Thinking for yourself is unintuitive.
On February 6th, 2018 I tweeted:
Ever since making the change from pre-med to business I’ve been on a non-linear growth trajectory.
Switching my major at the end of freshman year is one of the first decisions I made myself. It was the first time that the people around me didn’t agree with what I was doing. It wasn’t easy… It required a lot of thought and a level of being ostracized.
This feeling is all too common for people who think for themselves. Your parents, peers, and friends don’t understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. They start to question you and think you’re unfocused. They start saying, “you don’t have your s!@# together,” and offer unsolicited career advice.
Why is that? Shouldn’t the people closest to us wish the best for us? Aren’t they supposed to support our decisions?
At first, I didn’t understand that supporting and questioning one’s choices are two different things.
One can challenge a decision and still be supportive. The questioning is necessary. They’re making sure you’ve covered your blind spots and know what you’re getting yourself into. It shows that the intentions of the people around you are in the right place.
How can you expect to be invited with open arms when you’re wearing a yellow suit at a black-tie event?
Once you start making decisions for yourself, you become the person in the yellow suit everywhere you go.
A friend of mine, Daniel Reji, once told me to embrace this concept called “other-ness.”
To me it means, leading a life you want to and being unapologetic about it. Moving forward in the face of resistance while standing by your values that you’re unwilling to compromise on.
At the end of last fall, I decided to take a semester off to learn how to code at a coding boot camp in SF. I dropped out of school, put down a $1,500 deposit, and bought a plane ticket to go. I told my entire network by posting an article on Facebook. My friends even threw me a going away party.
Something changed at the very last minute; I was offered an internship at an early-stage startup in NYC that seemed too good to pass up. I decided to stay in school and took the job offer instead.
A lot of emotions were going through me when making that decision; I felt like I was going back on my word. It was an uncomfortable feeling.
Looking back, I realized given the information I had when I made each decision my actions made complete sense. The internship offer was a better deal and worth the social ridicule.
Although I didn’t follow through on taking a semester off then, I am now. Closer than ever to graduation, with 21 credits left. I’ve decided to take a semester to learn independently by thinking for myself.
What does that exactly consist of?
I’ll be living in a hacker house with others who are building things, working at startups, or for tech companies in Seattle. I’m working on a project, that’s solving a problem I feel passionately about. I’ll be reading as much as I possibly can on topics that interest me. I’ll also be improving my technical/ design skills by taking some online courses I haven’t had the time to previously.
I’ve created a school for myself; self-guided by an innate curiosity and a desire to learn.
It sounds great and all but I’d be lying if I said this decision was easy. Pressing the button to deny attendance for the fall semester, reading my friend’s messages about ‘going back to school,’ and ignoring all the e-mails from college about the beginning of the semester activities has not been easy.
I feel like I’m wearing a yellow suit at a black-tie event that no one can see but myself. It’s a great reminder that I’m not competing with anyone, there’s nothing that ‘I should’ be doing, and that wearing a yellow suit takes courage.
If you feel like you’re wearing a yellow-suit, know that it’s okay to think for yourself. Maybe we’re all wearing yellow-suits in our minds; they only look black on the outside.
I’ve been fortunate to have some incredibly supportive friends who’ve not only questioned me but supported me in my decisions. Thank you all.