topsy turvy

Last week in multiplayer mode, I described the exhilarating anticipation of ending my nomadic journey and re-integrating into creative communities. This desire is strong, and I've never been as keen to double down on community with an enhanced mind, heart, and soul. What this doesn't imply is what the path looks like and how I'm going to get there. Like any improviser, the fun is in discovery. Then the real challenge rears its chameleonized shapeshifting face: what do you do when you get thrown a series of unexpected influences that can cause the scene to quickly spiral out of control?

The microcosm of my life bubble rotates in topsy turvy fashion, similar to the belly-up arch of the paraglider I flew across Jounieh Bay earlier today. The laws of gravity clash with the laws of entropy. C'est la vie. Turmoil in paradise! Like a standardized caption for a low-production dramatic thriller, that's how I'd describe the current state of the world. I'm currently writing this in sunny Lebanon, a country facing economic collapse and political duress — ravaged by massive hyperinflation, post-port explosion recovery efforts, and the unnerving elections next week that will potentially shake up Lebanese life as we know it.

I've never been one to attach too much weight to socio-economic movements, largely because they're out of my control, but there are a few fresh observations that deserve coverage. The capital markets are imploding — the S&P is crumbling to the tune of +15% and my investment portfolio (a mix of 70% ETF/equities & 30% cryptoassets) is down like 90% or something crazy. Not sure because I've stopped checking for a while now. The technology talent markets are hemorrhaging as well — there's currently a dense spreadsheet floating around outlining venture-backed startups and the number of layoffs made in recent weeks. I largely lived ignorant in 2008 as a cheery-eyed 11-year-old, but it's hard to ignore the looming cataclysm on the horizon now.

So as I re-enter the North American hemisphere filled with trademark Sam optimism, I can't help but take note of the widest gulf in my financial and job security in history. Ouch, I say, as I brace for landing.

You wonder: am I worried at all? Truthfully, anxiety is an emotion that has been slowly creeping up, a mood I've been turning over in my head as I think through the forks in my career paths and creative pursuits. As a natural dreamer, there's so much in the backlog: stretching my engineering muscles to create useful unconventional products, curating a set of soothing third spaces to connect with inspiring individuals, and experimenting with long-form writing pieces again on niche topics like Middle Eastern tech progress and shadow-based inner work. Having these passion projects acts as a layer of insulation against sparking anxieties, but also necessitates focus in the second post-COVID summer sequel.

The differentiator in this upcoming downturn harks back to a familiar story: hard work wins. To me, this means sharpening an iron-clad conviction to build back from scratch, to chip away at my goals with consistency. Early-20s Sam reminds me that having a world-class work ethic, combined with a relentless curiosity for active learning, is a tried-and-true gamechanger. Even in the scenarios where I stay unemployed for a long period of time and my savings continue to dwindle, the hope is that I become tightly anchored to the long-term vision and immediate-term community. If at every checkpoint I can confidently say, "I'm trying and working my hardest", then the output is clear. Both realized and unrealized gains will accrue. I'm going to dream my own dream until the bitter end. A timeless mantra: patience is powerful.

Looking back at the past 9 months, the boundary between play and work has teetered closer to an 80/20 split. I've definitely been more present and embraced life to its fullest, but committing to travel mode for such a prolonged time has come at a cost. How much have I forgotten what it means to rise and grind? To what degree can I (re)find meaning and play in work? What is work? 

Let's keep spinning, with just as much gusto and even more hustle :)

Published by Sam (samwong) 1 week ago on Wednesday the 11th of May 2022.

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