Yi Xiang

A Young Writer in Search of His Voice

The Pain and Joy of Giving Up Your Dream

I always wanted to be a businessman, to have my own little company, to be successful, and to make a lot of money.

I started blogs, published books, offered Tarot readings, practiced writing English for a year to write erotica, put up affiliate links, I tried and tried and failed.

And I read a lot, the 4 hour work week, the various ways to “monetize” a blog. I read so much that I began to understand that the best way to make money with blogging is to sell this dream to others.

I even considered developing apps for blackberry when iPhone hasn’t come out.

I never succeeded.

There is not one business that I have tried that has gained serious transaction. Except if you consider freelancing a business. Personally, I consider it a location-free job.

The constant failure is very tiresome.

It’s like the one girl you liked in high school who didn’t like you back. You kept sending her gifts and you kept feeling that your promised sex was just around the corner, and you were disappointed every time.

I remember when I published my first book, I imaged it would be a huge financial success, instead a handful of people were interested.

I remember when I spent a month preparing for a free webinar, hoping it would sell a paid course, and nobody signed up.

It’s not unlike one of my ex… who I used to call to multiple times a day, who wouldn’t answer or call back.

I finally decided to give up after trying to start my own web development company.

I’ve been a freelance web developer for months. Why not start a company? I thought. I just need to scale what I’ve been doing. Find more clients, get more developers, deal with more deadlines. No problem, or so I believed.

As an introvert, finding clients is stressful, though still doable. I talked with potential clients online and offline, and soon figured out it’s better to work with businesses that already have connections. I was right and I got a project within a month.

It was like a firework in my mind. I was excited. This is it. I thought. I can do this. There will be more projects, and I will finally build a company.

I couldn’t wait to work hard to deliver a quality product within deadline.

But I didn’t expect the deadline to be plastic, yesterday it was Friday, today it was Wednesday.

And I certainly didn’t expect the client to blame me for not meeting his plastic deadline.

It stressed the hell out of me and it disgusted me that this client didn’t care about working together to build a good product, only about ripping me off.

Soon I was burnt out, exhausted, and just couldn’t take the stress. Thank God this project lasted only three weeks…

it led me to reflect.

Starting a web development company would mean suffering this stress regularly. Sure, I could delegate and get better clients, but this will only make the problem a little better, not make it go away. Building websites for clients always involve deadlines, and the clients’ stress would translate to my stress, managing employees would add to the stress as well.

I’m not willing to deal with it daily. I can’t take it. I want the stress to stop. How can I build a web development business?

Also, there is this disgust.

I’m disgusted of the business world, of all these networking for profit, hiring for profit, providing value for profit, everything for profit.

But I know better, there is nothing wrong with “business activities”, I am just disgusted with myself for doing them. I can’t see myself being selfish, treating people as tools for personal gain.

I used to assume, since I enjoy coding, I should also enjoy building a software company. But turns out, it’s more about networking, negotiation, managing people and deadlines, all of which I hate.

It’s ironic. People quit their jobs and start businesses so that they don’t have to do something they don’t like. But what if you don’t like starting and running businesses?

What if the reality betrays your expectations? What if the dream turns out to be a lie, to be a nightmare, to be a soul-eating monster?

What if starting your dream business keeps you wake at night, with tears in your eyes, questions in your mind. “Is this what I’ve been looking forward to all these years? How could it be so … terrible?”

Feels like another hope getting axed in half, reminding me once again that the journey of life is a journey of disappointment.

I have to face the truth: I’ve been having wrong expectations. I always wanted to be a businessman, starting companies and hiring people, it turns out to be something I don’t enjoy. Yet another disillusionment.

It’s just how life is.

Most of our plans fail, most of our expectations turn out to be wrong. We don’t become the person we were supposed to become, we don’t marry the one we were meant to marry, or start the career that we have read so much about.

Instead we fail, and fail, and we fail again. And most dreams of our youth will fade away or die a terrible death in the face of reality.

It makes you feel as if you have no control over your life, and it makes you tired of all these fruitless struggles.

But it’s really a simple thing. You have assumptions, and they turned out to be wrong. You assume that this person or that career would give you the happiness you’ve been wanting for all these years, and you turned out to be wrong.

It’s time to admit that we really don’t know anything. We don’t know who will make us happy, we don’t know what career or business we will enjoy and make good money, until we try it, until we find out.

And this is how it should be. Our distant dreams of becoming a writer, a businessman, a millionaire, or a programmer, are nothing but guesses. These dreams are not based on experiences but what we read in books and hear in stories. We know nothing about what it feels like to live the dream or the process of pursuing it.

It is natural to try to make the future a certainty. I must marry this person, or join that company. We treat our expectations and guesses as prophecies, and they’ll all betray us. We simply do not know the future.

This can be scary. This can be exciting. It means something unexpected is still around the corner, it means the possibilities the future holds is still greater than our imagination, it means life is still an adventure, we still have to discover who we are and where the road leads.

It means we could enjoy life as it is, instead of clinging to an imagined ideal.