What could have saved me
I’m currently going to Wellington College, an extremely rich boarding school in south east england. This is one of the few realities where this is the case, because I’ve spent a lot of the last year trying to make sure I didn’t have to go.
I am glad I am here, and worry about all those alternate me’s who aren’t because they succeeded because of people who I couldn’t override stopping me and me being furious at them but now seeing they were right.
What reasoning could have saved me?
Stay mainstream until you have demonstrated success doing unusual stuff
Many people who accomplish great stuff do so by taking fairly unusual career paths. For instance, many entrepreneurs drop out of college to pursue their startups. If you’re considering the possibility of leaving a mainstream track (education followed by job) for something offbeat, and potentially high-impact, read on.
Our main piece of advice: stay (at least nominally) on a mainstream track until you have demonstrated nontrivial success with the unusual trajectory you are considering. In particular, do not quit the mainstream track purely on the strength of arguments of the form: “once I don’t have to waste my time on jumping through the hoops of the mainstream trajectory, I’ll have enough free time to do something unusual.” In absence of experience, you may overestimate:
- Your ability to work productively in the absence of external structure.
- The probability that your endeavor will lead somewhere, even if you are able to work productively on it.
Rather than dropping out of the system, start trying to take out small amounts of time to work in the direction of your unusual trajectory. This may involve some neglect of your official mainstream trajectory, but a modest amount of neglect is fine, as long as you make sure you meet some minimum standards, sufficient to bounce back if necessary.
Once you have demonstrated success with the unusual trajectory, consider quitting the mainstream trajectory.
I actually learned a lot of programming over the summer, made something far cooler than I could’ve predicted.
But it wasn’t enough to earn a living off of it. I could’ve gone harder, maybe, but this isn’t about what could’ve happened, I don’t think. This is about what did.
Everything could’ve happened. It’s about what’s likely, and the most likely is what happened, right?
No, it’s not, but I’m pointing at something and hope you can see what thought that is.
I’m never going to fall victim to clever arguments again about how easy it will be to take a huge risk and about how likely I am to succeed. I will do whatever I desire, but in particular will wait for comfirmation that I’ll be okay and better off.
There are two main things that Wellington provides that I couldn’t get with my four months homeschooling:
- Monetary security
- Community (IRL)
I don’t need to worry about making money or being self sustaining at Wellington, my “work” is school stuff, which is incredibly annoying but not as precarious as freelancing or getting job. And not as difficult.
It’s very easy to come up with arguments for why it’s super easy to not be lonely in London even with no built in community of school or church, but it wasn’t. I was free for four months and it was reall hard and I was really lonely. Trying to make friends with strangers is desperate and terrifying. I did go to only one EA meetup, and that was at the end, and that was really nice, but even if I went to one of those every week I still don’t know if it would be enough.
My desire isn’t “to have people IRL to talk to”. It’s to have good conversations with people like me. That’s harder. So either provable example of lonely rationalist finding community in London, or somehow rock-solid evidence that it’d work for me as effectively as I have it in Wellington.
Wellington is not perfect.
Most of the teenagers are entirely (Not to say there’s anything wrong with that, everyone is who they are – it’s just not who I want to be friends with.)
But, maybe 5% are really cool. And 1% are really REALLY cool. And I know of nowhere else IRL with such a high density. Where it’s effortless, where you’re put in classses with them and can meet them in clubs and societies afterwards, where you can have dinner with them and see them a million times a day in your own microcosm of a community.
I’m not jumping ship till I’m certain of something better. That’s what could have saved me.
What am I missing?
Is that enough of a thought, to still save me?
What does it mean to take that thought seriously, does it mean keeping maths instead of dropping it, not screwing future me’s as future me’s once tried to screw me? Does it mean taking the university application process seriously, even though I really don’t wanna?
Is what could have saved me the same thing that will?
Yes, of course, how could it not be. The time for heading lessons is before you make mistakes.