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The Self-Starter

Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz once said, “The two great things about youth are looking cute and being able to travel.” Whether that’s true or not, there’s wisdom in that statement that goes beyond the literal. Looking cute can include much more than appearance; it’s about having an innocence, ambition, looking to the horizon. It’s about having a future. And to travel: To have the freedom to explore, whether it’s a locale or an interest, a love life or independence, a skill, a hobby, a passion – it doesn’t matter. Traveling, in its most basic form, is growth. Does this mean that you need to be young to have these benefits? Of course not.

To the confusion of many older adults, perhaps even to their dismay, I avoided a traditional college education. Since the ripe age of fifteen I felt that there was something incompatible, something uneasy between myself and standard scholastics. I simply didn’t want to learn things that A: I did not enjoy, and B: had no relevance to what I wanted to do with my life.

There are times when I wonder if avoiding the post high school status quo is, in a way, a sign of cowardice. Then I remind myself of the extensive amount of work I’ve done in my areas of interest, how devoted I’ve been, and realize that it probably takes even more courage to break free from the predictable and tread an unknown path leading to an uncharted mountain.

My reluctance to pursue a college existence did not result in me dismissing the process of learning; I went to a digital film making certificate program and had a great time, gaining more than I was ever prepared for. The Center for Digital Imaging Arts is a glimpse into the future of educating those in a specific field: complete immersion in your craft with emphasis on developing and executing projects on your own. Everyone is supportive and yet no one holds your hand.

A couple years after film school, interests changed, passions evolved, and I found myself swimming in new waters, uncertain as to whether there were sharks beneath me. I wanted to be a writer, not a filmmaker; a stunning choice to my friends and family. To “abandon” my famous obsession seemed like a practical joke, a silly stint that would only momentarily distract me from my next cinematic adventure. After all, I went to school for film and film alone – why give that up?

There was a validation to such concern; I had no formal training (high school doesn’t count) in writing anything besides screenplays, and I couldn’t exactly change my major to suit my new infatuation. At first I devoted myself to reading books about writing and practicing the art every day, but, for someone as feverish as I am, that could never satisfy the hunger to learn.

Online classes – that was where the gold was buried. They were a perfect fit to my situation and style of learning. It’s all about independence. Sure, there’s the usual reading, assignments, discussions, projects, but you complete these in your own home at a pace you can set yourself. You need to be motivated, that’s the key, and that motivation has to come from inside.

Now, I couldn’t be more thrilled about where I’m going and what I’ve gained through my own initiating. Writing is my world, and this desire and this pursuit has spawned from within.

I am a genuine self-starter, in that virtually everything I’ve done regarding writing this past year, the classes I’ve taken, the pieces I’ve written, the submissions to publications/contests, has come completely from my own enthusiasm. If something’s going to get done, I’m the one who’s going to do it. This demeanor is rather common among Millennials – we see opportunity in areas that older generations might dismiss. The last thing I want to do is give the impression that Millennials are superior to others in all ways when it comes to education, that’s clearly false. However, we are brilliant at achieving our goals on our own terms; it seems almost imbedded in our DNA. There’s one unarguable truth: We’re a generation that doesn’t need permission to learn.

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