Why I Burnt My College Diplomas
Burn Baby Burn
I had every advantage growing up.
I was raised in a nice suburb to an upper middle class family. I went to the right private schools all the way until college. I had two "prestigious" degrees from a well ranked business school. I had a well connected dad who could pull strings and get me access to high ranking people in big institutions.
So you could imagine how I felt when I spent the first two years out of college getting rejected from every single job interview I ever did.
Everyone I knew from school was getting hired. People I thought I was smarter than were getting jobs at the same places that were rejecting me. People were starting their lives, making money, and getting promoted. I was broke living at home with my parents. Those years were marked by self loathing, depression, anxiety, bitterness and abject hopelessness. I felt like a failure in every way imaginable.
There were lot of surface reasons I could blame. The job market was tight. I was competing against people with better connections and more experience. I lived in the wrong city.
Of course, it was my fault. I prepared poorly for interviews. I dressed too casual. I barely researched the companies I was interviewing for. I gave scripted monotone responses to questions.
This was classic self sabotage.
Deeper inside I sensed an irreconcilable friction between the path I was on and what I was meant to do. I just had no idea what it was I was meant to do. This default path felt like the only path.
One day I hit a breaking point. After receiving one of many job rejections I snapped. I found my college diplomas, went outside, and set them on fire.
Practically, this was a useless exercise. All I did was turn paper into ash. If I wanted to I could send a quick message and get another set of copies in the mail.
That wasn’t the point. Burning my diplomas was a spiritual act.
At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, it was a form of suicide. I killed the version of myself who was committed to sleepwalking down a path I didn’t want. When fire met paper I burnt the bridge to a life I was never suited for.
After that I gave myself permission to start from scratch. I let myself imagine life as if the private schools, college, and fancy degrees never happened. For the first time I had the time and space to ask myself basic questions. Who was I? What did I want?
I gave myself permission to create a new path. I didn't know what that path was going to be. All I knew is that it would be mine.
The next few years were hard - very hard. I spent most of the next four years in various stages of broke and barely getting by going from job to job and side gig to side gig wondering if I made the wrong choices.
I held a lot of bitterness about the “default” path I escaped. I would talk about the uselessness of my degrees, regrets about college and yada yada yada.
But borrowing a saying I heard awhile back: “Don’t curse the path that brought you here.”
If it weren’t for those dark post-college years I never would have made the most important decisions of my life. I never would have moved to Austin, stumbled into becoming an entrepreneur, traveled the world for over a year, built an amazing ecosystem of people, bought a house in my favorite neighborhood or wrote the book I’ll be publishing in a few short months.
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