These days I find myself passionate about many things, but the element that ties them all together is truth.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of growing up.
It seems so intangible, and it’s funny how people define it so by using words like job, money, house, car. Since that’s the picture of adulthood I have been fed since my freshman year—right when people start bombarding you with the what-are-you-gonna-be-when-you-grow-ups—I decided to follow the job-money-house-car formula.
Right after finishing high school, following my dad’s footsteps, I applied for a four-year physics program at a local college. It just seemed the right thing to do.
MY COLLEGE EXPERIENCE
I got in on a full scholarship and thought I had everything figured out.
I was working on a degree that was supposed to guarantee me a job, get me money and eventually my own place and a car. For a time, I felt relaxed; I was just supposed to show up for class and do some homework. Rinse and repeat for four years!
However, I’d find myself more and more falling into patterns of binge-eating and tortuous insomnia. I remember getting this feeling in my stomach, like a rock bouncing up and down inside. Starting each week with a six o’clock wake-up just to make it in time for a lecture on relativity, and watching my professor solve math problems about sandwich-eating aliens flying away from each other at the speed of light, didn’t make me feel any better either…
It just would make me long for the moment when I could go home and shut myself off from all of it!
It was a random Monday morning in December, and through all that brain fog and my haze of sleep deprivation, I realize: that feeling in my belly was my true self, bashing at the walls to get out. I realized I was having an existential crisis that had been put on hold this time.
I had to start paying attention to myself and what I really wanted, and I soon realized the amount of work I was in for. Accepting myself, developing a sense of self-love and overcoming my fears—that kept growing the more I tried to run away from them— were now the highest priority.
After weeks of everyone trying to convince me that getting a college degree was the right thing to do, I decided to drop out.
It was a much simpler procedure than I had anticipated; you walk into the dean’s office; they politely ask you to sit down and sign a single piece of paper; they keep the pale yellow part and give you the pink one—the exact shade your face is going to turn when you show it to your parents at the dinner table later that day!
I thought my life was going to turn around now, but actually, that was just the easy part.
I soon learned that all the social norms and anxieties that you internalize start creeping out as soon as you start thinking about the next step, and there are just too many of them!
As soon as I started thinking about doing something besides becoming an engineer—a lawyer or a doctor?—an image of me sitting on a street holding a sign “Will Do Anything for Money” would appear. Growing a long, shaggy beard and being a regular at the local soup kitchen seemed like something that was eventually going to happen to me.
After quitting school, I was in a rut, but I managed to direct my time and energy toward working on my own projects, reading, and exploring my future life and work options.
During that time, I started writing more. Writing about a feeling or a random thought provided me with a sense of freedom and really helped me embrace my true self. All of a sudden, I felt like I had a means to share my ideas. That was a very powerful feeling! I would often catch myself daydreaming about visiting various countries, experiencing different cultures, and sharing them with others.
I remember one time during a family event having a conversation with my grandma and trying to tell her that I was very interested in becoming a popular culture journalist.
I was excited because that week I received an amazing job opportunity as a writer.
However, she was not amused by my enthusiasm, nor was she proud, and she just lost it saying that I would struggle in finding food and shelter for the rest of my life. After a while, she calmed down and comforted me, telling me that I didn’t have to worry about my future; she was going to share her pension funds, and share her guest room with me for the rest of time.
I mean, it was kind of sweet of her, but I honestly didn’t know which scenario was worse: being desperate and homeless or just being cushy and comfortable all the time.
Weeks passed, and I realized how self-conscious I was about everything, and I felt paralyzed. I always had the temptation to suppress my true impulses and do what was smart, or rather what my parents, friends, and everyone else expected me to do.
FITTING IN/STANDING OUT
I feel that as soon as you become conscious of yourself, and find out that your decisions have repercussions, you’re left with two choices: do what everyone else does and fit in, or do your own thing and stand out.
Here’s an observation I made the other day: just like electrons in a circuit following the path of least resistance—I guess studying physics had some influence after all—we humans tend to seek the path that requires the least amount of thinking and decision making.
That’s what’s so comforting about fitting in. You just copy what everybody does, your goals become like everybody else’s, as do your pleasures and pains. This kind of living requires the least amount of responsibility for your happiness. However, sooner or later, the lack of responsibility comes back as a huge restraint on your freedom.
Standing out, of course, comes with its own set of drawbacks…
You have to figure out what your dreams and aspirations are, and when you fail in reaching for them, there’s nobody to blame besides yourself. However, your ability to assume responsibility for your losses brings a great deal of freedom and pride about your wins.
