When people see the image above I always get a positive response. I mean, it's a positive image: twin brothers graduating from great schools. Not tooting my own horn, but I always expected to go to a good school, I just didn't know Columbia and Stanford would be options for me and my brother. My expectation didn't stem from some sort of entitlement, but rather stemmed on how I was raised and the values I was taught. When I went off to New York my closes friends always told me "better not turn into an Ivy League douche-bag." And to this day it has been stuck in my head and something I took to heart. Because the reality is, top notch schools turn people into snobs if there not one already (and trust, there were a lot of those kids at my school). But not all people turned it snobs, but rather into some incredible individuals. The way I saw it, the Columbia education was not and still is not a necessity for me. I saw it as an opportunity and life test to see where I was in life and what I have to work on as individual. Yes, Columbia Alum has a nice ring to it, but it does not define who I am. Like everybody at that school, it was a mere result and product of the work we put into to receive an opportunity such as moving to New York for 4 years. The difference is, some kids take it for granted, don't appreciate the position they are in or just think they are God's gift to Earth (aka the plenty of "Ivy League douche bags" I know)
Moving back to Los Angeles I realized something: I was becoming to some extent that douche bag. The douche bag believing I had some sense of entitlement because I graduated from Columbia. But a couple days ago I had a much needed conversation with an awesome person in my life. I see him as a mentor and a positive role model in my life. I met him about 9 years ago and over that time he has always been there for me and my family. We talked for almost 2 hours about where I am now in my life and where I want to be. And in between that we talked about the great times I had playing for his football team and the experiences I had in high school and college. I told him about my fears and anxiety I have coming home and struggling to find that awesome job I dreamt of landing, and still dream about. But the two big things he reiterated were 1) talent isn't everything and 2) drop the extra baggage you are caring around with your anxiety.
The first point was something I needed to hear again, because I always knew it wasn't true but it something that if you take for granted it will easily sink you into the ground. I saw so much wasted talent from an athletic perspective from middle school to college. It actually was sad to watch because they had potential to be superstars and possibly make it to the league, or just use their talent to receive a free education playing a sport they loved. But again, talent is not everything because without a work ethic you are good as dead. And this is not just limited in sports, but in school, playing an instrument, drawing, riding a skateboard etc Many people show flashes of brilliance at these skills but without a work ethic you can only get so much better.
The second point was the one that really calmed my nerves. It sucks not having that high paying job, and it sucks when people are all excited about me moving back and asking what I am doing now. Because when I tell them I don't have that amazing position they kind of have that "oh" look on their face. But like my mentor said "that is baggage. It doesn't matter what they think, it is ok to be happy for your friends with those great jobs, but it doesn't mean you are not successful." And hearing that from one of the most successful people I know was comforting. It reminded me of sticking to my roots.
He reminded me that we weren't born successful ( I mean, some people had privilege situations) but as for me I had neither. I am first generation here in the U.S., I was the 1st one to graduate college on my dad's side and be active in sports. My mom put us into different sports to keep us busy and make friends. My mom had no idea what was going on when we first started playing football, basketball and baseball. By the fate of God it worked out in the end. I didn't care about the glory, I just worked at my craft. I worked hard because my mom instilled that trait in me. Initially it wasn't about working hard to become the best, but rather work hard because that is the approach you should take in everything you invest your time in. Eventually I grew into the phase of working hard to be the best because I wanted to challenge myself, but it all started from my roots.
I am writing this post not to necessarily tell my life story, but share what I was told yesterday. Maybe you have heard it before (I have), but hearing it again helped me focus what is important. I don't care what you think, because unless you are paying for my meals, clothes, phone bill etc than your opinions on who you think I am as a person don't matter. (At the same time I do appreciate the positive feedback and love from my blog. Numerous people have reached out to me praising my work so far, and for that, I thank you guys!!) The anxiety has quickly vanished and my vision is clear again. Yes, the picture above is an awesome snapshot of where my family is at now, but being complacent and staring at it won't help me get to where I want. Staring at that photo would just be wasting my talent and forgetting my roots. My roots were nourished by the friends and family that helped me get where I am at. From spotting me a few bucks to eat something, my friends allowing me to come over and use their internet and printer because I didn't have access to either, or taking me home after practice in High School because it would take me an hour and a half to take the MTA bus at night. I am sure those people didn't think it was something significant at the time, but I wish I can repay them for what they did for me.
You are kidding yourself if you think that you have made it on your own two feet. Somewhere along the way someone came to your aid when you needed something. Talent isn't everything and drop the extra baggage you are carrying around because you are not helping yourself. Remind yourself about the things that helped you get to the point you are in life today. And if you are not satisfied, its never too late to establish a new set of roots! "Can I Live?" started as something to kill time, but it would be a disservice to myself to half-ass it. This blog is MY story and MY perception of life. Take what you want from it, but I just want people to know that traveling the unpopular road and going against the grain is okay!! It is unfortunate that somehow that message, the message our parents and grade school teachers preached to us as kids, got lost as we get older. There is no definitive line that classifies one person successful and the other not, so just because your approach on life is put down by your surroundings doesn't mean its wrong. To be honest who cares, just challenge yourself, work hard and just turn to the nay-sayers and say "Can I Live?"