“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

You don’t look like you belong here.

Just seven words, spoken by someone I didn’t know, whose name I don’t remember. Outwardly I tried to smile, laugh it off, just get through class. Inwardly I was breaking.

I had made it to the Ivy League, the first in my family to go to college. But I felt rejected by it every day. A blue-collar kid from Detroit who wanted to work with cars didn’t fit the crowd. I was an outsider and made to feel it every day. I felt numb, losing any joy and pride I used to have. Instead of succeeding, each day I sank into a deeper depression.

My classmates got internships on Wall Street and at consulting firms. I didn’t even get interviews. Instead, I ended up working in a warehouse of a tiny Detroit company, unloading trucks and packing pallets. I wanted to give up.

But slowly, that dirty warehouse brought me back. Let me do real work with my hands. Taught me more than any Ivy League classroom ever could. Made me appreciate just how much my parents had done to give me this chance. That my father woke up at 4am for decades to put me in the position I was squandering. That mom and dad set the standard for hard work, love, honor, and the biggest privilege I’ll ever have is being called their son.

That warehouse reminded me of myself. I didn’t have to fit in; I just had to be honest. Who I was, where I was from, what my dreams were. Being different, and being myself, was an edge. I promised to never apologize for that again.

I promise that I’m going to be me.

— Matt Simpson