Never Normal Newsletter

Useful Childhoods, College Admissions Knife Fights, and My Story

Neville A Mehra - Childhood

A few people have sent me Simon Sarris’ recent essay, The Most Precious Resource is Agency.

In it, Simon asks, “Do children today have useful childhoods?” Not useful for us adults, but useful for their own development.

He contrasts our modern emphasis on learning-by-schooling against the traditional by-doing approach and calls out that today’s society “cannot conceive of what to even do with children, especially smart children.

“What is today’s equivalent to being a studio apprentice of Verrocchio?”

I found myself shouting back “Making stuff on the internet!” as I read. That’s what I did, precisely because I didn’t need anyone else’s permission to do it (a point he addresses later in the essay).

David Perell shared his own take on the modern approach to education recently too. In Adulting Fast and Slow, he wrote a few of my favorite sentences describing contemporary childhood:

“The siren at the start of the race sounded on the first day of elementary school, when our mothers packed our lunch boxes just as we tightened our Toy Story backpacks and marched into the classroom. Instead of playing in the backyard, we built our resumes with extracurriculars. Piano lessons, SAT prep, theatre, volunteering, study abroad — our childhoods were curated for the college admissions knife fight.”

Both essays happened to land in my inbox just as I was in the middle of writing about my own childhood learning experiences (mostly outside the classroom).

My Story

After sharing bits and pieces of My Story in various emails, podcast conversations, and interviews, I figured I might as well put it all together in one place, on my own website.

From hacking my way out of high school, to manipulating the stock market, meeting flying carpet man, the infamous naughty nurse campaign, and becoming a digital nomad. It’s all here.

At over 7,000 words, this is probably the longest piece I’ve ever written. Realistically, I don’t expect too many people to read it all.

But as someone who spends nearly all of their mental energy focused on the future, the process of writing about my personal past was surprisingly cathartic. An opportunity to reflect. Maybe a bit of myth making too.

Have ever written the story of yourself? How did you end up where you are? What were the little things that ended up making a big impact?