When I was in high school, I wore my MIT sweatshirt on the day of important exams– SATs, ACTs, APs, and Honors Physics.
I considered it the academic equivalent of the guys who do pushups every time the football team scores and the girls with their boyfriends’ numbers painted on their tank tops and faces.
On one hand, for nerds like myself, I suppose this is terribly arrogant behavior. Wearing the MIT sweatshirt on the steps outside Southside High School meant something. Clustered among a small group of overachievers, all of us nervously clutching our graphing calculators and car keys, the sweatshirt served as nonverbal intimidation– to the SAT, to my friends, but mostly to myself, as it was a willful proclamation that I was good enough for that kind of school.
Because everything rode on getting into that kind of school.
It really did help though. Not in some crazy good luck charm kinda way, but in a real way. It was a visual way of saying what I believed I was capable of. That’s a mindset shift, and while the intimidation end of it might have been a little intense, the starting premise was good.
Yesterday, I read about a girl who, as an entry-level analyst, courted a major new client for Merrill Lynch when she was 22. By the time she was 25, she was COO of an industry revolutionizing activewear company in Sweden. Suddenly, I felt like such a major underachiever, but not in a green-headed jealous kind of way.
I kept reading and nearly every story I came across, I was like “Shoot, I could do that,” “I’d make that decision,” or “OOhhh, for the opportunity.” In some cases, I was like, “I’ve done that already.”
Yesterday, I wore a pair of pointed-toe, bright red, patent leather stilettos. I’d literally been searching for this particular pair of shoes for seven years, and I finally found them about a month ago.
Granted, I went by myself and no where important, but the shoes still fit a little bit like my old MIT sweatshirt.
The only difference between then in now is that there’s no admissions counselor standing in the way. I’ve “arrived” and am free to do whatever I like; I just need a platform to do it.