Chapter 4: Ignoring People Advice

  • My challenge: No one in my family had gone to college before; My school advisors were useless at best
  • My choice: My friends and I decided to educate ourselves during school fairs, reading specialized magazines, etc…
  • Vulnerability side of the story: Acknowledging that we did not know anything about college because our parents did not get that opportunity

I was the first person in my family to go to business school. Still, almost 20 years after graduating, I am the only one to have been to business school. It is surreal, I have a large family. My mom has 8 siblings, I have more cousins than I can count. Check this: by not all accounts, but by many, I have done well professionally. The main question on my mind is, will I have enough money to retire in 8 years or in 10 years (I am obsessed with F.I.R.E). So how come the people closest people to me, did not decide to follow a similar professional path? And it is not because potential or intelligence! So, how did I choose my path?

In high school, when it was time to decide to choose my path forward there were 3 options:

  1. Listen to my family. My family has the best intention for me. They love me. And a few members had their opinions about what was best to do after high school. Usually it was based on their own path, or someone they knew you recently got a “good” job after following a certain way.
  2. Listen to the school advisor. Unlike my family, the school advisor does not love me. At times I felt that he could recommend me to jump off a cliff if that was the direction his manager to hime to follow. They are not bad people, they are lazy people who look at the past to forecast the future. If you are raised by a public servant single mother, in a “bad” neighborhood, you have decent grade but you are not top of the class, their recommendation was to go to University where everyone else from the neighborhood is going. Or because they were paid by the high school, they would recommend the post high school program from that same high school.
  3. Own my future, and do my own research. My friends helped me big time here. They must have received a memo I did not, because they were on a mission. They had leaflets, they had out of the box ideas, there were reading specialized magazines. I followed them once to an education fair, mostly to hang out, and 10 minutes in I had a revelation: There are loads of options! And people were super creative e.g. register your address in this district, then you can go to that great University, pass that exam after 1 year in your University and then go to that better University. It was all about creating better options than the ones you were dealt. It was all about gaming the system.

Option 3 was clearly the best. I am grateful I had it. My mom came to France when she was in her early 20’s, and she was the first of my family to settle in Paris. You can not expect her to know the ins and outs of navigating the French education system. This is the extra challenge that immigrants’ kids are facing. You are playing a game in which you do not know all the rules, and most likely, if some rules are not clear, they may be used against you. 

What about the school advisor? If I want to be kind to him, it was a tough environment. An environment where you need to try extra hard. Not easy when on minimum wage and with limited past success stories.