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For me, the holidays always bring about a time of self-reflection. Living in New York City, I only make it back home to the Bay Area two or three times a year, and one of them is always for Christmas. I haven’t lived in the Bay since 2010 and I’ve been out of California since 2012, so every return provides a nostalgic rush. My room in my parents’ house is still intact and all the local hangouts are still around. However, even if the surroundings haven’t change, the people did. Family and friends are getting older, getting married, having kids, facing personal obstacles, and reaching other milestones. Before, I was content with learning about these events through social media or the occasion catch-up conversation, but now I actually feel like I’m genuinely missing out by being away.

Right before leaving for this year’s holiday trip, I read an insightful editorial that sparked a lot of thought. Titled “The Four Stages of Life” by Mark Manson, the piece compartmentalized life into four main periods, each representing a reshuffling of one’s priorities:

  1. Mimicry: We spend the first part of our lives copying others to learn the “right” way to do things and how to fit in with society.
  2. Self-Discovery: Next, we become more self-reliant and focused on our individual selves. We experiment and take risks to find out what makes us unique.
  3. Commitment: We then identify those aspects most important to us (e.g. career, relationships) and dedicate ourselves strengthen them.
  4. Legacy: Lastly, we aim to pass value, knowledge, and wealth to the next generations.

I’ve spent the last decade immersed in Stage Two, living a very transient lifestyle in regards to residence, relationships, and career, with the pinnacle unfolding in NYC (which is the absolute best place to live out your Stage Two, by the way). However, there have been some recent rumblings. Manson states that you advance stages when your priorities change, and I’m starting to value certain things more than others.

A few months ago, I became randomly frustrated with myself because I haven’t optimized my stint in NYC. It’s probably the MBA in me, but I felt I was wasn’t using my full potential and abilities. Sure, I was having a lot of fun doing some cool things, but I wasn’t producing anything meaningful, in my opinion. The satisfaction of creating something has gradually taken precedence over any party or concert. This desire eventually led to UNCVR’s relaunch and a stronger career ambition to eventually down the line join a startup/ mid size firm where I can help build a business and brand. This new priority coincidentally coincides with Stage Three’s main focus.

I read another interesting article before my trip called the “Tail End” by Tim Urban. It states that if you’re 30% through your life, you’re likely 90% through your best relationships. It’s a bleak, yet logical article that emphasizes the scarcity of time and the importance of relationships. Maybe it’s the combination of both articles in addition to seeing how old my relatives were getting, but I realized that the relationships I left behind in California were becoming a top priority. I’ve missed out on a lot being across the country and I’m never going to get those moments back. Plus, I’m only seeing my closest friends probably twice a year. How much more am I willing to give up ? I used to very content with being self reliant and independent (Stage Two), but now, I want to be more inclusive and strengthen my more meaningful relationships.

It’s probably part of the maturation process of being 30, but I’m pretty certain that I’ve entered Stage Three. The 25 year old Rex would’ve feared this day, but the current me actually has no problem with it. I’ve lived a life and half over the last decade, so I’m kinda satisfied on the exploration and risk taking. I want to focus more on my personal relationships and actually building something with my skills and talents. However, to support these priorities I would need to move back to California (specifically back to Los Angeles).  NYC is amazing, but it’s never been place where I can spend forever. My timeline on moving back West has always sat vaguely in the back of my mind and every time I visit home, it gets a bit clearer. After having some personal revelations this time around, I think I will be ready to go back to California by late 2016. This certainly isn’t set in stone, as anything could happen in the next 10-12 months and keep in NYC, but the doubt isn’t as strong anymore.

Damn, I’m getting old.

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Rex Pham

Originally from the Bay Area, who then moved to Los Angeles, then out to New York City. NYU Stern MBA c/o 2014. Inspired by the grind of NYC to create something that has value. Lover of all things digital, culture, and brand strategy.

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