I was originally going to try and explain some of the successes I’ve been having, but anytime I try I just end up adding too many personally identifying details. I know there isn't a "right" answer to any of this, so instead I really just want to hear what you guys would do if you were in this situation. There's a TLDR at the end.
To make a long story short, I’m a senior in college and I’m engaged in several high level opportunities at the moment (for example – working closely with a CEO and some other individuals who have been written about in prominent news publications). All of these opportunities are coming from the realm of business and entrepreneurship. I’m not a business major (or a finance major, or an economics major, or any other major related to business). I’m a liberal arts major. Less than a year ago, I had no experience with anything related to business, entrepreneurship, or Silicon Valley. My plans for the future – either to sustain myself while writing or as a backup in case a creative career didn't work out – involved getting a PhD and then trying to get into some alt-academic path. I found certain parts of Bay Area culture and business culture in general to be obnoxious honestly, and I took pride in separating myself from that culture.
I wasn’t expecting to fall into all of this. But somehow I did, and here I am. It started with a workshop and things progressed so quickly from there. Once I got one “flashy” opportunity, something else even flashier would come along. It’s like a snowball. Once the ball got rolling, people suddenly became more and more interested in me, even though I'm no different than I was one year ago (and I don't know if any of these people would have even been interested in me a year ago…). I feel an immense amount of guilt for being in my position, because I know how lucky I am. I also know that my heart isn’t in any of this. The pressure is intense, the stakes are high, and the work I’m doing leaves me with a sickly feeling in my stomach at the end of the day because I know deep down it isn’t going to bring me real happiness. I completed two programs related to business "innovation" and entrepreneurship, and I thought it was a horrible culture fit. I felt like I could relate to hardly any of the other students in these programs, most of whom were in STEM. So much jargon. So much bullshit. The kind of thinking and analysis you'd find in the humanities and social sciences, absent. It was kind of nauseating at times.
I originally resisted going to college – I figured, why not try to make it without a degree first? But I ultimately decided to attend straight out of high school, and found myself quickly falling in line. Despite the amount of unhappiness college brought into my life, for one reason or another I felt this compulsion to become some sort of model student; good grades, getting involved with professors, getting involved in research and generally signaling a strong interest in academics and academia. I could rant all day long about how much I hated school, but at the end of the day, I just fell in line… I thought all of this was making me unhappy. Boy did I not know that it could get any worse. Even though I still resent how modern universities are structured, at least I like the content of my classes.
I feel absolutely miserable with my life right now. I haven’t written anything in the past year. My writing slowed to a glacial pace ever since the end of high school/start of college. I can’t even bring myself to engage in the fun, “easy” activities I used to use as an escape, because they aren’t bringing me happiness anymore (things like playing video games, watching movies, reading fun stuff on Reddit, etc.). I saw a psychiatrist very briefly not too long ago, and they told me I had generalized anxiety disorder and severe major depression. I was even flagged by a social worker. I honestly think I’m in denial over how poor my mental state is.
I feel like this path I’m going down is like falling into rapids – I’m getting swept away and can’t climb out. Every month that passes by I feel myself growing more and more distant from my identity as a writer/creative person. Being in an unpleasant environment used to be creative fuel, because I could use that frustration and angst. Now it's just become totally withering. How can I think about anything creative, when I have meetings to prepare for and events to plan and reports to write and people to call? My decisions don't even feel like my own anymore, even though I know they are. These “opportunities” are dominating my thoughts and sucking up what little space I have left in my brain. Did I mention things have been getting more and more political too? It's very stressful. Sometimes I feel a bit like a pawn.
Even when I have tried writing or doing something creative lately, I find that the comedown is too painful. Eventually, I have to step away and face what real life is like again. I don’t even like listening to music anymore: it’s too emotional and makes me think about creative projects. The greatest amount of resentment I feel is directed towards myself, for allowing all of this to happen.
I feel like I was too much of a pussy to make writing a priority from day one. People who majored in creative writing or went to an art school seemed irresponsible to me. I figured that I only had a short window of time to keep up the momentum with college, but a lifetime to spend writing. I figured it would be best to endure some unpleasantness now if it meant opening doors for myself that I could utilize down the line, as a backup plan. Now my plan A has become my plan B and then C and then D, and the picture I had of myself working in an artistic job is slowly being replaced by an image of me, at 45 years old, working in some high level business role, thinking “where the fuck have the past 20 years gone?”.
I feel like I’m losing myself. The person I wanted to become is disappearing and being replaced with someone I never wanted to be. I feel like I can’t walk away because doing so would be insane – how lucky am I to have these opportunities, why wouldn’t I take advantage of them? Everyone around me is so happy and so impressed with how I'm doing. My parents are so proud. If I try to voice my concerns to them or anyone else, they find a way to quickly shut me down, because talking about quitting is crazy talk and there's no point in wasting time engaging in crazy talk. And I have to take advantage of these opportunities now, or else the train will lose it’s steam and all momentum will be lost. You’re only going to be in college for a little while longer, why can’t you be patient and just focus on school for now? Rationalizing things in this way doesn't change one simple fact though – I don't find the work I'm doing to be fulfilling, and I feel like it's stealing time and energy away from more creative pursuits. I'm still interested in going to graduate school, but even that could fall by the wayside with how things are going. As miserable as all of this makes me, I can't shake the deeply held fear that killing this momentum now is going to be something I'll profoundly regret down the line, especially if a creative career doesn't pan out.
TLDR: I feel like I've fallen into a success trap – I'm finding a lot of success in a field I never wanted to be successful in, and it's sucking up significant amounts of my time and energy that could be spent doing something creative and fulfilling. I feel miserable right now and I know that I'm slowly becoming entrapped, but I also feel like it would be insane to walk away. College will be coming to an end soon, and I'm at a crossroads and don't know how to proceed.