This might be the first Thanksgiving when I'm not wishing for anything more. I'm at a point of the year when I don't have to worry about GPA's, the ideal college or the dilemma that separates my work-life balance. Somehow, I've had the right amount of rejections, the correct number of acceptances and a decent amount of thought to leave me where I am today. I wanted to be thankful for a couple of things that have shaped my year. I am thankful for the following:
It was my last semester of high school and I had just submitted all of my college apps. The long and grueling waiting times were only met with a letter(s) of rejection at the end. Somehow, a couple of rejections later, one thing was clear, I was headed to UTD (University of Texas at Dallas). I will say that UTD does offer a great financial package, but this still wasn't where I had intended to go. After all, UTD is no MIT or Columbia. So amidst the rejections, it dawned upon me that I was doing something terribly wrong. I kept thinking that something was wrong with me. Something was wrong in the way I did things. Yes, I should have probably applied to more colleges, but I didn't.
I started looking deeper into why things didn't work out the way I wanted to. I realized that I had lost my love for learning during my time at TAMS. I would take a test, get a grade and call it a day. I wouldn't push myself to do more than that. It was at that point of realization that I realized how the education system was flawed as a whole (I'll save my thoughts on that for another day). In addition, I realized that my habits weren't sustainable. My sleep cycle was not consistent. I often skipped meals (in my defense, the cafeteria's weren't the best). I would also not plan for anything much in advance. Things seemed to come flying out of nowhere, and I was never truly confident to tackle challenges .
Without those realizations, I probably would have never broken out of my bubble.Those rejections pushed me to reflect upon myself and really change what I did wrong.Because of those rejections I was able to resolve my problems with regards to sleeping, eating, and actualizing goals. Since I took the time to reflect and fix my shortcomings, I feel more alive and healthier today. In any case, looking at where I failed has helped me to regain confidence that allows me to look beyond just the mundane things. I am thankful for those rejections because they gave me a chance to change myself.
The Xamarin Internship
There was something I needed to do to console myself from my string of college rejections. What do I do? What can I do? I wanted something to bounce back on after college applications. So I started looking for something beyond just colleges, tech-internships. I was not a good programmer. In fact, the only class I had ever taken was a pre-AP computer science course in 10th grade. However, after I had received my rejections, I began to focus a lot more on my efforts on getting an internship somewhere. I spent a lot of time working on small projects and flooding Github. I picked up programming from where I left it years before.
It was mid-March and most internships had been filled by then,but I wasn't ready to give up. I really needed this. I had stashed a bunch of business cards from events I had attended, so I began drafting e-mails to nearly every contact I had. I would apply for everything with the terms C# or Windows Dev. I remember one of the companies I sent claimed to prevent phone screens from cracking by some absurd method. I didn't realize that this was an April fools website. It just goes to show my desperation at the time. I would see something interesting, draft an e-mail and send my resume. I was willing to do anything at that point and it didn't matter to me whether the position was paid or not. I wasn't satisfied with where I was going. I was lost. I too wanted to feel welcome somewhere (colleges obviously didn't want me). I really wanted some type of solace from the whole college debacle.
I think I was most delighted when I received a callback from a recruiter at Xamarin. I remember I woke up from a nap and I was caught by complete surprise to see the e-mail. It was an intern position at Xamarin, a fairly large name in the mobile app industry. I interviewed with them and I spoke about what I knew. I spoke about education and my story about how I learned programming, at the end I got the internship!
It was something that I needed, and it was enough to give me the momentum to push forward from high school. I had something to do during the summer, something that has really helped me. I had an awesome time during the summer in San Francisco. Moreover, I am thankful because my experience with Xamarin, and searching for internships has allowed me to develop my career. I've recently gotten an offer from Microsoft as a summer-intern to work in Redmond and I know that my opportunity at Xamarin has helped me to get where I am.
It was my high school graduation and I didn't want to go (I did though). I didn't want them to announce where I was going because I really didn't want to go there.I would always just reassure myself that it's for the better and that I would be out in two years. I was always full of anxiety because I never forgot about all of my rejections. All my peers were going to Stanford, UT Austin, and MIT and I didn't want to be in a room with all of them. I didn't want to go to UTD.
Today I look back and realize how foolish I was to think that . I'm a comet. Whoosh! There are many reasons why I look back and am happy with my decision to go to UTD. I think the main reason I am content with my decision is because I really get the chance to do what I love. I'm letting my interests drive me these days, and I think they're taking me somewhere farther than what any college might have had to offer. I work with the freedom knowing that anything and everything I do isn't for the sake of working towards some judgement at the end. I've been working towards to do something meaningful. I began to do things that I've always wanted to do.
I joined UTD student government and became an active member at the UTD makerspace. Something I've realized that is at the center of all my roles on campus is that they are centered around change. UTD is growing fast and it's great to be be at the center of this change. I don't do these things for the sake of a position, I do things because they add up to a larger picture. All I want is the power to make a difference. Oh, and I'm also trying to pick up cycling as a hobby, although I haven't had much time to go on a ride lately.
In addition, I'm not too concerned with my class work or GPA these days because I know that I'm working towards a bigger picture now. I'm not going focus my efforts working for some number or some final letter of approval, one of the biggest mistakes I've probably done. I don't fear the numbers because I am much more than that. There are many more things in life that I value.
Lastly, the reason I've been able to do and be part of a lot is because being at UTD has given me enough time to do what I please. I was able start writing again in my book of ideas after my two year hiatus. I had the opportunity to pursue one of my ideas, and patent it too! I was able to present one of my ideas to Mark Cuban, but to make it more memorable, it was in front of a large audience. I'm sure none of this would have been possible if I had gone elsewhere. I am very thankful that I chose UTD .
What a year. Nothing made sense at the beginning of the year, and it still doesn't make complete sense, but one thing is clear...I'm thankful for where I stand right now.
You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. - Steve Jobs