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The Wind at My Back

I always did what I was “supposed” to do, what was safest. I graduated college with a bachelor’s degree in finance. Immediately, and fortunately, I landed a job with one of the top four banks in the nation, J.P.Morgan Chase & Co. I spent the next five years moving up in positions in which I had decreasing interest simply because that was the career path that was placed before me. I remember commuting from Long Island into the city every morning so that I could sit at my desk for 9-10 hours, go home, and do it again the next morning. I remember looking around the train at other commuters, feeling very detached from that life. “Did they really enjoy doing this everyday?” “There has to be something more.”

My final position at J.P.Morgan was with the investment bank. My role was part of the project management office making sure other managers throughout the firm were reducing their staff by the amount they said they would by the end of each quarter. This was my lowest point. I felt very unfocused and being told to keep my head down and do the task just made me want something else even more. I would spend so much of my day staring out the window from my cubicle on the 26th floor. I could see the beautiful city skyline including the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center. I needed to escape. But how? There was such a big world out there and I needed to explore it.

This was very much a backlash of my decisions earlier in life. The financial crisis occurred while I was a sophomore in college. I was a film major, but I was highly responsible and knew there wasn’t financial security in film making. I was already working part time as a bank teller so I switched my major to finance knowing that in New York, it would be a secure career. I chose my life path based entirely on practicality rather than passion. My years at J.P.Morgan taught me that hard work cannot get you far in a career if there is no passion. You can never work hard enough if your heart is not in it. And you can’t force your heart into anything. I knew there was a wind at my back, and I needed to stop resisting it.

The ocean had always called to me. I knew I wanted to be out there. There is a sense of freedom on the water that is hard to achieve anywhere else. All directions are available to you. Its open, its freeing, and with sailing all you have is the feeling of the wind and the sound of the ocean. As I realized my role within J.P.Morgan was not going very well, I knew a change was needed. I started looking for other roles in finance but I was never excited to go on any of the interviews. I decided to start running towards a passion instead.

Practicality was still important so I researched a career path in sailing and learned what it would take to earn a captain’s license in the yachting industry. I found that Fort Lauderdale, FL was the capital of yachting and knew that was where I needed to go to get started. In November 2016, after a little over five years with the firm, I handed in my two week’s notice with J.P.Morgan Chase. I packed up my car with all of my belongings and drove down to Fort Lauderdale. There I completed a week long Coast Guard safety course and a few other certifications I knew were industry standards. After a few weeks of job searching, I was lucky enough to secure a deckhand position aboard a 95 foot charter yacht. I finally was living the sea life. For the first time in years I was excited to wake up every day and go to work. It was a crew of just the Captain and myself with extra help sometimes while on charter. It was such a shift. No longer was I staring out the window wishing for adventure, I was getting paid to live an adventure!

The crew on board became a family, they rarely felt like just coworkers. The focus was so clear. No longer was my job description vague and seemingly unnecessary. Everything I did had a very real and distinct purpose. I traded in my cubical for a cleaning supply closet. While on board I was in charge of making sure the yacht was clean and maintained. I would tend to the guests needs and make sure they were having fun. I drove them to and from shore in our smaller tender boat and even would take guests snorkeling, pointing out various fish and other sea life. After 6 months aboard, I eventually moved back to NY and have been living in Brooklyn eversince.

Although it wasn't long, the experience was incredibly impactful. For the first time in my life I realized the power I had inside of me. I saw first hand that I had the power to make a dream a reality. This world is so big and our lives too short to not be living it the way we want to live. I was so hesitant to make the move happen. I told myself it was fiscally irresponsible, and I had so much to lose. What would people say? What would I do if I failed? No one would want me back in finance if I leave? This is not the career move you’re supposed to do. This is crazy! I realized that all the reasons I told myself why I couldn’t were the exact same reasons why I should. People didn’t call me crazy; they were inspired. I had so much to gain. I was being true to myself. I couldn’t possibly fail, the choice itself was the success. Although I’m no longer in the yachting industry, I have not given up my dream to earn my captain’s license-- a personal goal for myself. The decision to chase my desire has made me grow as a person. It has shown me that anything is possible. I am more confident in myself and now I am even pursuing artistic expression through musical theater. Always follow your dreams. Passion is everything in life. Not even in terms of just a career, but if you’re not passionate about the direction your life is headed, its time to change course. You can’t sail against the wind, you need to adjust the sails and trust yourself.

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