Photo Courtesy of AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
Today is one of familiarity.
It's a solitary Sunday afternoon in my college dorm room -- being a junior at the George Washington University -- where for the past 12 hours I've had my favorite movie of all-time playing in the background, on repeat, as I'm completing a somewhat tedious assignment for my Operations Management course. That's right, I'm watching The Social Network.
Although many of my writings have been previously riddled with superlatives expressing my admiration for ultimate heroes and inspirations, this is the project that I've been badly working towards. You see, in the summer of 2013, I needed to learn computer programming to create a weather app that told users what to wear. But at the time, everyone I knew told me that it couldn't be done -- and being a novice in the subject. Besides I had just departed from what seemed to be an arduous first year of college, so I didn't believe that I could do it myself. But I did it.
In three days, I taught myself computer programming and created the app myself.
To backtrack: During my freshman year of college, I had a terrible time with my then-dorm roommate. I was the youngest person to run for student body president at my university -- which happens to be the most political in America -- so an obvious social media backlash of hatred was inevitable, being difficult for my 17-year-old. And I rushed a fraternity that told me that I could never belong because I wasn't "black enough". So when the realization that this could honestly become my life forever -- to be one day described as a "sort of sad, dismal journey about an underdog who was never able to find his strengths and make it" -- frightened me. But I never let it get to me because so many points in my 18-year-old journey had resembled that of another 18-year-old who I saw as my biggest inspiration at the time.
While I'm still having trouble deciphering whether it's the real-life Zuckerberg who I found to be my ultimate inspiration -- or what has been revealed to be a highly fictionalized character -- it's no doubt that the story of the Facebook creator is one that has changed my life forevermore. And definitively so, since I've found myself obsessively watching the film on a daily basis up since the film's initial release in October of 2010. But I assume that much of the connection lied in the fact that Zuckerberg had lost so many close friends and allies to his fearless ambition during those sophomore months of Facebook's inception. From finding friendships in champion-rowers (the Winklevoss Twins) to a final club/fratstar (Eduardo Saverin), he was counted out as the underdog who seemed like a likely failure compared to those who were apart of the elitism of his university.
But he made it through, creating a billion-dollar empire at the age of 20 and simultaneously helping me get through my own struggles and realizing my strength.
Yet, even when speaking about my admiration for the Facebook founder while out at quaint DC cafes with friends, I immediately get overwhelmed with nerves as if Zuckerberg would walk in on our intimate conversation over dinner. I honestly couldn't imagine meeting him; with his aura being one that would instantly send me into a rigor mortis-inspired state of shock. I genuinely wouldn't know what to say, what to ask, what to deliver to him that would make him understand just how much he means to me. This article was hard enough writing, but to conjure up actual spoken words. There's honestly none to describe what he's done and inspired me to be.
Simply enough, Mark Zuckerberg has taught me how to dream and this incessantly important idea that we are in control of our lives.
But it must also be alternatively be understood that seeing The Social Network was like an experience unlike any other. It was the first time that I was deeply inspired by a film. Sitting in that Midwestern art house theater on that Autumn night truly captivated my imagination. And in the intrinsic sense where I every fiber of my being stood up in the belief that my life's story was being captured on-screen. It was the first time that I saw a central character who I was readily able to relate to; overly ambitious, wishfully innovative, and persistently hardworking.
It was also my first introduction to the film's director, David Fincher. While I've seen Se7en and Benjamin Button many times -- with my dad both un-hilariously (and albeit unoriginally) quoting several moments from the films -- I was consistently clueless of them being directed by this cinematic visionary. From the film's opening fast-paced dialogue to the ambitiously awkward lead character, I found many parallels that related to my young life. You see, I've always been an underdog. And honestly up until I saw the film, I considered that to be a bad thing. While the film can certainly be seen as a court drama, the parts that resonated with me were the times that Mark was most misunderstood and devalued as a human being. But on a deeper level, what the film taught me was that ambition isn't a bad thing. It's the wanting of being normal that is. And I will never be that. The yearning to be the best is honestly all I've ever known.
But what his story taught me was that life is a journey. There are going to be times where you and when you're completely misunderstood by virtually everyone around you, but that moment in time doesn't define you. What you do after does. And this message legitimately saved me from depression and thinking there was no end to the angst of teendom and the ostracization of getting turned down from a fraternity. But you have to get back up and move forward and pursue the wildest of your intentions.
And forevermore: I'll still code. I'll still dream. And nothing can really take that away from me.
Tywan Wade is a junior at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. Read more about him in Impossible Dreams: The Story of Discovering My Superpowers.