At age 22, nothing fazes you, not even making a million dollars. Making millions quickly becomes normal, and you realize you’ve achieved nothing relative to the tremendous riches in this world; the skew is so high in the upper echelons of wealth that your net worth is numerically closer to someone on welfare than to Mark Zuckerberg. Millions is the level where another bold kid with vision and drive could easily surpass you in a few years, the level where it’s unclear you wouldn’t be better off being one of his share holding employees than out taking risks on your own.
It only takes a few expensive toys for millions to become boring. Who wants overpriced versions of what everyone has? Fancy cars quickly reveal themselves to be huge pains in the ass: stick shift is senselessly annoying in the city and the wheels are constantly acquiring minute, infuriating blemishes. You can only drive one car at a time, live in one house at a time, be on one paradise island at a time. Objects drag you down; time is the only thing that matters. Private jets are not what you do because you want to have fun, they’re what you to do to save time (time = money). You do the math: a private jet makes sense if it saves you x amount of time and your time is valued at y. Surprisingly few people understand these calculations.
With a few million, you can’t afford the really cool stuff like the Bat Cave, or immortality, or a private island doubling as a giant research laboratory with a volcano in the shape of your skull. To really level up, you need at least billions. This ambition is something few understand. If you told them about it, they’d look at you with baffled disgust, “How much money do you need? Why would you want that?”
It’s a solitary journey. You’re the youngest and most underdressed person in any restaurant you go to. You give money to parents who can’t hope to offer you career advice. After achieving more than most people ever achieve financially, what are you supposed to do- retire for the next 50 years? Not an option- you are not, nor have you ever been, like most people. You can’t hold yourself to their standards or look to them for cues on goals to strive for- can people your age really be considered your peers when they are so different? For most, setting up 401K’s and avoiding credit card fees is gospel, whereas for you it’s almost not worth the time relative to what else you could be working on. Normal people are on a path containing marriage, babies, some career ladder. The comfort of a patterned route is barred from you: you alone must write your next act because no one can afford to hire you.
Most people dream of a house, a family, money for vacations. When you can have all of that at an age before you’re ready to get married, what else is there to reach for? People think you’re lucky because they imagine you share the same American dream, because they don’t know what really drives you. What would be so terrible about settling down, traveling the world, learning about wines, maybe writing a book?
The answer to this question is a slow, slow terror. Your whole life you’ve monotonically increased in awesomeness. What if that trend has ended? What if you peaked in your 20’s? Will you ever be able to surpass your previous success? Or was your success due to your reckless youth, which is inevitably fleeting? What’s the difference between dying a millionaire at 25 and a millionaire at 75? What will it feel like to look back years from now and think you haven’t changed at all, instead of marveling at how far you’ve come? Shall you live and die like a beast, quiet, leaving no mark on the universe?
Luckily, you didn’t major in philosophy. It’s not your nature to be unhappy and you genuinely love life. Everywhere you turn, the world sparkles with distracting wonders, challenging problems, tantalizing mysteries. You work on projects, learn new skills and ideas, visit new places, love and understand yourself and others.
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