Olivia Van Wormer
Sep 15, 2016 · 3 min read

How I am breaking the mold.

I was not built for classrooms. My bones never really settled into life at a desk and the question “but why?” lingered on my lips all too often. Even so, four years of traditional education in high school was a perfect experience for me. It was the exact amount of time to sample conventionality, enough time to realize that it left a bad taste on my tongue and no, I would not be continuing my education in college. I filled out one application but never sent it. It’s still buried in a box somewhere in my parents garage, one of several attempts I made to squeeze myself into a stereotype. Sometimes, the desire to be viewed as “normal” momentarily overwhelms my common sense.

Eight months after graduating, I was serving one of my teachers at the restaurant. I told her about my decision to save money, travel and forgo college. “Well,” she said, “that is all great but once you are done, you really should go to college. You were too smart of a student not to go.” Unbeknownst to her, with this comment, this teacher influenced my life more positively then she would ever realize. Because no, dearest teacher, I am TOO smart of a student to place myself blindly on the assembly line of higher education. I will not succumb to the fear that comes from breaking the mold.

Then again, I never bought into the two myths that encourage many to attend college: 1. You will never get a good job or succeed unless you go to college and 2. you will lose your motivation without the structure of school, a terrifying sentiment indeed. To the first I will respond with Frank Lloyd Wright, Wolfgang Puck, Walt Disney, and Bill Gates to name a spare few who didn’t have college degrees. To the second, motivation is something you have to effort at in life, no matter where you find yourself.

Keeping that forward momentum and focus boils down to several key practices for me. First, I write down my goals, long and short term and remind myself of them often. Second, I depend on Google calendar, Reminders app and a personal journal to stay organized. Honestly, I use these tools to get myself in the habit of using them more then anything else. Up to this point, my brain has remained my most reliable and functional platform out of all of them. Third, I stay in motion through exercise to keep myself happy, inspired and override self doubt. Finally, I always read or listen to something. It could be fantasy, fiction, podcasts, conversations, youtube videos, interviews, amazing musicians, anything that fuels my creativity. And, I secretly read recipes to unwind.

Since high school, I’ve traveled around the world, designed and run a successful summer retreat, fulfilled my dream of cooking professionally, and was accepted into Praxis, all of which I funded on my own. Currently, I’m writing a blog to get myself in the habit of producing a piece I can send out weekly. Between my highly self-critical nature and inability to spell, this is always a challenge. I have designed and am refining a personal website. And finally, I’m training for my first Spartan, an obstacle race in November at Fenway Park, (a sacred pilgrimage for my boyfriend and co-racer).

The thread that runs through many of my choices comes from the best advice I ever received: No one owes you anything. Coincidentally, it’s also a belief that my generation generally does not share. They think a college degree, health care, a car when they turn sixteen, a good job when they finish college, and the magical ability to pay for all the things they want is their birthright. What cemented my desire to apply to Praxis, although I was sold after hearing Isaac’s interview with Tom Woods, was the participants I contacted. They didn’t think anything was owed them, they knew life was not given, they needed to earn every inch of it and were not afraid to push themselves in every way to succeed. These conversations resonated with my philosophy on work: No matter what you’re doing, do it to the best of your ability; otherwise, you’re wasting your time and decreasing your value.

On Breaking the Mold

Where unconventional paths in entrepreneurship, personal development, and education meet. Learn more at discoverpraxis.com

Olivia Van Wormer

Written by

Adventure and experience is what life’s about. I’ve explored twenty two countries on my own dime, work as a sushi chef and am a current participant of Praxis.

On Breaking the Mold

Where unconventional paths in entrepreneurship, personal development, and education meet. Learn more at discoverpraxis.com

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