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The crippling sense of under-achievement

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The crippling sense of under-achievement

Shahriar Haque

Let's be honest. When I was applying for college I had never heard of Carnegie Mellon before. I wasn't exactly sure how to pronounce it either. It took me a semester to realize what I got myself into. With barely three months of programming experience I was asked to make a robot smart enough to explore the world on its own while solving a maze at the same time. That was the first time I felt truly previleged to be part of a world-class institution. I became convinced that I was destined to do great things in life. Four years later, I walked out with a Computer Science degree and immediately got a job here in Qatar. But that's when reality started to diverge from expectation.

Some of my friends left for the United States and eventually got hired by tech giants like Google and Microsoft. One of them even went off to start his own company. Nowdays I see him regularly deliver talks in front of large audiences. I too work for a giant American conglomerate. But out here in Qatar, it certainly doesn't feel as impressive as working for Adobe, Tesla, Expedia, or Groupon. I find myself constantly asking the question, why did I settle for easy money? Why did I not push myself harder?

Qatar is a strange place for a Carnegie Mellon graduate. On one hand, my friends who have settled in the US are being challenged intellectually to build the next generation of products and services for the rest of the world. On the other hand, I don't have the courage, capital, or connections to go back to my home country, Bangladesh, and launch a startup of my own. I feel like I am stuck in this weird place with no way to contribute to society either intellectually or financially.

I spend my free time listening to podcasts and watching YouTube videos of my role models who are touching the lives of hundreds of thousands of people on a daily basis. I read about award-winning Bangladeshi Android developers who are delivering more than 50 apps a year to clients located all over the world. I feel proud and sad at the same time. Proud that people from my country are being recognized for their talent and hard-work. Sad that I don't know and I don't have the patience to learn how to write an app even with my fancy CMU degree. I'm also sad I don't have the kind of capital to feel confident to quit my job and invest in a startup in Bangladesh. I feel like I haven't done justice to my education. I feel terrible for settling for a cozy life with time and money to spare.