The first website I ever built hit 15 million views in a year. I peaked pretty early. Fuck.
I honestly had no idea what I was doing. I designed a static site to upload and download in-game creations for a game called Unturned. I showed it off, knowing there was no way it could work. I got a comment from a person named Jake, asking if I wanted help with the backend.
“What’s a backend?” – yeah, Jake was definitely needed because I had no idea.
So here Jake (age 14) and I (age 17), building the most popular site for one of the most popular games, created by Nelson (age 15).
A bunch of young kids putting a small dent in the world.
Behind the screen, things were not as successful.
I grew up in a town where people were much of the same – in religion, in style, in race, in personality. It was a mold that I did not perfectly fit into. It also gave me a very siloed perception of the world.
Thus, in early high school, I went through an introverted stage and didn’t have a lot of friends.
I had thousands of followers on YouTube, and a successful website – and I didn’t have the confidence to tell anyone about it.
Junior year (of high school) changed it all.
One November, I decided to take a leap of faith and throw a birthday party, begged my parents to allow us to have alcohol, and invited the people I had lost touch with.
It was shit – I really marketed it wrong. It wasn’t much of a party – more of a hangout with old friends (new strangers), and a couple of beers.
Weeks later friends from the party asked me to hang out at the mall – the rest was history.
Over the course of my final two years of high school, I was taught to be an extrovert. Whether it was the dozens of times approaching girls with corny pickup lines or hosting more parties – it was oddly the largest growth experience I ever had.
It was more important than any successful thing I had created online – and out of pure distraction, I forgot to renew our website’s hosting. Tens of thousands of photos, uploads, comments were lost.
By the end of high school, I had gained confidence – and it was the perfect transition into college.
My siloed perception of the world was completely wiped away when I entered one of the most diverse colleges in the United States, Rutgers University.
I may have gained confidence, and learned how to become an extrovert – but I still hid my hobbies and talents. Maybe it was a fear they’d bring me back down to my old unconfident self?
It took me a few years of college, and a couple of really close relationships – to realize that wasn’t the case.
It was my differences and quirks that made me human – and rather than hiding them, I sought out people who believed what I believed.
From then on, rather than fitting into certain molds, I developed my own mold – and found others who could fit in.
Today I enter my final year of college. Writing this post made me realize how much I have changed. My values have not, but rather the way I show and express them.
Although myself and my life are certainly not perfect (and they never will be) – I’ve been incredibly lucky compared to most, and I’m so grateful.
I would have never got this far without people – to name a few, I can’t thank Andrew, Gavin, James, Vince, Bryce, Bri, Benny, Tiffany, Ephany, Rob, Abhi and Palak enough.