I bought a tent. Then I started a newsletter.
Lately, I’ve been going through what some might call a “quarter-life crisis.”
How do I know? Simple: I bought a tent.
And a sleeping bag. And a hiking backpack. None of which I know how to use.
We can all agree that when you buy a tent, things turn pretty obvious: you have a crisis.
Adding to that a prolonged self of isolation, aloofness, my age, and the feeling of “most things are taken in life, what am I supposed to do, and am I in the driver’s seat of my life anyway, or am I just following blindly the standards imposed on me by friends, parents, and book authors???” we arrive at what psychologists call a “quarter-life crisis.”
There you have it.
Seeking answers to my existential perturbations and solace for my longing of meaning and purpose, I spent hours on Reddit — as I always do in such moments — and stumbled upon a book by a clinical psychologist called The Defining Decade.
(Alright, I’m a bit lying here: I knew about the book long ago but didn’t want to read it because the title seemed too pompous to me and “what can they tell me that I don’t already know?!” I wrote my own book with a similar title some years ago!)
Long story short, I decided to give it a go. And discovered that it was everything I was looking for. The exact thing I needed at this moment in my life. How do these things happen? Magic!
I immediately skipped through the intro, jumping right into the action. First chapter is a story of Helen — a twenty-seven-year-old woman, busy “searching for herself” from the comfort of her couch. Ouch. That rang a bell.
Actually, that rang many bells. I immediately realized how boring and not unique I was in my failure to understand myself at 24 while not really doing anything about it.
I’d spend hours and hours on Reddit and in London pubs, drinking gallons of Diet Cokes (occasionally, something stronger), scribbling thoughts and questions and potential answers into my black pocket-sized Moleskine notebook with an ink pen. How romantic I was. How lost. How dumb…
This book made me realize how close to masturbation all those attempts to discover myself by writing were.
I learned about a concept called Identity Capital. This is something you build by doing the work that brings you closer to your dream. (Think: Neil Gaiman’s mountain metaphor, which I like to call the Gaiman Mountain). The more identity capital you build in your twenties, the farther you’ll go in life. e.g., working in a coffee shop when you want to be a writer isn’t building identity capital; while working for free for a publication where you get to hone your skills — does.
Then there was this quote from a later chapter that I took a photograph of and pasted in my personal notes folder. It belongs to one of the author’s patients, a twentysomething dude named Coyle.
“…I wish I had experimented — with work — in a way I feel I can’t right now at almost thirty. I felt a lot of internal pressure to figure it out, but all the thinking I did was really debilitating and unproductive. The one thing I have learned is that you can’t think your way through life. The only way to figure out what to do is to do — something…
This brings me to why you are reading this.
For a long time, I wanted to make a place — an outlet, if you wish — for the things I find, think, ponder, and contemplate. I thought of it as a place where I’d allow people to look at what I am already doing: constantly learning about myself and the world. And for a long time, Medium was my outlet. But after two years of churning out 20–25 pieces per month, it became too hectic. Too commercialized. Too dull and filled with “7 Steps To Grow Your Dick Two Inches Larges” type of crap. So I stopped writing on Medium. But the urge to share persisted.
I’ve created newsletters after newsletters (5 to this date), and not one of them was launched.
Why? Two reasons:
- I was overthinking it and spent a disproportionate amount of time on positioning, logos, About Pages, etc.
- I did it as a product for someone else. The Reader.
The pressure of making it perfect and for someone else didn’t allow me to move forward. But after reading several chapters of The Defining Decade, I realized: that things don’t have to be this hard.
A) I can fill my life with things I genuinely enjoy (learning and writing) and I can scale these things via outlets — like newsletters, podcasts, etc. After all, I’ve long known that all I want to do in life is read and write. Why not just do it then?
B) I don’t have to approach it from a product standpoint; I can just do something, anything. And not for anyone else but for myself. Make a newsletter I’ve always wanted to read. Honest and funky, which reads like an email, not a thesis paper or Mark Manson.
My new newsletter, called Sergey’s Notes, will come out weekly and contain honest reflections, quotes, snippets from books, and anything that makes me wonder and contemplate philosophy, art, creativity, and living a meaningful life.
Free readers will receive roughly two posts per month. Paid subscribers ($5/mo) will get the full four.
The key, I see now, is to do something close (and closer than doing nothing) to what you want to do in life. Which is to say, I am back to writing and sharing. I also might go for a hike one of these days, just to learn how to use that tent.
Thanks for sticking with me.