A few nights ago, I was home for my family’s annual Christmas caroling party. What started as a family Christmas party over ten years ago has evolved significantly. Kids that were once dragged to the party by their parents have now grown up (I use that word in the loosest of terms), and in the last 2 years the party has developed an after-party, in addition to the main caroling party. The first party involves socializing, catching up, drinking Christmas drinks, eating chili (an old family recipe that my mom now uses), and singing traditional Christmas carols. Prior to two years ago, people slowly make their exit, and by about 9:00 PM everyone had left. However…
In 2013, my parents moved to a downtown condo located right between two of the most popular nightlife streets in Cleveland. Realizing this, the now-grown-up children (including myself) used the opportunity to move the caroling party to the nearby bars and clubs afterwards. To make a long story short, we ended up in a bottle-service nightclub in the same booth as the Detroit Pistons.
The Christmas caroling party this year was not much different. The caroling party concluded and the “adult” party began. This was filled with Backstreet Boys songs, Justin Bieber, classic rap, new rap, and much more. My girlfriend and I hastily cleaned some of the dishes from the chili feast, and then we joined the party at a nearby bar.
I’m trying to think of a polite word for “shitshow”. (Revelry, perhaps?) Everyone was having a great time, ordering drinks, singing pop songs, and enjoying themselves. I was also having a good time, being in the joyful atmosphere. However, I had decided that I didn’t need anything else to drink at this point. I had already had two delicious Christmas Ales at the party and that amount is now about the maximum number of drinks that I care to enjoy at one time anymore, just because I don’t like dealing with the brain fog or the hangover the next day. Personally, I don’t have an issue with people having a lot to drink unless they invade my bubble or become unnaturally affectionate. (We’ve all that conversation with the guy who says “I love you, man” even though you’ve met less than 10 minutes ago.) I do, however, take issue when this behavior turns into what we celebrate.
One of the guys from the caroling party was ordering shots. He pointed at me and asked if I wanted one. I politely declined, knowing that I would be asked again. He did, and I refused once more, saying that I was fine. He responding by saying something along the lines of, “Come on, man! It’s time to celebrate! It’s my birthday, and I want everyone to have a good time.” Rather than engage in a debate with someone who wouldn’t even remember our conversation, I just assured him that I really was having a good time, and that I had had enough to drink already.
After he left, I turned to my girlfriend and said. “He’s got it all wrong. Life isn’t about celebrating getting drunk. It’s about celebrating accomplishments that are the results of your passion. It’s about spending time with people that you love and truly care about. If that involves drinking and making memories, then great! But if the point is to avoid your real life by getting drunk then it’s being done for the wrong reason.”
To be fair, the kid was just finishing up college, and I had the exact same mentality back in 2013 as well. As students, we went through similar experiences and then socialized over those shared experiences through alcohol. We celebrated the end of finals with alcohol. We celebrated birthdays with alcohol. Then we joked about things that we did when we were drunk… while drinking more alcohol. After I graduated, that mentality of celebrating life with alcohol carried over into the real world.
The real world is more stressful than college world. Getting good grades does not equal money for rent. Despite graduating with honors and three majors from the University of Wisconsin, I found myself in what I am now convinced as one of the worst jobs that anyone can have – a third party logistics salesperson. To give you some context, I spent my days cold calling companies and trying to bullshit them into leaving their existing logistics provider. I lied to truck drivers about delivery times so that they would take jobs they otherwise would not. Worst of all, I was doing something that I had absolutely zero passion for. After a few months of this, I was lonely, unfulfilled, and miserable.
I can distinctly remember being at a bar in July 2013. I was already past the point of enjoying being out. Surrounded by other sweaty, drunk people, I had no interest in interacting with any of them. I felt like I had no ability to add value to the life of one person in that bar. I actually wanted to forget who I was. I was so embarrassed of where I was in my life. All of those late hours spent studying, all of those internships – what were they for? I felt like I was letting down all of my friends and family. Needless to say, I was nowhere near to meeting my own expectations either. I was ashamed of myself. I remember wanting to forget my own name, and I was ordering Double LIT’s as fast as the bartender could pour them. She cut me off after my third in 2 minutes. Somehow, I remember the drive home with my friend later that night. I said:
“This can’t be what life is all about. I don’t know what IT is, but it’s not this.”
It’s not as dramatic as many of the rock bottom stories you hear from now-successful entrepreneurs, but it was the lowest point of my life that I can remember. That was when I knew that I had to make a serious change to my life.
The change didn’t happen instantly. It was much more gradual than you would think. It took years of reading self-help books, taking major risks, and asking for help from friends and family. It was accompanied by the growth of a business, the development of more serious, deeper relationships, and a lot of personal work that involved strengthening more than just my ability to perform physical tasks. (Hint: I’ve done a lot of spiritual and emotional work.)
It’s been almost two and a half years since I attempted to escape myself by consuming cheap alcohol from a dirty bar on East 6th Street, but I’m finally able to articulate what I started to realize back then; that I should celebrate my passion, instead of celebrating the escape of work.
Celebrate your passion. Find a way that your passion can help other people. Don’t try to escape your reality – confront it. And if you are doing something that makes you want to literally forget who you are, maybe you should change it.
I need to get back to my family now. Mom is yelling at me to join them and watch Love Actually. 🙂 Happy Holidays!