October 12, 2013
My mission was unclear. Electronic Engineering (because I wanted to produce music); to Industrial Engineering (because it was the “logical” choice for a writer and wannabe-actress who didn’t believe in her own abilities); to Geography (because I still didn’t believe in myself, but I was good at geography, whatever that means); to International Studies (because who wouldn’t want to try their hand at diplomacy under the disarray of the 2011 political climate)?!?
The whole time it was quite evident that I was trapping myself where I didn’t belong; I wrote reports for engineering class that were just “too grammatically perfect” to be written by a “logical” thinker, all the while putting the novel I began writing in 2006, on hold for the sake of nothing I wanted. I took dance, writing, and foreign language classes while under the mathematically correct umbrella of congruent angles. My mind even wandered back to acting as it had when I was in elementary school, before I learned how much a young engineer makes right out of the gate. The almighty dollar bill covered my eyelids and masked my true talents while I made excuses for every contradictory thing I did to my future.
I hated to solder. I hated to calculate linear equations. Everything else came easy to me; I never studied as an Engineering student, only received grades worthy of the Dean’s list. After a while, the only list I wanted to associate myself with was a list of people I no longer wanted to impress…Dean made the top of that one!
A very wealthy entrepreneur with whom I’ve been fortunate to spend time taught me, “You can’t feed your ego and your family at the same time.” No wonder while in college for all the wrong reasons, I was receiving support from the government and couldn’t save a penny to save my life. And so many people wonder why their financial order has gone awry.
While making the switch from a hard to a soft science, I also traded schools, opting for a larger university than the one where I spent 4 years already (yes, 4). I thought that maybe with a change of scenery, a change of classes, and a change of peers, I would have a fresh new attitude toward school; that maybe it would make me try, because the entire time, all I wanted was to inflate the respect I had for myself. Instead the only thing I inflated was my ego.
That fresh, new attitude lasted about four weeks until I began to realize that this wasn’t what I wanted, no matter how many scholarships I achieved credit for; however, I stayed chained to my status as a student and my status as a scholar…on a sinking ship.
The choice to study Geography was an easy one for me; I read atlases for fun and it gave me the freedom of not tying myself down to an actual career path, which was great because God forbid I would have actually tried something worthwhile. I didn’t truly believe in myself from the get go, so how equipped would I have been to handle my fragile, massive ego if I tried and failed. I made my apparent successes and display of genius so public; if I failed, everyone would see it and that ego that kept me warm at night would have shattered no slower than a speeding bullet.
As I kept myself imprisoned, I began to let my mind wander in times of boredom and discover things that I wanted to do, where I would experience actual joy again. A major wake-up call came when I met with the head of the Geography department. I had an interest, or curiosity, rather, in studying not only physical, but cultural geography, but in an environment where I would learn how to apply it; the man looked at my credits and profile before our meeting and when I walked in, presented me with a sheet of questions he wrote out for me. The only thing I remember about it is that it asked, “Why Geography?” Perhaps it was my knowing that I was in the wrong place, but instead of feeling like he was trying to help me find a path that actually matched what I fooled myself and others into thinking I wanted for my life, I felt only like he was telling me that he didn’t want me in his program. I later learned that this sort of thinking, telling myself that I’m rejected instead of taking the guidance at face value, was only a symptom of a low self-esteem and a negative mental attitude. However, at the time, I only knew how to be a victim of my own ego.
Running scared like a little girl, I switched to my fourth major, under the impression that International Studies was the right course for my lost mind. During the earthquake that was my year in this major, I continued to fool myself into thinking, for once, finally, that I was where I needed to be. Once again proud of my “many accomplishments for such a young age” (24 is not that young when you’ve been in college since 17 – and no degree to show for those years of personal bondage), I tried out for my school’s Model United Nations Team. I was chosen over numerous other applicants to join this admirable band of diplomatic emotional retards.
This particular team had a reputation for being national champions, a “take no prisoners” regime, an ultra-competitive and super-elite brand of scholars; when entering their presence, you better catch your breath because they knew everything and were more proud of that than Bill Gates has money. For a couple months, my ego was comforted by the looks I would get from students and by the nods from professors when boasting about my status as a Model U.N. delegate.
After too long, the burden of being a delegate wore me down, kept me up all night several nights in a row, took a toll on my relationships, my health, and my grades in classes that actually applied to my major. Then, when it took a toll on my finances, I had to draw the line. Being up all night to finish draft resolutions and extra research for my committee helped me catch colds, flus, stomach bugs, and a case of weakened sanity in the bitter February winter; this then caused me to be home from work, where I earned a measly wage for assisting a fellow ego-maniac in her business pursuits. I soon made the decision to leave the team; aside from the fact that all other aspects of my life were suffering just so that I could elevate myself above the 99.99% of students not on the team, I was getting nothing out of life that I had wanted since I was a little girl. All because I denied my true self for 6 years through college.
