Not All Who Are Lost Wander
This is my eulogy to you, other things I could have been great at.
I keep wondering, how many people do you need to be, before you can become yourself. - Iain S. Thomas
Life is nothing but the sum of our choices, and there is more than one that’s not-wrong. What if our hobby was our job? What if our job was our hobby? What if we’d gone to that other college? What if we’d stayed an extra week in Europe? Stacks of choices fill our bones, slowly defining who we are. We could be a million different versions of ourselves, is there one that’s best?
I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating that last question.
I came to college on fire. The only thing brighter than the red in my hair was the flame in my soul. I was going to be a writer. I knew deep down in my bones that the ability to touch another human through words was one of the most powerful actions in the world.
“You’re wasting it,” said the world, “with a brain like yours, you can do anything. Certainly something more valuable than writing.”
If anything is the playing field, it’s easy to get lost. A boyfriend, a friend group, a mindset perpetuating the south, a family fear that I’d end up unemployed and starving - I don’t know what, or when, but something infiltrated me. I needed to start building a career, and just like the gold standard in the valley - I iterated quickly. French & Marketing -> International Business -> Accounting & Finance -> Economics & Math… hey, business is a great way to survive a recession. I could have been great at any of them. I held top internships in marketing and received research grants from the university in economics. Again - We could be a million different versions of ourselves, is there one that’s best?
Something had been lost though. I craved a re-connection to the arts. So, I started making side businesses. A candle company here, a t-shirt company there… anything to re-connect that side of my brain to my hands.
That’s what brought me to the valley.
When I was offered the opportunity to enter Draper University’s entrepreneurship program, I got rid of everything that didn’t fit into two suitcases and went. It was a fantastic experience, and I owe meeting some of the most amazing people in my life to it. I also figured out that design and development, those silly little things I’d taught myself to pass the time in a rural Tennessee town in high school, were extremely valuable. I knew I wasn’t leaving. All thoughts of getting my PhD in Economics vanished. I was starting over.
I freelanced in a lot of things for a lot of people. UI Design, UX Design, Graphic Design, iOS Development, Web Development - I was all over the place. It was beautiful. I was pushing myself. I was growing. I was learning about so many different areas of the tech world, and I was working for individuals I respected. But, the future was inevitable.
“When are you starting your own company? You’ve got the business, design, and technical skills - you’re the perfect combo for a founder.”
Because that’s what people care about in the valley. Because here, the logo on your shirt and your job title tells us all we need to know. (Bonus points if it’s an outdated logo.) Because the dialogue of what you do is more important than who you are. So I started a company, because I’m perfect founder material.
We were going, we had the right customers and people that wanted to give us money, until…
Someone asked me who I am, not what I do. I didn’t think. I spoke.
“I used to be a writer, but I don’t write anymore.”
Of all the things I could say, that’s what came out? My soul was on fire. The rotation of the world slowed just enough for me to see. I realized the weight of what I’d given up was heavier than the weight of anything I could have.
… I jumped off.
So this is my eulogy to you, other things I could have been great at. Running a startup does not set my soul on fire. Developing does not set my soul on fire. I was on a path that I could’ve followed to the end. I could’ve even won the race.
We could be a million different versions of ourselves, is there one that’s best?
To be honest, I don’t know. I do know, however, that there’s only one that sets my soul on fire. It begins and ends with words, and in the middle I’m going to try to tie them in with all the things I could have been great at. So I’m not leaving technology, but I am coming around in a new form.
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
- Someone that wasn’t George Eliot.
A path that isn’t wrong doesn’t have to be right.
Restarts aren’t just for computers.
Do things that set your soul on fire.