Monday, September 02, 2013

On Wall Street, on Whale Sperm, and on Selling out

In costume (why?) at work at Credit Suisse Singapore
Quickie Special Edition

Recently, I spoke with one of my old banking colleagues. He's been in the business for decades now, and he happens to genuinely like what he does for a living. He also follows a dream—on the side, after work—and that's good enough for him. It's also good enough for the lucky within his circle who are fortunate to be able to consume what he creates. I'd tell you more about that, except that this old colleague of mine is very private, doesn't like to be written about, and would frown on me telling you who he is, or what it is that he does to be creative.

So, instead, let me tell you why he told me off.

In Japan, dressing to be a geisha

It had been a year since he and I had spoken last. After I left banking, we tried to catch up every so often, but eventually obligations got in the way. More and more time would pass before our next phone call, but still he said, he'd kept in touch my goings-on through my blog here. Which brings me to my point.

"I told my wife I didn't want to speak to you ever again," he said last week, and it took my breath away. "I read your blog post about Wall Street, and I was disappointed," he said into the quiet, with some finality.

The finished product. 

I knew just which post he was talking about. Two years ago, I visited the Occupy Wall Street movement in Manhattan, and I'd written about it. I hadn't just written about the movement, but about the bankers I knew who were giving up on their dreams in order to make more money. What my old friend was saying was that I'm a sell-out. And so I'm here to tell you today that maybe he's right; maybe a little bit of me did sell out when I wrote that post.

Well, the truth is that I'd never be here, writing to you, if I hadn't been on the adventure that was my decade on Wall Street. Wall Street offered me the good life, and I took it, even when I wasn't sure I should be taking it. I lived in extraordinary places like Tokyo and Singapore that changed every bit of who I am. I traveled to places like Tibet and North Korea that made me who I'd become. And I indulged in preposterously decadent things like toilets that wash and dry your bottom after you poo, or bowls of fresh whale sperm (correction: bowl, definitely not more than one), or paying someone to dress me like a geisha. No, I wouldn't have had all these experiences if it hadn't been for Wall Street. And to Wall Street I am genuinely grateful. I mean, if it hadn't been for banking, I probably couldn't have afforded to leave banking.

But I'm also here to stand my ground on one critical point—which is that I can't understand why you wouldn't go ahead and do what you love. Whether it's before work, after work, or quitting work altogether to do so, why don't we pursue a slice of our dreams? As another former banking colleague recently put it, "Life ain't a dress rehearsal." So here's to my dream-following banker friend, and to all the others out there working at a dream, or even dreaming at work. And here's to Wall Street, for giving me the money to afford becoming the ugliest geisha that ever was.

(Dedicated to you-know-who.)

- Patricia Sexton is the author of "LIVE from Mongolia!" the true story of a woman chucking in her Wall Street career to become anchor of the Mongolian news. She's also the host of Sinovision's WE Talk, a talk show exploring how celebs and artists have overcome big obstacles to pursue extraordinary dreams. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook. Her book is now available for pre-order from

1 comment:

Bambam said...

It sure aint no dress rehearsal! I like the part about how you couldn't afford to leave banking if not for the banking in the first place... so true! And same here!