Committed to Finance Always?

The Curtis of the daytime is studying hard for the CFA and finals and is fine with a career in finance. The Curtis of the nighttime wants to be free.


I’m yearning for adventure. It’s been a while since I went on a trip or quit everything and made a huge change. Maybe that’s a good thing for most people, but I feel uneasy with this arrangement. It’s not just a yearning for travel. It’s not just a break. It’s not just wanderlust. My roots are somewhere out there, not cramped up in here. I am somewhat upset at myself for having so many reminders around me: pictures all throughout my apartment of beautiful places I have been, travel books, maps of my favorite cities, Facebook cover photos, et cetera.

I’m feeling a strong sense of urgency. This has been a productive year in terms of self-progress, but I want to make sure I’m progressing toward the right thing.


I very spontaneously registered for the June Level I CFA exam. The pass rate keeps getting lower even though smarter people are taking it. It’s only offered twice a year and cost me $1,300 (non-refundable). As all my close friends know, I hate commitment. Thinking about something is one thing, doing it on my own terms is another thing, but doing it because I have to do it is a whole different beast. I feel imprisoned, chained to these study books, chained to financial analysis, chained to June 1st. If all I want is to be free, it’s hard to say why I would do something so confining.

Sure, it will vastly improve my career prospects, on top of the master’s degree I will have by that time, but only if I choose to go into that field. Otherwise, it’s an absurdly expensive hobby. I hate to say it, but that describes a good portion of my life.

One of my professors called me aside last week and told me I am really succeeding in this class and he (a multi-million dollar portfolio manager) would put in a great recommendation for me with a couple openings he knew of. It was a boost to my ego, but I didn’t get that feeling I’m supposed to. I’m spending the prime of my years choosing from a list of things I’m only slightly interested in handed to me by someone else. Sometimes I spend my time just stressing over what I should be doing. Sometimes I push it back.

Many of you might feel this same way, but I am in more of a position to control it. That’s a nice thought, but I don’t know the first thing about controlling my life.

I’ve been thinking of everything in terms of a “career” and making money, but none of it adds up. I was going wrong because I was looking at the world like other people look at it. I’m not other people. There are certain things in the world I can’t change, but I’m not going to accept the things I don’t have to accept. 

My “niche.” Freaking business term. My life is not a business. Of course I’ll have to find a way to make money on a regular basis. Careers don’t have to define who we are. I want mine to complement my personality and calling in life.

When I am on my death bed, I don’t think I will remember the time I “seized the day” by making an important decision in my lucrative finance job. I realize not all of life is seizing the day, but I just want to spend more of my life doing things that are my own art. If it helps others, so be it, but I am doing it for me. I want to capture my short time on earth in the best way possible, given my surroundings and circumstances. I might have a carpe diem moment in finance, but it would likely be a “local maximum.” I would only be having that moment because I was forced to have it in something; in a perfect world, I would not make a dramatic, life-altering positive decision in finance, a field I chose without much thought. That is what I am skeptical of. I’m going to continue working hard toward passing the CFA, but I refuse to let the thought of it bind me in any way. 

I know myself. I know I was destined for something very special. That might sound dramatic, but I don’t really care what anyone thinks. I’m meant for a life spent in a very unique way, and I need to stop thinking there is such a concrete and inflexible order to things that leaves little room for living differently. There are creative opportunities in finance that might work for me, or I might find something better. I’ll soon be able to tell.

In short, the nearer I get to a specific life path, the more I want complete freedom. I believe it is possible to break free from the chains and live this life on my own terms.



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