Sunday, August 29, 2010

Back to the Future (warning: long, dry, rambling)

How to start, how to start.  This is going to be one of those rare posts that are a bit more serious than usual, but I thought I'd want to put it up here because it's important to me.  I'll probably look back at this post years later and think "hmm.. so this was the pivotal moment that brought me here".

Tentative.  I've been holding myself back because I have a tentative personality.  Whenever, things weren't going my way, I wouldn't try to confront the situation.  Instead, I'd just try to wait it out and see what happens.  I alway had the idea that things would work out.  Things always work out right?  For me, it was true for the most part.  I took the backseat, just following the standard path through college and my future looked alright.  I'm not a driven person, because I didn't feel the need.  I saw myself living in the bay area, with a cushy career and living it up.

But now I'm sitting in Oregon, and recently I started feeling trapped.  It was like I was following someone else's dream.  Throughout this whole year, I've been listening to my Uncle's dream of building a company and having me take it over.  It was a grand and lofty vision that widened my eyes initially.  But after a while, I realized that's not what I want in life.   Whenever I met his friends, he'd ecstatically introduce me as the nephew that would take over his business.  I'd just stand there and smile.  Until now, I didn't have the heart to tell him thats not what I wanted.

This engineering project has not turned out as we all had hoped.  I mean it's still on, but funding is lagging (characteristic of most big engineering projects) to the point where my Uncle can't give me an exact date of when we will have a line of credit to work with.  He's given me so many deadline estimations that I was growing weary and discontent.  I barely even gotten paid for my work up here, because the funding hasn't come in.  I've been extremely patient about this, but I'm reaching a breaking point.  I spent all this time researching, designing, talking to machinery companies and we still don't have funding to work with? This was not what I had envisioned when I took this project on 7 months ago.

But I'm not blaming him.  I'm sure he's not trying to shaft me.  He wants this project more than I do.  It's that I'm feeling a harsh discomfort from the uncertainty of my career.  I don't want to wait around for so long, when I could be out there furthering my career.  I remember in the beginning of the year, I was offered a contract position with my old company.  But I was already up in Oregon, and figured I already made a commitment.  What I should have done, was talk to my Uncle about it.  But I didn't want to face confrontation.  Didn't want them to question my loyalty to the project, to the family.  Which was a poor move on my part.  I missed the bus on that opportunity, and I'm not going to do that to myself anymore.

I finally mustered the courage to tell him man to man what I wanted for my future.  It's funny how I'm going to turn 24 soon, and I never went against my family.  They've always pushed me towards helping the family business.  "You want to be an Engineer? Go work for your uncle, he has a machine shop!"  "I'm going to teach you everything I know, so that you can take over the business".  I had no interest in this business, but I just went along with everything, ignoring my own self-interests to not offend the family.

I was fearful of being cornered into running the business so I had to speak out now before I'm in too deep. I told him, I did not see myself as an entrepreneur, I had no interest in heading a company or running a business.  I did not see myself living here longterm in Portland.  If I were to be still living here 2 years from now, I certainly would not be happy.  Had it not been for this project, I'd probably be working back in the bay area and life would be great!  So he sat there taking in all I had to say and he did not fire back like I thought he would.  I mean two years ago, he was vigilant in pressuring my cousins and I into helping the family business.  But this time, he was hearing me out.

He told me, if I had a job waiting for me in the city, I could move back now.  When the funding comes in, I can come back to work on this project.  In addition to that, when the design is finalized most of my work can be done remotely.  We were talking about how technology makes it extremely easy to work from anywhere in the world.  I felt so relieved.  All I had to do was speak up, and I wouldn't have to be all stressed out about my future.  Why didn't I do this earlier?  I could have been looking for jobs, but I hadn't.  I was too trusting of this project, and rode the backseat.

Whatever, there's no point in dwelling with bygones.  I can only look forward.  I'm stuck at a crossroads, where I can't really go for a career job or try to go back to school.  The project is still very real, and will be back online within the next year.  For now, I need to make most of my access to the machine shop and learn all I can.  I want to learn enough so that when I'm eventually done with this project, I'll have many options to choose from.  Another thing is, I have to generate some kind of income right now, because my savings aren't going to last forever.  It's a bit daunting to be self-employed, but I'm looking at a few things I can do to earn some scratch.

I'm looking at partnering with my dad to design premium piano tools.  It's a niche market that seems to be pretty profitable.  Plus, it would be great engineering experience.   I also want to learn how to tune pianos.  It's a good blend of technical and musical skills that I believe suits me perfectly.  It would be a great skill to have for extra income.  If I'm able to do it well, I see myself tuning pianos longterm.  It's appointment based so that it's completely flexible so that I can earn money whenever I have free time.  If I ever get laid-off, or business is slow,  I always have piano tuning to fall back on.

Yep, so that's where I'm at right now.  It just feels strange to be on an unconventional path in life.  (conventional: Grade school->College->Stable Career) Thing's always work out right? Only if you know what you want and you go for it.

Good god this has got to be the longest post of all time.  Whoever made it to the end, I'm taking you out to dinner, no lie.


Henry Tran said...

I had a much longer and more thoughtful post, but the damn thing crashed and I lost it. Sigh. Abbreviated version.

I feel you on this, Broseph. Both been there at the same time. I see what you mean about opportunities and how things don't pan out.

I think as an outsider looking into what you've been doing, I had a different impression. Ask some other friends or coworkers of mine and I've mentioned how much I envy you working on what is basically a startup doing cutting edge technology. I think that kind of opportunity is hard to come by. This would be an awesome section of your resume at the age of 23 or 24. I have been presented zero realistic opportunities to make something from scratch for myself. You've heard me talking about how I'd like to work on something that makes a difference somewhere in the world beyond just capital markets.

It's been tough times, and nobody is where they thought we'd be. But we'll get there, where there might be!

Henry Tran said...

PS. Kitaro. I'l bring my 15% off coupon.

Alex Thunderlips said...

You're doing just fine. This project is great work experience. Just be glad it's in a related field of your major. I'm wasting mine. But, you can't live in regret. Everything is an opportunity to learn. You won't always learn something from it but you might learn not to do it again.

In this day and age, there's no such thing as a conventional path. I'd say the shift is more towards grade school, get impregnated or impregnate someone, drop out, work, go back to school, marry or remarry, divorce, remarry, divorce, and then the sweet release of death.

Fishy said...

I don't want yerr lifeee

Cora L. said...

Chadwick! Your post was very moving, and heartfelt. Thank you for sharing =) I'm glad you mustered up all that courage to speak up to your uncle. I think it does take a lot to go against your obligation to family, especially when you're knee-deep in their expectations.

And I'm very glad that he received your feelings so well! In life, you rarely every get what you want without asking for it. Respect, raises, everything! I'm so happy that you decided take the steering wheel and navigate your own journey.

I hope that you move back to sf soon! At least for the meantime until the project builds up more momentum. This is pretty inspiring man, and I truly wish you happiness in all of your endeavours, whatever they may be. =)

Anonymous said...

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