"Nikhil you need to come outside the closet right now!!!!"
I shouted back while fighting off my tears, "No Mom, I can't, I just can't". I was devastated and I couldn't bear to look at myself or others. In the spring of 2005, I had just received word that my top college of choice, University of Pennsylvania had waitlisted me. I responded like any normal teenager would, by crouching and hiding as far back into my closet as possible, hoping to disappear with the stacks of cheesy linen shirts gifted by my Indian relatives.
It was the biggest chip on my shoulders to date. I would often fantasize of how different life would have been if I had been accepted. It seemed like everything promised in the American dream lived past those ivy covered gates at UPenn and I would have been sanctified if they had just accepted me. Rejection morphed soon into envy and that manifested itself here and there. In hanging with friends who went to those colleges, I came away with a bit more self loathing added to my plate. Even in the first couple of years after college, I felt intimidated by startup co-founders coming out of the big name schools I was competing against.
Envy is a constant part of our journey. We're constantly surrounded by visions of the better life beyond our grasp and that saddens us, angers us and makes us scorn the life we have at times. But looking back now, to that 17 year old immigrant kid, this wasn't just about opening the doors to a better life but answering a deeper question:
Was I worthy enough to be with the best?
These citadels of education were the last remaining stamp of approval I needed. And I didn't get it. Soon after college, I busted my ass working on my startup, created a strong personal network to support me and perfected my skill sets over the past decade, and somewhere along the way I earned the right to answer that question.
So am I worthy enough?
I don't give a #*%&. I'm doing me and quite happy with my cheesy Indian linen shirts.