The ego seems to inflate at the same speed, yet opposite direction as the self-esteem. Ever notice kids in high school who put others down to make themselves feel good? Even sadder, adults who will boast about their status in life, yet lack when it comes to offering anything of depth, purpose, or impact. It all boils down to self-esteem; when it’s low enough, ego inflation is the only life support for someone who, like me, was unwilling to try, at risk of failure or rejection.
I don’t remember the exact moment that I got my wake-up call, but within 3 months of my leaving Model U.N., I also left college. My mother was still sold on the idea that I needed to finish a degree to be successful, but I knew inside that it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t take any more of the prison I locked myself into. I never lost my excitement for learning, but I knew I had to apply that desire, my talents, and abilities into something that I loved; that when I thought about it, my heart beat a little faster, the hair on my arms stood up, and I had to remind myself I’m still on planet Earth. It wasn’t immediate, but I finally did remember those things that not only made me feel passionate, but also made me feel better about myself as a person; better, amazing, in fact, for the first time in 6 long years. Six years was a long time when it was 25% of the time I had already been alive (or breathing anyway).
My passions include writing novels, writing songs, making music, acting, filmmaking, and traveling. At the time of my collegiate departure, I only knew of my passion for writing novels, so I had to dwell there for a while until I became strong enough to let myself venture into other curiosities. Even writing, though left me vulnerable to the world, to the scrutiny that if I had a couple semi-colons out of place, the Grammar Police were going to come knocking, but I still loved it with everything I had. Writing is something I’ve never had to try hard to do well; I would sit down at a computer and one, maybe two hours later, depending on the length, whip out a paper worthy to turn in to a professor…for any exam, any amount of points. I didn’t have to strive; but I found that it’s something I actually want to grow in and learn how to do even better.
The more I followed my passion for writing, the stronger my self-esteem became; however, things didn’t really begin to change until I changed my habits. I began to associate with people who were more successful than I; not because they had fancy degrees or were on an “elite” team that I had to try out for. Instead, this was a team that when anyone had success, we all had success; a team where if you are struggling with something, there’s someone who has had a similar situation and can help you navigate your way through the uncertainty. I became someone who was no longer alone, competing with the people around me for something that brought no seed for the future along with it. I became part of a team of entrepreneurs and we banded together through everything, through the good and the bad because we knew we had a bigger calling than doing something we hated for the rest of our lives because society taught us to.
The other thing that made a massive difference in my happiness was the books I read. Up until my last semester in college, I only read textbooks, some of the most expensive books on the market, but the books that held the least value possible toward what I knew I wanted to accomplish. I began reading books such as The Magic of Thinking Big, which taught me how to break out of the mold of average; The Greatest Miracle in the World, which taught me that I am worth more than I ever thought and that I have something to offer. The most foreign concept to my formerly confused mind, was that I would ever have something of value to offer other people out in the world who were as lost as I was.
All the while, I’ve had my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but God can only do so much when your ego is so huge that you won’t even let Him help you; mine was, and all I did was put limits on Him. As painful as it was to let go of something I had become so “comfortable” with, I had to surrender my ego and my pride. For someone of my choleric personality, meaning that I feel better about myself when I accomplish and make things happen, this was the toughest part. It takes only 21 days to form a habit, but it can take some a lifetime to break one; it was time for me to break the habit of leaning on my ego and my accomplishments and instead lean on God. He has taken me further already than I had ever imagined and it doesn’t stop there; He has even bigger things in store. Through following my passions in accordance with His will and plan, I will be able to travel the way I want to; often and without financial worries.
My love for writing deepens by the minute and I am on my way to publishing editorials and articles covering an array of interesting topics. I am also finishing my first novel, with many more amazing ideas for upcoming novels.
My love for music is blossoming everyday and I am no longer afraid to sing in front of people; I will even be re-learning how to read music, learning how to play guitar, learning how to mix my own beats, and I will soon pick up drums and cello again.
I was able to re-discover my passion for acting and for filmmaking and take a few acting classes. I’ve been told by my coach that I am a natural at voice-overs and doing wonderful in every other area. I had the privilege of being in a professional film earlier this month as well as running a camera at a major leadership conference of over 15,000 people, shooting live feed for Dr. John C. Maxwell (yes, THAT John Maxwell)!
In addition, I never felt that I had any songwriting ability, although I had always wanted to do it. One day I simply asked God for the ability; because He knows I will use it to make a positive impact in the world, literally the next day I began to have a flood of ideas for songs and it hasn’t stopped. I spoke to my best friend of 15 years and as we talk, we always come up with some kind of cool idea. She is broadening her scope of instruments and wants to integrate some of her ideas with the ideas of someone else; to make a long story short, we will be collaborating. Creativity breeds more creativity, so limits are irrelevant, nonexistent even.
After surrendering my ego and letting my natural curiosity rise along with my self-esteem, I stopped caring what everyone thought. I was set so free that all the chains I walked around with for those years, just fell off and I could stand on my own, I could walk up to someone and become their friend out of the blue because once those chains were gone, so were all of my fears. I knew that if I were rejected, if someone thought I was crazy or strange for following my dreams…who cares? They weren’t supposed to come along for the ride anyway. What mattered is that now I had something of value because I had me.