In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life. It goes on.
From the outside, my life right now looks great. I graduated with high honors from one of the world's best universities, completed my banking stint in a top tier group and am now happily working at a "very prestigious" (I hate that term) buyside shop. I'm in a relationship with a girl I'm crazy about, I have good friends, I'm attractive, fit and have the world ahead of me. That's what the outside sees. In reality, I'm a messed up kid feeling my way around in the dark through a world that I feel wholly unprepared for.
I grew up poor. At times, I was very, very hungry. The first few months my family was able to crawl out of poverty, I continued to overeat because I still vividly remembered the hunger pains that often kept me awake at night. I lost one of my siblings and I always blamed myself for what happened. I was sexually abused by a relative. I witnessed things in my native country that still send chills down my spine.
And then there were my parents. Sure, my mom loved me and wanted me to be happy, but unfortunately she had no idea what it meant to be a good parent. My dad was an abusive piece of shit that saw me as his competition, not as his son. We still don't speak very often. On an especially bad day, he had once again taken his rage out on my mom, but to rub in the humiliation he had her wipe her own blood off the walls while he stood and watched. I tried to intervene, but I wasn't much of a match.
I, too, was a bit of a piece of shit. I was aggressive and found myself in fights very often. Though I was smart, I was lazy and didn't do all too well in high school, where homework and not exams governed your academic performance. Needless to say, at 16 I looked like I was destined for a mediocre life at best, but probably likely to end up as another case of wasted potential.
I don't know what changed, but one day I started turning things around and ever since I have kept the momentum going. I had the highest grades in my class from the second half of junior year until I graduated. I did extremely well on standardized exams, crafted a golden essay and lucked my way into a school I in no way deserved to go to. And from there I busted my ass to get to where I am today.
I was independent. I earned my own money and paved my own way. I didn't use my past as an excuse to fail. If I didn't make it, I knew it was nobody's fault but my own. I also knew that nobody would care. If one day I broke down because of all the stress, the world would keep on turning as it always had. It was--and is--my life and my life alone. Nobody cares about the struggles I went through. They care about who I am today and who I'm going to be.
And, I guess, that's my message: take responsibility for who you are, where you are now and where you will be. I don't care that it's a tough economy. I don't care that you go to a shitty school. I don't care that an unlucky string of events rendered you less competitive than your peers. And nobody else does either. We will continue living our lives the same way we always had, but you will suffer the curse of your own laziness and incompetence. It's a tough world out there and if you want to compete in an environment as ruthless as Wall Street, you need to forget about the excuses and find a way to succeed. And if you can't? Well, you weren't cut out for this world anyway. Nobody is going to pamper your bruised ego and give you a job just because you want it. You need to earn it.
Mod Note: Best of WSO, this was originally posted September 2011.