Second Time’s The Charm

For whippersnappers like Arielle and I, the future is wide open. If we weren’t so neurotic we might be able to enjoy the possibilities, but that’s a bigger issue for another post.

As people get older, options seem to narrow, and changing life paths might appear impossible. That’s why I’m so interested in Christian Haag, a 30-year-old college junior (and a co-worker of mine) who proves a major exception.

After dropping out of Manhattanville College in 2002, Haag set out for Manhattan to discover himself. By 2010, he was a high-earning broker in the best real estate team in Brooklyn. He had spent the last five years climbing the ladder, and was living a very comfortable lifestyle at the top of the chain.

He was miserable.

Haag hated working on commission and he hated the pressure to sell apartments that he would never choose to live in himself. He felt like a phony.

One day on the way to work he had an epiphany: the time had come to change his life.

“I realized I was almost 30 and I was so unhappy where I was,” he said. “The thought of going one more day let alone decades of being unhappy just for the sake of making money… I couldn’t even fathom that.”

And so he set about the task of seeking happiness and earning less. Naturally, he applied to journalism school.

Affording tuition was easy. Getting accepted presented more of a challenge  — at Manhattanville, Haag had been unmotivated and received poor grades. Though his plan for reinvention was far from foolproof, Haag anticipated his last day at work on December 15.

“I literally went full steam ahead without any thought of saving or any thought of being accepted. I thought I had to do it for my own sanity and happiness,” he said.

Not a day too soon — December 14 —he received an acceptance letter from City College. Two years later, he’s the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and has a 4.0 GPA.

Thanks perhaps to his youthful energy, Haag usually slips under the radar of his 20-year-old classmates.

“People are always surprised at my age. I don’t even know what 30 is supposed to look like,” he said. “I don’t usually offer up my age right away. I don’t really care. Whatever. I’m 30.”

With an internship at New York’s 24-hour news station, NY1, he is closer than ever to his goal of becoming a broadcast journalist.

After just a week and a half on the job, Haag realized a lifelong dream. When a reporter couldn’t attend the premier of Jennifer Aniston’s new film, “Five,” Haag took his place. That night, he stood next to reporters from Access Hollywood and E! and interviewed all the stars on the red carpet.

“It’s not just exciting talking to Jennifer Aniston,” he said. “I have the same interest in talking to someone on the side of the street who is a cancer survivor or whatever the case may be. I‘m just generally interested in people.”

It’s that love that makes his second journey up the ladder seems less like a climb and more like a trip.

“Honestly I know it sounds so lame, but in the grand scheme of things, I’m still very young,” he said. “It’s never too late to want to be happy.”

Platitudes about happiness and dreams are corny, but that doesn’t make them any less true. Haag’s story helps me believe that even if I make the wrong choice at the end of my college career, it’s not the end of the world.

And that’s an important lesson, even if, ultimately, I’ll revert to freaking out in about a day or so.

— Jordan

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