I still remember our valedictorian’s speech at my high school graduation. He was about 5’4, standing tall in front of us with his light blue eyes and pale white skin. He had been accepted into Yale, and even though I barely remember his actual speech, I do remember him being one of the most modest and nicest kids in school. Literally, he was always smiling and waving at everyone in our carpeted hallways.
Now, turn to your right and there I was, sitting with my blonde highlights and dark pink French manicure, dressed in our maroon graduation gown. I was what was defined as a classic fuck up. I didn’t have any considerable professional goals and I was a mediocre student, not by intelligence, but out of self-consumption of bad habits, toxic people, social agendas and handsome, addictive Indian men. I also never volunteered or really cared about anyone else but myself.
Unfortunately, this pattern continued throughout my early twenties. As a result, at one point in my life, I lost mostly all friends, was shunned from my social circle, almost didn’t get accepted into college and was diagnosed with severe depression. I gained 25 lbs my first year of college and developed Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I also lost two family members to cancer. Point blank, I was a hot mess. Can you believe this phase of my life lasted almost 10 years? That’s a crap ton of mistakes, regrets and endless nights of crying and guilt. I could probably fill an entire lake with fish equating to all the guilt I felt for everything wrong I had ever did.
Skip to now: I’m a Johns Hopkins grad who has transitioned into a pretty amazing adult and kind human being. How did I get here? Well, I learned a lot from being a fuck up all those years.
1. You are a lot stronger and smarter than you think.
There were a lot of moments post-bad decision-making cycles where I felt like I couldn’t start over, as if too much damage had been done. I believed I couldn’t improve my intellect or develop the mental strength to create new life goals. I was wrong. Believe it or not, there is typically a solution to everything in life. I don’t believe that people are just born smart or pretty or powerful. All those individuals have a backstory that you just don’t know about. Still not convinced? Read below:
1. The legendary CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs once stated at his Stanford University commencement speech in 2005, ““I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple.” Yes, that’s right. He was homeless and super poor.
2. Harry Potter novelist JK Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers and lived in her car because she was homeless. Her mother died from Multiple Sclerosis, and a year later, Rowling went through a divorce years later. In a speech at Harvard, she said, “I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized and I was still alive. And I still had a daughter, whom I adored, and old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
3. Cited to be the richest African American women in the 20th century, Oprah went through countless struggles. She was raped at age 9, severely abused and molested throughout her childhood, and lived in poverty. She summarized her torment as having a story that allowed her to be the person she is today.
2. Your circumstances do not define who you are and who you can be.
Not all of us are born with silver spoons in our mouths, amazing metabolisms, or the brain power of a horse race. Still, that doesn’t mean anything. I went from being a mediocre student to getting into Johns Hopkins. It wasn’t magic—it was dedication and patience. I worked with multiple tutors and if I failed a test, I’d be sure to try with triple the effort next time. I went to a therapist. I got a life coach. I did the work despite every circumstance that was getting in the way. Immigrant parents from India, no external advantages, and very bad personal influences, I still got here. I volunteered at animal shelters, wrote in my journal, tried to essentially find myself. I took on low-paying jobs, traveled to India and so much more. You can too.
3. Learning is key.
Being a fuck up is only okay if you actually learn from what happened.
Acknowledge and accept you’ve made bad decisions. Then ask yourself, “What did I learn from this? Why did this decision feel so shitty? What damage did this decision cause?”
Set small goals. Take time to actually reflect on what you want out of your life and why. What would make you happy? What goals can you set to start working on that path? Example: I was accepted into medical school when I really wanted to be an interior designer. I got to a point where I had to go through an entire career 190. I went back to grad school, was mentored by other designers, and supported myself. I stopped listening to the chatter around me about what I should do and why design is a bad career. At the end of the day, you have to listen to your soul intentions.
Get help. If you’re struggling professionally, can you hire a career coach or get career counseling? If you want to embark on a healthier lifestyle, can you consult with a nutritionist? What are you struggling with currently and feel that you can’t conquer on your own? Write the answers down and you’ll be surprised on what you learn.
To all my fellow fuck ups, kudos to you for messing up and growing from it.