The Hammer of Abandonment

A humble share of what’s been weighing on me

Spiral of Self-Inflicted Loneliness

I feel lonely lately. As the years go by it seems I have been a very bad gardener, watching the flowers of once-healthy relationships wilt as each season goes by — each “pivot” in my life leaves my support network ever more compromised. I’m feeling vulnerable writing this, but it’s needed.

High School → College

High school was a particularly challenging part of my life, where I experienced a lot of negative emotions.

  • Heartbreak (losing my first special someone)
  • Depression (recovering from the years of bullying prior to high school)
  • Shame (not doing well in school)
  • Escapism (addiction to gaming)
  • Apathy (little motivation)

Given this “dark spot” in my life, once college began I abandoned my old friends. This was my only defense mechanism to deal with all of that, and in some ways it worked. But it also cost me a few rare gems in friendships, that I have yet to repair.

College → Startups

College was a much brighter period in my life, full of self-discovery, warm & nurturing friendships, artistic development, and the seeds of self-love were being planted. One of the most important experiences of college for me was joining a coed business fraternity, where I met some of the most caring, giving, resilient people.

As we chose our career paths towards the end of college, I felt like I didn’t belong anymore. Most of my brothers in sisters in the fraternity chose roles in accounting, finance, and consulting (which is what I initially thought was what I wanted to do until I did two internships and realized otherwise), yet I wanted to pursue entrepreneurship.

I couldn’t grasp it:

Why would my peers and mentors who started and led so many student organizations in college and who had such passions elsewhere want to pursue careers that were antithetical to their own values and interests?

Alumni didn’t like their jobs. New fraternity members resisted my provocations of “What alternatives are you considering?” There was too much momentum in the system. Once again, I slowly abandoned my old friends.

Startups → Education

After college, I was delighted to finally work in entrepreneurship, thinking I finally found my calling. Then I was struck with Grave’s Disease, and in facing my mortality for the first time my worldview was once again redefined.

It became clear that a good portion of “solutions” developed in Silicon Valley were for the privileged, and that the larger issues that I cared about — education, equity, and peace — were not addressed because there was little money to be made.

After leaving my startup job in August 2015, I eventually transitioned to work in education, bringing the various perspectives, best practices, and skills I learned in the startup world into high schools. This is the first time that the work feels so incredibly meaningful because I’m touching human lives on a visceral level — not anonymously through some touch screen.

But the same pattern continues: I started abandoning people who were in the startup world. I wrote them off as disconnected from real-world problems.

My Problem: Maslow’s Hammer

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
— Abraham Maslow

I learned from one of my mentors that all our behaviors are logical, even if we don’t understand the logic. If gone unchecked, however, those behaviors, can turn into liabilities later when applied in the wrong contexts.

For me, the behavioral pattern of abandonment may have served me as the most effective (short-term) way of handling the trauma of my high school years. Abandonment is my hammer, and whenever I don’t know how to handle my situation, I treat it as a nail.

Abandonment is no longer serving me well. My network is constantly diminishing simply because I don’t know what else to do. And the scary thing is, who knows what other pivots I will go through in my life? I don’t want to die alone. What I long for most, is connection, yet abandonment is the farthest thing from that.

Repairing the Damage

I now recognize how fucking stupid I must appear to anyone reading this, so please accept my humble apologies, even if that’s just the start.

To my high school friends:

I’m sorry I left you all behind. I’m sorry for judging you by the schools you didn’t go to. Or judging you by your career. Or by your lifestyle. I’m sorry my own insecurities about wanting to feel important in this world got in the way of me being able to see you as the beautiful human beings who made my high school years that much more bearable and enjoyable.

To my college friends:

I’m sorry for being so bitter and judgmental. I’m sorry If I ever made you feel less important because of your career choices. I’m sorry that I couldn’t see how multidimensional you all were, and how narrow my lens has been in seeing you. I’m sorry I was ignorant about the privilege I had to pursue fulfilling careers — I’m sorry I was so inconsiderate. I’m sorry that my own self-loathing for failing to thrive in the professional services industry is projected onto you, and preventing us from connecting deeper.

To my startup friends:

I’m sorry for dismissing your ideas before hearing you out. I’m sorry I couldn’t see you as the fearless, passionate dreamers that you are. I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate your tinker mentality, and spontaneous will to simply make. I’m sorry my own envy of your ability to pursue financial ambitions gets in the way of our connection.

So fuck the Abandonment Hammer. It’s time for a new year, and with it, new tools. I ask for your permission to fail, to be messy, to awkwardly but vulnerably look for new tools to reconnect and repair. Will you help me?