.
Music on the other hand although scary and uncertain, gave me leadership in my life. Through music I found an energy, a livelihood and hunger to continue growth as a singer-songwriter and musician but also as a person. Music gave me the courage to step out of my comfort zone, to challenge cultural norms and most importantly, it gave me the courage to want to fail. The change allowed me to envision and believe in a different future (in my opinion, a better one) than what my parents had in mind for me. My parents' generation protects the status quo because it's been proven to work and create results. Anything that strays from the familiar becomes a territory of uncertainty/chaos, fear and danger. But this often means sacrificing their own dreams and happiness.
The world is much different than it was even 10 years ago and the status quo that may have allowed for sustainability in my parents' generation will no longer be applicable in this day and age especially when things are constantly changing and evolving. I alluded to the importance of finding self fulfillment and a huge part of that is personal growth. Change creates and provides more opportunities to grow and mature. I am equally excited and scared to share that I have finally made a decision that will bring change to my life to allow for more self growth, challenge and discovery. It is a bitter sweet change but a decision that I have been building up the courage to do for myself - no one else. With the prospect of change I am looking far ahead to my long term goals and aspirations.
Most importantly, I see this change as an opportunity where it allows me to acknowledge and see the value of executing the status quo AND also pursuing impactful change and innovation. Would you like to join me?
Are you somebody who would rather stay the course or champion change?