For all of my 20s and much of my 30s there was a failure tiger nipping at my heels. No matter how fast I ran, it was still there – hot breath, sharp teeth and a whispered growl promising a bleak future. The beast was born from a mix of personal insecurities and childhood trauma. An idea that I had opted into an industry that was waiting to spit me out as soon as I messed up. And that as I reached my mid 40s, the fall would be inevitable based on hitting irrelevance in an industry that valued youth and code. The stories of similar knocking down of men in other industries, including my own father.
Into grad school, a startup and then Google, I was sure the tiger existed. It drove and motivated me, but also poisoned the accomplishments; played a role in anxiety, sadness and physical ailments. Insidiously, the tiger was able to convince me that its existence was also the only reason I was succeeding. Satisfaction and happiness would become complacency. And complacency would result in failure.
I write to you at the end of 2019, having been free of the tiger for seven years or so. What did it? Becoming a parent and the support of my wife; therapy; and the very material realization that I had saved enough money to create a safety net for my family. [Side note, that’s one reason I support detaching health care from employment and other public sector benefits which give Americans security apart from their work].
If you’re being chased by a tiger, or a dragon, or whatever symbolic metaphor your fear manifests itself as, know that you’re not alone and that it’s a state of being, not a destiny. And if the holiday season is especially hard on you, or 2019 has just been a shit year, you can always email me [hunterwalk gmail] and I’ll try my best to share any useful details of my experiences.