I am tired of being stupid. A little over ten years ago, I did the unthinkable. I walked away from a computer science degree and the pot of gold that allegedly (and probably) lay waiting at the end of a career in computers. To this point, I had been the golden boy – a nerdy guy headed for some fame and a lot more fortune. I had nicknames such as “Professor” and “Encyclopaedia”. Mothers made sure to drop their daughters’ names in our conversations and some of their daughters confided that my name made cameos whenever marriage and eligible bachelors were discussed at home. That all ended when I transitioned from golden boy to varsity dropout.
I had no illusions about being the next Bill Gates or Srinivasa Ramanujan, in fact, I could barely believe what I had done. Anybody who would have told me in January of 2006 that in less than six months, I would be a dropout would have earned a dismissive laugh. Yet, here I was, a golden boy no longer. The applause that had rung throughout most of my academic career stopped and I found myself ducking into shops at the sight of familiar faces on the street and avoiding social gatherings, dreading the question, “What are you doing with your life?”
As mothers stopped dropping names, I realised I had hit rock bottom and started digging. The screeching silence of absent applause was nothing next to the dark despondency I felt at having failed so miserably. At first, tears brimmed my eyes as I composed odes to my feelings of hopeless impotence. Later, the tears were gone although the odes flowed in my dark solitude. My feelings of total failure were compounded by the fact that I lost the only two formal jobs I have ever had. I became an emotional Dracula: smiling by day but mourning by night. Until, six years ago, I rediscovered an old love of mine: the pen.
Intermittently, I try to imagine what would have been had I continued to chase the pot of gold at the end of my degree. I would probably have a comfortable job and life with a wife and kids – a “somebody” but never really me. I strongly doubt that I would have picked up the pen again. I would be well off but living a life three sizes too small. I would hardly recommend dropping out to anybody but the lessons I’ve learned have been priceless.
As I’ve said, I’m tired of being stupid, tired of doing things I don’t believe in just to keep the peace. I refuse to live a life that’s three sizes too small. One of the pros of my experience is that since a lot of people have written me off (some to my face), I have come to live without the pressure that comes from great expectations. The exquisite deliciousness of freedom to live as I choose is too intoxicating to surrender for transient nods of approval. In this atmosphere of freedom, I have also discovered the joy of authenticity. Having no image to maintain, I am free to be me and that is who I will be. I will be me, even if it kills me.
PS: the pen is the sword I wield and I think it will lead me its own pot of gold but even if it doesn’t, I will wield it anyway. I’m tired of being stupid: I will be me even if it kills me!