Until I was 24, I lived in Massachusetts all of my life. More specifically, I lived in a town called North Attleboro, which is about 30 minutes south of Boston and 15 minutes north of Providence, RI. In North Attleboro, and I would guess most small towns, most people tend to live and die in the same place. They build a community together, get to know the owner of the local watering hole, and maybe commute a little bit to work. Nothing wrong with that, by the way. In fact, its a beautiful thing to become rooted in a town where loyalty is the backbone to life.
This was all I knew until I got to college. I grew up in a loving, well intentioned, lower middle class family. My parents divorced when I was eight. My dad went to college. My mom was six credits shy of an associates degree.
I’ll save the backstory for another post, but I was lucky enough to land a bunch of scholarship money to attend Wesleyan University, a small liberal arts college in Middletown, CT. Going to Wesleyan was one of the most important things that ever happened to me. Not necessarily because of the education, but because of the students and faculty that I was able to surround myself with. The conversations I was able to have, that I rarely had in North Attleboro. If ever.
These kids would tell stories about their family trips to Europe, or their summer non-profit work teaching kids in Somalia, South Africa, and the like.
This stuff blew my mind. Literally. My head exploded.
At first, because I thought I would never want to do that (denial). I had barely left New England, only to do a couple long weekends in Montreal, a couple trips to DisneyWorld, and a college recruiting trip to the Air Force Academy that my dad dragged me to (I wouldn’t have survived a week, but it was gorgeous out in Colorado Springs). That was the next step, getting over my negative self talk.
What do I mean? I developed a notion in my head through various influences that maybe “those kids” could travel and do those types of things, but I couldn’t. I didn’t come from money and they did. I was making up excuses, but I was sick of it (Step 4, wanting to change). I now realize it was kind of like a “12 Step Program” but for my own perceptions. I say that with the utmost respect for that framework. Maybe its a new program called “The 6 Step Program to Changing Your Self-Perception” (pat myself on the back).
But then, the more exposure I got to these conversations, the more I began to change my self talk, the more I started to self direct my own learning about travel. I started to figure out places that I may want to explore. The more I consumed, the more places I wanted to go. I was perfectly capable of doing all of this. I had control.
This epiphany changed my life. This framework scales to many other aspects of my life, and the goals I have for msyelf today. It happens pretty involuntarily now. It changed the “accomplishment” trajectory I believed I could pursue and attain. And this is even before I reached the last step: action, and actually getting out of my comfort zone.
When I graduated, I needed to somehow get out of North Attleboro and experience someplace different. That is what led me to…
Salt Lake City? Utah? I’ll talk about how this experience further transformed me in one of the next posts 🙂
This story is one that can be applied to many kids and young adults who come from much worse situations than I did. It is about changing self perceptions of what we, as human beings, are able to accomplish and produce for this world. I believe this a vital concept as we move learning forward, especially in our lowest income neighborhoods and cities.
Here is a recap of the The 6 Step Program to Changing Your Self-Perception. Still a work in progress, so share this post and shoot me a tweet if you have any ideas to improve it!
- Exposure to new ideas
- Denial of those ideas
- Belief and changing your self talk
- Wanting to change, being open minded
- Self directed learning – doing research on ideas you think you may care about
- Action; getting out of your comfort zone
Thanks for reading guys, and keep learning.