I was an excellent student throughout all my schooling. I attended a magnet high school with many bright minds and wonderful teachers. On my graduation day, I had yet to apply to a single university. The idea of joining a sorority didn’t do much for me. But even more so, I watched with trepidation as my friends quickly found themselves swallowed in debt. They made such a life-long impacting decision fearlessly and with ease.  College loans to go to school. . .so you can get a job. . .to pay back those loans.  Definition of insanity?

My guidance counselors would tell me I was causing them to lose sleep at night. They used the word “potential” a lot. I tried to explain to them that even with my high ACT scores, great GPA, and many more “college-worthy” deemed qualifications, my scholarship bank fell flat. Not an uncommon story among my friends at the time either. Competition to enter universities and earn the scholarships to make a dent in their tuition is at an all-time high. A perfect 4.0 GPA really has no weight compared to other students who earn the new 5.0 and above GPA. Turns out this is attainable by taking college credits in addition to your high school course load. But of course, none of this mattered to anyone who was friends with Sallie Mae

tl;dr** No matter how great my mom thinks I am, in the education system’s eyes, all my efforts are really just average.

 

Freedom and free time can make for a wonderful combination. Post-graduation me found myself young, broke and sporting a restless mind. My first trip was to a work-stay exchange at a little retreat center in Northern California. Three years later and I’m very happy to say that is by far the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I learned to meditate, deepened my yoga practice, read and absorbed a sh*t ton of spiritual wisdom. I slept in a tent in the woods for three months which was an extraordinary experience all in and of itself. I ended up extending my stay and working with paying guests that visited the center for retreats. I met many fascinating and kind people that have all left a little piece of themselves with me to this day. Needless to say, I was shaped significantly by my time there. My personal Walden. . .

tl;dr I moved to Northern California for a work-stay exchange. Came back super blissed-out, with vegetable gardening, management and people skills.

 

Fast forward some time and I found myself relocated in Madrid, Spain. I had spent the previous year working and saving to fulfill my life-long dream of living in Europe. I moved out of my family home for the very first time, crossed the Atlantic and made it into my own apartment. Pretty quickly I was punched in the gut with one of many great/tough lessons to be learned— sometimes you’ll reach your goal after a journey of back breaking work, and you realize the final destination has fallen short of what you imagined it to be. I worked my butt off as an English teacher, argued with my doorman and dealt with nightmarish roommates. I also enjoyed the stunning sites every day and met beautiful people who welcomed me into their homes with open arms. I experienced another way of life, but most importantly it was still life at its core. Sometimes I cried, sometimes I laughed, but mostly I just went along for the ride.

tl;dr Moved to Madrid, Spain to achieve life-long dream of living in another country. Drank good wine, cried sometimes, but overall learned a lot about who I am and went along for the ride that is life.

 

My return from Spain was just as important as my arrival there. I was full of new memories and ideas, yet I was so lost at the same time. I began to doubt myself and the decisions I had made up to this point. I spent the next week applying to my local community college. And boy, I’m so glad I did that. A week spent back and forth between my house and college campus trying to sort out paperwork, and dealing with mass systemic chaos was just what I needed to reaffirm this is not where I wanted to be. At the end of the week I had had enough. Through a series of coincidences, luck, and desperation, I rediscovered a program called Praxis. The following Monday I applied. The application process was competitive, fast-paced and demanding. But I gave it all I had, and it paid off. In June I was accepted and became an official participant.

tl;dr Returned home feeling lost. Freaked out and applied to community college. Saw the sh*t show that is and ran. Very far away. Rediscovered a video that connected me to Praxis. Applied and got accepted.

 

The first 6 months of Praxis were brutal in all the best ways. I pushed myself beyond recognition, all with a smile on my face. Everything I did had a purpose, while still giving me room to experiment and figure out what I was actually enjoying or maybe not so into. I entered the program without a clue of who I wanted to become. I had doubts I would even have an answer to that question by the end of the year. But here I am, in month 5, happily writing my heart out, growing my design client base, and putting into practice everything I’ve learned (and am learning) about startups, business, professional skills, and creating value. 

More to come. . . unless these thin mints put me into a coma. 

– J. Carbonare

 

* tl;dr = too long; didn’t read

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