I know what it’s like to be nowhere. Figuratively and literally.
There is something incredibly humbling to experience nothing. Nothing that you wanted to experience anyway. It hits you when you least expect it, forcing you to fall on your knees and not understand exactly what is happening until you can see the bruises later.
A year ago, I was homeless. I not only embodied it physically but mentally as well. I was confused, often times scared for what my day would look like. What my future would look like. There was a lot of uncertainty in my life. The only time I would ever feel safe was when I would visit a nearby park before work and look at the sunrise in the mornings. The water glistened and the early birds would sing the same song.
There is something incredibly magnetic about uncertainty. It slowly consumes you and you slowly acclimate to being uncomfortable. It pushes you to be more open with seemingly unrealistic goals and visions. When you have nothing to lose, your thoughts and dreams become your only currency to keep going. The crazier, the better.
There is something incredibly magnetic about uncertainty.
I began to listen to my aspirations. Embraced them fully. I’d say them outloud, write them down, tell random people that I would meet. My thoughts and ideas opened a new world to me– a home where I could change the world in a positive way. To be influenced. To inspire. To learn.
I had to start somewhere. I read as much as I possibly could at the local Barnes and Noble and took notes on new subjects I wanted to learn. Anything that I could possibly turn around and use to a greater advantage, I was all for. I knew it would not end there– I needed to develop my skillset and hunger to learn within a community. Since college was no longer a feasible option, I decided to apply to a program known as @YearUp. I heard about the program on a 60 Minutes segment two years ago and thought it would be a good opportunity to develop a skill-set and transcend my want to help others into a career.
Year Up is a free program dedicated to closing the opportunity divide amongst urban youth. The program is a year long and is broken into two segments: the first six months is intensive training where college credits can be earned in a designated field; the latter is a six months internship at a Fortune 500 company.
Upon being accepted, I promised myself that I would work hard in ways that I never did before. I would be up early, arriving to the Year Up office one hour and half early to start my day with projects I was working on or to add more detail to my assignments. Class would then begin sharply at 8:30 starting with an inspirational TED Talk reminding me that my aspirations were real and possible. We would then continue our day with our Information Technology classes, learning the in’s and out’s of computers. Information Technology was something foreign to me at the time but I did not let my lack of knowledge turn me away. I embraced a new opportunity for my personal and professional growth.
Six months of intensive training flew by and the bonds we created with each other were molded into something special. Together, we surpassed many personal and professional heights that we thoroughly surprised ourselves and each other. The next phase that we had to conquer was proving ourselves to the Fortune 500 companies that invested in us. Uncertainty again loomed around the corner, heightening our self awareness and willingness.
On January 22, I found out that I was placed at LinkedIn. LinkedIn. That name gave me goosebumps and led me to tears. Debbie, a staff member rushed to me after my name was called and proclaimed ecstatically, “Look at what you’ve been through and where you are now” She had tears in her eyes too.
I know what it’s like to be nowhere. I also know what it’s like to be somewhere. That’s something I hold on to every day. Knowing that nowhere is a start, is somewhere indeed.
Special thanks to @JonathanJackson for inspiring me to embrace my personal story and to @EmiliaShapiro for highlighting the importance of voice.
*Original blog post is featured via LinkedIn here.