I know that it is not really fair to favor one blog reader story over another (it is kind of like favoring a child over another — they are all loved, just different!), but the Jon the Ballplayer series of questions and community response was one of my all-time favorite experiences blogging.
For those of you newer to my blog, you need to know the context of the original post, which started when I got the following email from a young man who started out anonymous:
“I came across your site while trying to decide if its right for me
to leave my job right now to pursue a passion of mine since i was a
kid. I’m 23 now, and have worked at this job straight out of college
at 21, and recently was given the opportunity to play semi-pro baseball
in Germany. the catch being the team can only pay my rent, so it is a
great opportunity cost to leave. I have a nice chunk of money saved
up, so financially I’m ok to do this for a summer, but this is a really
good and high paying job that I’m sure a lot of people would kill to
have right now. this should be an easy choice, because i hate this job
and cannot see myself in not only this job, but this entire field, ever
again. baseball has been my love since i can remember, and this would
be the perfect end of an era for me to say goodbye to my playing days
with this trip, as my job allows me to do basically nothing with my
I noticed you said at one point to quit before your job makes you,
and this has already happened. I was given an action plan that if my
performance does not improve in 30 days, I will be terminated.
honestly, I’m in this situation because I just haven’t tried. I know I
can blow them away with performance since now i work at about a 20%
motivation level, and them seeing me at 100% would really change their
perspective. but still after the 30 days nothing will change and i
will be back to being miserable.
I’d appreciate any advice you could give me!”
He followed this up with:
“Some more detail if needed – I’m looking to go into a creative
field, possibly writing or something with creative advertising. If not
that, I’ve always also had a passion for business start ups, as I love
troubleshooting the unknown. I know what I want to do, which is more
than I can say about myself than 2 years ago when i first graduated
college, so I am very thankful that I’ve come to this realization. I
also definitely know what I don’t want to do, thanks to the job in
traditional finance I am at now. Part of me is seeing this trip is a
way to break loose. All of my friends are 100% supportive of me taking
this trip, but its my parents who are on the pessimistic side which is
keeping me from diving straight into it.
As you can see from this 3:30am email, I’ve lost a lot of sleep over this decision.
Thanks so much for your help!”
It inspired this post, where my community went nuts with fantastic advice like this from my favorite Ninja Baker Kathlyn:
Go, but realize that your parents are most likely concerned about your
well-being and you should be too. Not only is your job at risk right
now (no matter what you do because all our jobs are at risk), but
you’re not going to have any kind of financial stability unless you
make it happen for it yourself. I don’t either and I’m much older than
you. So go, definitely go. But plan. Make this not just a “heart” thing
but a “head” thing too. Make this part of your plan for your life, not
just a detour. If you want to write, this is the perfect opportunity
for you to write about an amazing life experience AND see if you have
the discipline to write about it every day while you’re doing it. If
you’re going to go into an occupation like writing, you’re going to
need the discipline (and it’s HARD). This is a chance for you to
experience, plan, and make an unpopular decision that you know is right
for you – because as many have already said, your parents probably
aren’t going to back you up on this one no matter what argument you
give them. I have a good friend who decided to go into a very
competitive creative field who’s parents didn’t support her and now,
guess who’s most impressed with her kick-ass work? Dad. Most parents
are like that – they think they’re protecting you. Go, definitely go,
just be smart about it and realize that this will be work, just like
your job now is work – it’s all work and it’s all hard. But some work
is more rewarding than other work and when you find your thing, you
gotta grab it! Good luck!
Then, as Jon’s Mom got involved in the discussion, it got much juicier and interesting, when we learned that not only was she blown away with the quality of support from my blog readers, but she also completely changed her view of the risk involved with Jon’s decision. She inspired this follow up post.
I just received this update message from Jon in Germany, where he not only shared his experience, but also some wonderful photos.
“So I’ve been in Hamburg, Germany for 3 months now, and I can officially call my choice to leave work for baseball a complete success. Even when struggling with the decision early on, I always knew I would forever regret not going, and would always wonder what things would be like if I had gone… so just clearing my conscience of this burden alone has been satisfying. If i have any regrets about my life up to the point of my decision in March, it was that I didn’t pursue baseball after high school when I had the chance to play at multiple colleges, and that I never studied abroad in college when many of my friends had the times of their lives doing this. In reality, my decision to skip baseball to go to a school that I actually wanted to go to, rather than had a scholarship to play at was a great choice, and my major had no option to study abroad, but I still had a lot of “what if” moments regarding both situations. Coming here was the perfect blend, as I took care of both scenarios in one unique shot, and letting go of these regrets alone was worth the trip in itself… and the most satisfying thing for me so far is that not one have I ever doubted this choice, or even thought about any “what ifs” regarding staying at my job.
As for the trip itself, living in Germany has been an unreal experience, and Hamburg is a beautiful city. There’s something totally different about actually living in a foreign country rather than just visiting, that I have really enjoyed. Everything here is new to me, so even simple tasks like buying groceries is a cultural experience. I try my best to fit in (language permitting) and soak in the culture, although constantly holding baseball equipment usually makes me stand out immediately. Thankfully, everyone here is really friendly to Americans which I had not anticipated, and even strangers always want to hear about New York and ask about stereotypes. Also, about 80% of the population speaks English, and everyone on the team communicates solely in English… so although I have missed out on the experience of having to learn the language, its nice being able to communicate with anyone I need to. I much prefer the style and pace of life here in Germany than what I have grown accustomed to in the US, and it seems to further reassure that I was not crazy by thinking i was too young to dedicate my life to the office. Success isn’t really determined by monetary status here as much as it is in the US. Sure, people here would love to be rich, but there is not much pressure to do so, and most of the people I have encountered simply chose a field of their interest, and are fine with whatever pay they receive from this. Whether is working as an architect, salesman or even employees at places like McDonald’s, people seem to genuinely care about their work (and are friendly to you as a result), whereas in the US it seems that most people work for money alone.