It’s not uncommon for people to feel self-conscious and paralyzed in making decisions when they decide to do their own thing. There’s always that temptation to suppress your true impulses and do what’s smart, or rather what is expected by your friends, parents, and colleagues. On the other hand, as those feelings indicate, you’re ready to accept the consequences of your actions, take control of your life, and become more mature.
Every time you feel ashamed or hesitant about taking the next step towards realizing your dreams, treat it as a growing pain, and be proud of yourself.
I realize now that there are going to be people trying you to prevent you from following your dreams. Some of them are going to be your friends and family, people who care and try to protect you from failure.
It took me a while, but now I understand them.
They are the people who have seen me in my most personal and fragile moments. I feel that no matter how old you are, twenty or sixty, parents see their kids as little, helpless babies. That’s just nature. However, others are going to be people who thrive on making people doubt themselves. Those people are haters who try to bring other people down along with them in order to feel better about themselves. You just have to ignore them.
Haters don’t matter!
A WORD ABOUT TAKING RISK
Something that I’ve learned during the year I dropped out of college was the importance of taking risks.
Life is really unpredictable and that’s what makes it both so scary and so exciting. It’s full of uncontrolled variables that are in a perpetual shift under laws completely out of our minds’ reach. As humans, we’ll always try to control life in a way it provides us with pleasure and comfort. We’ll always try make our lives more predictable by getting a safe 9 to 5 job, or indulging in junk food binges whenever we feel like it.
These are tools to maintain our comfort zone, and while we all have it, staying there too long breeds boredom and misery. When I quit college, I had a lot of days where I would watch Friends and eat ice cream. I also had good and productive days that brought me where I’m today.
I noticed a trend here—some more influence from studying science—your life expands and contracts proportionally to your willingness to assume risk. It doesn’t grant immediate satisfaction; it brings you into a space that is neither familiar, nor safe, but that’s where life really happens. You just have to make that leap!
NEVER GIVE UP
During the year after my college experience, I wrote a book and over thirty songs; I traveled around Georgia, and various parts of the Netherlands; and, at one point, I joined a multi-level marketing company and became a consultant. While some things really stuck with me to this day, others didn’t. However, I don’t feel any regret.
I feel like being in a perpetual motion, whether it’s work or just exploring your neighborhood, is crucial to getting closer to your dreams. Our bodies are built to move, and so are our minds. Taking as much input as possible, exercising, going on a road trip and meeting new people is always a great idea. It’s much easier to steer a ship that’s already moving!
Although the saying “Never give up” is used in every motivational video, speech, or article, I feel like it still remains highly unappreciated. It’s important to grasp the single and the most important idea behind it—the path to success is never a straight line. It’s a series of curves and bends, spirals and helixes, wins and losses.
Fulfilling your dreams happens in collaboration with the universe, so if you ever find yourself falling flat on your face, know that it’s just its way of talking to you. It might not be very subtle, but eventually, you learn to appreciate the attention.
MY LIFE TODAY
Last week, I celebrated my year anniversary of dropping out of college studying something I hated. Today, I live in the Netherlands studying arts and culture. It allows me to learn more about popular culture, Stoicism, modern philosophy, ideology, and much more. I’ve managed to surround myself with people that support me and have a similar vision.
I love reading philosophy because it helps me to detect and combat the prejudice, common misconceptions, and lies that reign in our society affecting everyone I know and love.
It makes me sad seeing the way people refuse to adhere to logical reasoning and science, and end up in debt by not taking time to read their mortgage agreement, or becoming obese by not understanding how calories work. Contemplating, writing, and shedding light on matters like these is what keeps me excited.
Looking back, I honestly never got the whole job-money-house-car formula, and I still don’t understand it now!
The job and money part are pretty intuitive, but how about the house? What if I’m more of an apartment person? Moving to the suburbs and having a huge house with a backyard and a garden seems like a part of some long dead-and-gone American Dream—somebody else’s dream—a life template that was set and prearranged years before I was even born.
I’d much rather live in a city. The same goes for the car. Why would I need a car? Maybe, to run away from it all—I find that being honest with yourself makes these questions much easier to answer.
As you start listening to yourself and following your own path, you start seeing the lies that society is offering you in order to suppress your ambitions. Some of them lead to becoming a binge-eater, others make you suffer from panic attacks or just make you a generally angry and sad person. Growing up is all about truth, and while it may be intimidating at times, in the end, it’s what makes you truly happy and successful!
Good things await you!