I finally start my career as a mergers and acquisitions tax attorney this week,
And for my last trip among many I’ve taken this year before I join the real world,
I went to Seoul, South Korea, for the first time in 14 years.
I reconnected with family,
Ate interesting things,
Saw historical sites,
And partied in a city famous for its nightlife.
In some ways,
The parties in Seoul were different to the ones I’ve been to around the world this year.
People drank more soju than beer during dinner unlike Brussels,
They played more foosball at the bar compared to an Edinburgh pub where they played billiards,
They dressed a little more formally at the club than they did in Los Angeles,
And they seemed intent on stealing the title of, “The City That Never Sleeps,” from NYC.
In other ways,
The parties in Seoul were the same as everywhere else to the extent of absurdity.
During my last day in Seoul,
A lady offered me a sample of Belgian Leffe in a market,
I had dinner with friends in a British-style “pub” where they served Tennent’s from Scotland,
I ordered Budweisers at the bar like I would in my current city of Washington, DC,
And at the club,
Which was divided into an “electronic” section and a “hip hop” section,
The DJs played artists like Avicii and Drake,
Just like they did in every city from Geneva to LA.
The only difference was,
Most people at that club in Seoul didn’t speak much English,
So they didn’t really sing the lyrics.
They threw their hands up in the air and bobbed their heads up and down just the same.
It seemed like no one I met really had a clue about what they were doing and why.
I know a club isn’t the best place to ask someone about the meaning of life,
But during my travels this year,
I’ve been looking for reassurance from something,
Or rather someone,
That the path I’ve chosen is the right one and that things will work out for the best.
I also hoped that because I was returning to the city of my parents and seeing family,
I would finally find the answers I was looking for.
Just like I didn’t in all the other cities around the world.
I remember meeting two girls in LA while waiting in line for the club,
And when I asked them whether they were happy or sad to be graduating from USC,
They laughed, said they didn’t know, and added they didn’t know what they’d be doing.
There was a girl at our table in Seoul who spoke a little English,
And when I said I had just graduated from Georgetown Law, she said,
“I graduated from school last year.”
“What do you do now?”
I had read somewhere that youth unemployment in Korea is approximately 25%,
So I wanted to tell her that I understood it was tough to get a job in that market,
But that was probably beyond her English and definitely beyond my Korean.
So all I could think of was to hold up the tequila bottle and ask,
To which she replied,
There were students at the tax conference I attended in Scotland who had secured jobs,
But some wondered whether they should have picked the public sector over private or vice versa.
There was an old friend in finance from Geneva who wanted to work somewhere more exciting,
Unlike a girl in finance at the same bar who moved back because London was too exciting.
There are plenty of friends or acquaintances from college who have jobs but want to make more,
Unlike some law school classmates who started at $180,000 a year but want to work less,
And when I talked to my family members about their lives and the choices they made,
None of them could say for sure that they had no regrets.
Although I’ve been extremely fortunate to see the world over the past year,
A part of me still felt disappointed and almost depressed from the absurdity,
And talking to my grandfather didn’t really help at first.
He’s someone who has accomplished a lot in his life,
And even though I know he loves me,
It’s sometimes hard to live up to his achievements and expectations.
Like a few years ago,
When I had an upcoming interview at the Federal Reserve, he said,
“I went there twenty years ago.”
“Oh. What for?”
“To meet Alan Greenspan.”
I was talking to my grandfather in Seoul when he said,
“Life can be very meaningless.”
“What do you mean?”
“Besides the very few who achieve incredible things, most people are forgotten before long.”
I was thinking I better do something great to make him proud when he added,
“And to make things worse, hard work isn’t enough. You need luck, which is never guaranteed.”
That only made me feel worse until he said,
“But I’ve seen enough to know that in life, anything can happen.”
“Yes. So do your best, and if you’re lucky enough to get an opportunity, then you’ll be ready.”
I still don’t have all the answers,
And like I said,
Life seems pretty absurd.
On the bright side,
I don’t think anyone does,
And the fact that life is absurd doesn’t mean I should stop trying and just maybe,
Despite all the parties I’ve attended around the world over the past year,
I should enjoy life a little more and worry less about the meaning of life and all that.
I start my career as a mergers and acquisitions tax attorney this week,
And like my grandfather said,
I’ll try my best to make a difference in this absurd world,
And I hope you enjoyed my first post that’s not about a girl.
Until next time…
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