It begins, as it always does, with a challenge.
“Write your blog about you,” Enoch writes. He is one of my closest friends, and at the moment, the object of my envy.
Currently, he is in Mexico, beachside in Tulum, fresh from exploring a day’s worth of Mayan ruins overlooking the lush, forested jungle. Ever since he decamped for greener, cheaper parts, his Facebook stream features a ceaseless torrent of turquoise waters, clear skies, and glorious night views–the envy of bored office workers and job-seekers at their wit’s end.
I am one of the latter.
It’s especially painful to me, because just a few months ago, I was living that same flashpacker life, traveling to ten countries on savings accumulated from three years of hard work and living at home with parents here in New York. But I never quite figured out how to monetize the digital nomad life, and thus, six months after I left for Asia and Eastern Europe, I find myself back in New York shitty.
For us, challenges always require stakes, and stakes require money, a penalty for failing to complete them. After all, what good is a challenge without a punishment? Might as well be a company without lawyers, a government without taxes, or a lion without teeth.
“Fifty dollars per missed post,” Enoch declares over WeChat. “Two posts a week, featuring your own journey to success.”
“What if no one reads it?” I ask. But a bigger question nags at me, and one that I don’t make clear to him. What if I never find success? The thought hovers at the back of my mind, malicious and malignant, a force full of doubt and uncertainty.
I rub my chin, which I’m wont to do when I’m nervous, thoughtful, or, as is usually the case, both. As a child, I saw people doing that in movies, and somehow, I picked up the habit. People often think that I am truly deep in thought–or that I have bedbugs on my chin.
Good thing I didn’t pick up any other bad habits from the movies, I think. Like creepy smiles and long trenchcoats.
“No one is successful in the beginning,” Enoch replied. “Besides, do you think that Thai girl was successful at first? Now she has almost as many Youtube followers as New Yorkers!”
I frown, trying to think of who he meant.
“You mean Lilly Singh?” I ask. Off the top of my head, she is the only person I can think of who has as many Youtube followers as New York has people. “She’s Indian, Enoch. Not Thai.”
“Right,” Enoch replies. “That’s what I said. But anyways, if Lilly thought no one was going to watch her videos, then she wouldn’t have made them in the first place. No videos, no followers, no satisfaction.”
“And no Paramjeet or Munjeet,” I say, thinking about Lilly’s hilarious, over-the-top impersonations of her parents. In many ways, both characters were very much like my own Chinese immigrant parents, though much more conservative, for dramatic effect.
“What’s a Paramjeet?” Enoch asks.
“No one,” I reply. I make a mental note to watch another Lilly Singh video, when I have the chance.
Enoch sends me a picture, one of the countless inspirational, motivational photos that he picks up in his day-to-day existence. I open it, and read the Chinese characters slowly; before I can finish though, he translates for me.
“You don’t need to be awesome to start,” Enoch explained, “but you need to start in order to be awesome.”
“Yellow on the outside and wise on the inside,” I say. “We’re like lame fortune cookies.”
“I prefer sexy,” Enoch counters.
“Let’s do it,” I say. “Zero to awesome in…”
“Who knows?” Enoch asks. “It doesn’t matter, Will. This is our journey to figuring out success. Let’s bring everyone else on the ride.”