Year of the Tiger
A short story about following your dreams
Every 12 years, the lunar cycle lands on the Tiger. A symbol of courage and strength. 2022. This was the year Seb was going to awaken his dreams and realize financial freedom. Although he wasn't quite sure how the Chinese Zodiac worked, he had fully embraced the mythology and was ready to hop aboard the auspices.
Seb woke up at the crack of dawn. "Year of the Tiger," he whispered as he prepared to conquer the day. He had a fire in his belly and the drive to succeed. He had quit his job a few weeks back and was a week away from finishing the Udemy course he was building.
Seb was a data analyst by trade. He was an expert in his field but had gotten sick of the grind and wanted to take things into his own hands. He planned to teach what he knew to cover some of his income and would figure the rest out along the way.
He saw other courses about Data Science, making six figures on Udemy. Many of these were created by people he felt were less skilled than he was. The quality was also subpar. He could surely create a better one, he figured.
He had already started learning the skills needed to succeed before he left his job. He read books on entrepreneurship, took courses on Filming, Video Editing, Public Speaking, and bought all the fancy equipment. Heck, he even took some courses on how to build courses.
He was all in.
New York City wasn't cheap, however. He only had a few months in savings left. Unfortunately, his landlord was about to raise the rent because the city was ALIVE again, and there was always someone across the block ready to offer the market price for the Upper West Side. He wouldn't last long without some kind of income coming in.
Seb was on the clock.
He went straight to his desk after his morning yoga and meditation routine. He skipped breakfast to take advantage of his fasting state. This was what he called The Power Hour, where his mind and energy were at their peak, and he was in a state of pure flow. He would get his most important tasks done straight away.
Today, he was going to film his final unit.
He started reviewing his script and making notes.
"This is it, the final stretch," he thought.
"That's odd. Who could be calling this early in the morning?" he wondered.
He checked his phone.
"Mickey!? What does he want?" Seb gasped, bewildered.
Mickey was Seb's old high school buddy. They were tight a decade ago but had lost touch since then. "I should really start turning my phone off. Power Hour is sacred," he grunted as he picked up anxiously.
"SEE-BASTION! how ya doing ol bud!?" he heard in a familiar southern accent. "Mickey! To what do I owe the pleasure?" Seb chuckled. "Hey listen, I'm in The Big Apple for the weekend. What say we go grab some beer and nachos at T.G.I Fridays!?" said Mickey as if it were 2010 again. Beer, nachos, weekend!? This was really not Seb's vibe anymore. "I don't really drink anymore, Mickey. Plus, I got this big deadline coming up. Maybe we should make a plan for some other time?" blurted Seb nervously. "Some other time!? Well, I'm here now. How about we just grab a quick BAR-BEE-Q and catch up for old time's sakes? It'll just be an hour!" asserted Mickey.
Seb was a sucker for barbeque. He also had a hard time saying no. Mickey was well aware of these flaws.
"How bad could one lunch be? Might be good for me to get out," thought Seb, trying to convince himself. "I've made it this far. I've earned a little break," he continued arguing with himself. "Sounds good, Mick. See you in a few hours, buddy!" he blurted reluctantly.
The next few hours were scattered. Seb couldn't focus on his course anymore. He kept remembering his days with Mickey and what he would possibly talk about. Then there was the issue of what to wear and how to get there. Should he tell Mick he quit his job? He didn't really have an income yet and didn't want to seem like a flop. "Why do I still live in New York again?" he pondered. "The expenses are high, taxes even higher, and rent is through the roof! Someone always seems to be popping by as well," he thought. Before he knew it, it was time to leave, and he still hadn't finished reviewing his script from the morning. “So much for Power Hour,” he thought, shaking his head with a sense of guilt.
The lunch dragged on. One hour turned into three, and BAR-BEE-Q turned into beer and nachos, after all. Sebastian came back tipsy with a hint of disappointment. "Ah, lighten up. It's just one day," he consoled himself. Seb had a rule to never miss a habit twice in a row. Once was acceptable and easy to get back into the routine, but twice would mean having to do a lot more work, perhaps even starting over.
The day was almost gone, and it was time to sleep. For the first time since he quit his job, Seb had lost sight of his dreams. He had a few hours left, but all he could think about was the encounter.
"It's odd how Mickey hasn't changed one bit," thought Seb. "He's still wasting his life partying and keeping himself busy."
Seb also found himself mysteriously transported back into that same mindset just by being with Mickey for a few hours. "I guess this is what they mean by the circle of influence," he thought.
"I'll just pick things back up in the morning," he groaned. "Year of the tiger ..." he whispered reluctantly as he went to bed with a tiny tingle in his throat. He cleared it out and didn't think much about it.
The morning arrived faster than a bullet train on a mission, but Seb could barely get up.
What was happening? Was he hungover? (yes), but this was a different type of headache. He knew exactly what it was but couldn't get himself to admit it. Two years of being extra cautious and now this, could he really have fallen ill? "The alcohol must have weakened my immune system," he reasoned.
He went back to bed in defiance of his natural light alarm. He hadn't missed his wake-up since the day he had left his job. He had been eager to wake up and work on his dreams ever since.
He tried waking up again a bit later.
It was now 11 am.
Nope. Seb was out cold.
"Damn it, Mickey!" he snapped. Although, deep down, he knew he was the one responsible for his choices. He should have trusted his gut and not given in to the FOMO.
He couldn't let his cardinal rule of two slip and wanted to get some work done. He tried getting up to review his script, but the pounding in his head had other plans. He tried to open his mouth to record the final lesson, but his voice was nowhere to be found. He felt a shiver down his spine. His only choice was to get some rest and recover.
The hours turned into days. Seb lay in bed as he watched the time melt before his eyes. His deadline grew closer. Soon there were three days left, and he hadn't even finished filming his final unit. He went from almost done to not knowing if he would ever finish.
"One simple lunch," he thought. "How could this happen?" In his blurry state of confusion, he remembered the words of his tennis coach, Master Kai. "It can take years to climb a mountain, Seb-san, but only a few seconds to fall down." How true was that? An odd piece of advice from a tennis coach indeed, but Master Kai was more Zen Monk than tennis coach. He would often drop words of wisdom when Seb least expected them. In fact, there was barely any formal tennis being taught at all. He just asked Seb to "Trust the process," and the rest would follow. Oddly enough, the strategy worked, and Seb got better and better over time. Seb questioned why he didn't use this approach in other areas of life.
Three days to go before the rent would go ballistic. Seb would have been in a state of panic, but he couldn't think clearly enough for that.
He took out his laptop and started looking for jobs again.
He was starting to give up.
They all sounded exactly like the one he had just managed to escape. The only difference was the logo on top and a different set of arbitrary criteria he would need to prove he could conform to.
He wasn't in the right frame of mind, he reasoned. He closed his laptop and went back to sleep. Two days later, he had almost recovered, but there was 1 day left on his lease and at least 3-4 days of work remaining; if he worked at 111%, that is.
Seb had now lost all his momentum and entered a major creative block. He wasn't sure how to pick himself back up again.
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