I have been completely busy with baseball thus far, as we have practice 3 days a week, I work with youth teams 2 days a week, and we usually play 4 games over the weekend, so this has been a bit draining, but doing something you love makes it all worth it. Whenever I feel burdened by it, I imagine the alternative of me sitting at my desk in a new city that I did not want to live in, and the feeling immediately fades away. Because of this schedule, I have not yet had the time to see all of Europe as I would like since I never have more than one free day off in a row, but this time will come once the season is over. In my rare days off, I try to take in as much as I can, usually via the bike my team gave me. Whether its checking out local attractions, going to events, or even just cruising the city or the countryside, I can honestly say that I’ve taken advantage of every minute of my time here. Members of the team have noticed this as well, and are always complimenting my commitment to the trip (as players in previous years usually just hung around the house and went to bars) which has been reassuring, but for me, if I am leaving a salary to do this, I want to make sure that I do it right and don’t waste a minute. The last thing I want is to have gone through this experience and produce more regrets about not taking full advantage of my time.
As for baseball, I’ve only played in a few summer leagues since high school, so this is the first time in almost 5 years I have been really serious about the sport. Baseball was always my life when I was younger, and its been great capping it all off by playing at this level. I wont get too much into it, it didn’t take me long to get back into the swing of things, and for any baseball buff, you can check out my progress here http://stats.baseball-softball.de/2bln/?y=9&f=gl1039
. in addition to the season, we also took first in a local tournament, and will be traveling to Holland to play in another week long tournament come August. Being on the team I’m on here has made me sort of a pseudo celebrity in Hamburg, which has been an amazing experience. The team is in the paper every week, and a couple of times they have done features on me including pictures, which makes for a cool keepsake. We’ve been interviewed on tv a few times, in some magazines, and I’ve even been recognized in the streets. One of the events on my life accomplishment checklist was to sign an autograph for someone who actually wanted it, and I’m proud to say that I’ve done this hundreds of times here, for both kids and adults. Not bad for a financial analyst.
One of the highlights of the trip so far was a few weeks ago when my parents came into town to visit. Neither of my parents have ever traveled to Europe before, and I was able to take my mom to the city she was born in (she was born in Germany, and moved to the us before she was old enough to remember) so it was cool for me to be personally responsible for such a unique moment of their lives. Them visiting was a nice, “I told you so” moment too, as visiting me and taking in this beautiful city shattered any doubts they may have had previously about me quitting my job to come here, and any worries they might have had for my future here.
I’d like to say I’ve learned a lot about myself here… but to be honest, I think I don’t think any perspective about myself has changed. I’ve always known what I’ve wanted to do with my life, but once I landed a good job out of college, I felt pressured to do what others around me thought was the right thing. This trip just proved to myself that I was capable of taking a stand, and not simply floating through life with dreams of change that are never acted upon. Hopefully, I’ll be able to use my experiences here to continue to take an alternative path through life, and be able to take more chances on life decisions that may not be considered a safe bet. I think my entire learning experience thus far can be summed up by one statement a teammate of mine made to me. This teammate is an American citizen, who has been working (as a model) and playing baseball in Germany for the past 7 years. He lives a life that most would envy, that was brought upon himself through a dedication to his field (as he does not know when his next job may come up), and mainly the risks he took to not conform to the normal, “cubicle” lifestyle.
Over breakfast one day, he asked me a lot about life back home and the differences between the European outlook on life and the fast paced American style of existence. One thing that really stuck with me was when he said to me “Every time I go back home and talk to my friends and family, they always have something they’re stressing over. I always wonder, what is everyone so worried about?” It seems to be typical of us to worry about every little decision, and I too find myself thinking one small event will ruin the outcome of my entire life. I think it is drilled into us when we are young with school, with guidance councilors, and that feeling every test grade will determine your entire future, but I feel that most of us at this point can step away from that perspective on life. This doesn’t have to be as drastic as my decision to come here that I shared with you all, but I’ve noticed that about 90% of the things that I and my friends stress over are seemingly meaningless, and most of these things we will not remember and will bear no significance in our lives come a month or two. It’s easy to worry, but once you let go of sweating the small stuff, and learn to take control of your big decisions, you can really start enjoying every day of your life for what its worth.
I’ll be here until mid September, as the season ends in August and I will travel Europe for a few weeks when I’m done. I finally have dedicated internet access here, so I will try to re-start up the blog, which will probably be more interesting anyway now that I’ll be doing a lot more traveling. I hope if nothing else that my story inspires some people to take some risks and start enjoying every minute of their lives. If you’re on Pamela’s blog, you’re on the right track!”
The Kleenex Moment
I was giddy reading Jon’s account, and looking at his pictures. What got me in the gut was seeing the picture of him with his proud parents in Germany.
He obviously made the decision to pursue his passion on his own, but I am totally convinced that it was your support that tipped him over the edge and helped him make the leap.
I think that learning to trust his gut and not settle for a boring career at 23 will radically alter the course of his life, and give him confidence in other decisions down the road.
Thank you my dear readers for being so generous and supportive, and thank you Jon for making my week.
Life is short. Play hardball! 🙂
Update: after this post, Jon’s Mom sent me her own update. It is amazing how Jon’s choice to follow his passion impacted his entire family! Jon’s Mom Valerie Update