Friday. 6:10 AM. The alarm rings. How I mustered up the strength to pull off the blankets and get up, I don’t know. The week had been hectic, boss out on holidays. I felt like I had just fallen asleep. Anyway, 7:30, already at the office. 8:00, time to shoot a new video for our website. 8:10, conference call with the derivatives desk. 8:30, another one with the New York team. Lots of things to do before my trip, scheduled for that very same night. Final revision of presentations, put business cards aside. 5:00 PM, going back home to snatch up my luggage, which even Up in the Air’s George Clooney would be jealous of.
The phone rings. It’s a NY colleague, saying a client urgently wants a conference call. Can he please wait some 15 minutes? Then I’ll be in the taxi; it’ll be easier to speak. Airport. Just myself and my hand luggage. It’s already boarding time.
Abu Dhabi, Saturday evening. Later than I wish it were. After all, Sunday is not for resting there, me included. The alarm rings. I have no idea what time it could be back home. But the meetings begin. One, two, five… Airport. Off to Hong Kong. Another 8 hours on a plane. However, this time I came prepared: Stilnox, so that my body would have no doubt it had to sleep. “Fasten your seat belt, bundle up and then just swallow it down, because you’re going to conk out”, that’s what I was told. I wish. Paradoxical effect: I’m one of the happy 10% of the population for which Stilnox acts like 10 red bulls. I’ll remember that when I have to pull my next all-nighter.
But that doesn’t affect the Hong Kong schedule. Two hours at the hotel to freshen up and pretend I feel fine. And then off to the first meeting. Second. Seventh. Dinner with client. Who orders dessert. Tea. Maybe he ordered something else, but I had already given up and fallen asleep on the restaurant’s armchair.
Why the hell am I doing all this?
I was reared in rather modest standards. My mom was a teacher, dad was a psychiatrist. Sao Paulo’s middle class, amidst the economic turmoil Brazil was to weather in the 80s. Everything kind of happened by chance, no master plan. My decisions were based more on the safety perspective rather than on any draft of a personal fulfillment outline. In the pre-stabilization Brazil of the early 90’s, to pursue a non-conventional career was too much of a risk. I ended up in production engineering. Down the road, I kind of tried and took a break to think about it all. That’s when I did my masters. But then came the unrefusable offer to join the hard core of the Brazilian financial market.
The idea of leaving a structure frightened me. What to do with the fear of regretting? But as a friend once told me: go ahead, fears alongside. So I left.
I learned a lot, I grew a lot and I overcame myself in all those years in the sell-side. I met brilliant people. I had the most interesting discussions. And yes, of course, I made some money, bought my flat, made nice trips. But then comes the time of boarding to Abu Dhabi. Buying things I didn’t want. Spending money on fancy dinners; after all that’s what I’m working for. Attempts to materially compensate for the dissonance between who I was and who I longed to be. It all begun to be a bit too much.
Shouldn’t I have saved a bit more? Maybe in a couple of years this and that will happen and things will get better, no? Who knows? In any case, just like Giselle Bündchen said when she retired, my body was telling me to stop. More than once I landed up at the hospital from a stomachache, sore throat, the works.
The idea of leaving a structure frightened me. Be free and go wherever the wind blows? What if towards a dead end? Listening from quite a few people I dearly respected that I might be giving up on a promising future wasn’t much of a help either. Going on 40, I’d be at the heights of my productivity capacity. To then stop just like that? What would I say when inevitably asked at that party “So what do you do?” Would it be ever possible to be back at where I left? What to do with the fear of regretting? But as a friend once told me: go ahead, fears alongside. So I did. Without knowing what was to come, I resigned. How I mustered up the courage, I intend to tell. And talk about doubts that still stick around. But most of all, about how good it feels to have time to think about it all. And beyond. Come along.