By David Ly Khim
“I think I can spend an entire day just daydreaming.” Jesse used to spend a lot of time in his own head–a natural dreamer. He would have many ideas, but that’s all they were, his ideas did not become tangible–he was strictly just a dreamer.
During his third year of college, Jesse began dating. He could finally do something with his dreams–share them with someone. There was now someone to validate his daydreaming with “That’s cool.” The validation of his daydreaming, in turn, encouraged more dreaming rather than action.
When the relationship ended, Jesse turned to his friends to share his ideas. However, he was met with responses such as “Dude, that’s stupid. What are you gonna do with that? You’re not gonna do anything with that.” Jesse no longer had anyone who supported his dreams and ideas.
Dude, that’s stupid. What are you gonna do with that?
Unfortunately, many people–perhaps yourself included–run into this situation. Someone may stumble upon an idea, an idea that could potentially be great, but the idea gets pounded down to nothing when shared with peers. The individual, initially beaming with excitement, becomes dull and discouraged, deemed to be wasting his time dreaming and being unrealistic. The potential success of his idea is thrown out the window and he stops daydreaming, spending his time working towards more something more “realistic.”
Fortunately, Jesse didn’t stop dreaming.
Jesse Oduro, twenty-two, is a college graduate fresh out of the University of California, Irvine with two bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Public Health Sciences. He made the transition from Ghana to live with his uncle in San Fernando Valley, California at the awkward age of fifteen. Awkward because fifteen is the age when social cliques are developing among teenagers. The early teenage years tend to be a crucial period of transition (read puberty). “It was hard to assimilate,” Jesse remembers. “It’s not like you can just waltz into a place and totally fit in. There are niches to get into.” Teenagers either find a group they belong to or wander like nomads, finding difficulty in belonging to one specific niche.
It was easier to make friends in Ghana because the culture encouraged interaction among strangers and “people just talk to you”–it was easy to strike up conversation. In San Fernando Valley, Jesse found that there was a (usually slow) process to making new friends. You had to learn about people bit by bit, edging into a social circle, trying to get through their protective shells and appreciating even just a short personal story they’d share with you. People weren’t always as welcoming to letting new people into their life. For Jesse, music was the medium that allowed him to dip into a variety of social groups and engage in personal conversation. He used it as a tool to spur conversation and learn about the individuals around him.
Contrary to his current persona, Jesse was not the most confident kid growing up. He was brought up in a culture that didn’t embrace the idea of males discussing personal insecurities–”it’s not the most macho thing to do.” Because of this, he couldn’t speak to his parents about his low self-confidence nor could he ask how he could improve it.
After the move to America, Jesse’s taste in music became geared toward rock. Oasis became one of the most influential bands in Jesse’s life. “Some people called them the most arrogant band in the world and, sometimes, rightfully so,” but what Jesse admired about the band was their “unwavering self-confidence.” To Jesse, the members of Oasis “were honest with themselves and their capabilities.”
The founders of the Oasis, Noel and Liam Gallagher came from troubled childhoods to say the least. They were often physically and emotionally abused by their alcoholic father and were left with only their mother after their parents separated. The brothers were regular truants and were often in trouble with the police, skipped school, and occasionally involved with robbery. However, with their troubled lifestyles (which continued throughout their lives), they were determined to make their band great.
Learning about the histories of the band members gave Jesse the confidence he needed to realize that he “could pretty much do anything.” Jesse knew that, despite any issues he may have had or any difficulties he has not yet faced, he was capable of achieving greatness. By listening to and watching the band and observing their energy, Jesse was able to replicate Oasis’s confidence in his own life.
Entering college, Jesse met an unexpected persona who would largely influence his life–his first college roommate, Tyler, who wasn’t even a college student. Tyler spent his time writing manuscripts, playing music, and doing experimental drugs. “He looked like Kurt Cobain and did all the things they say in the rock ‘n roll manual,” describes Jesse. However, despite his edgy lifestyle, the reason for Tyler’s influence on Jesse was his different perception of life compared that of Jesse. “I didn’t realize the effect of Tyler until later in life.”
“He [Tyler] would always sum up his life in a way that said there’s something really beautiful about life in all the madness and chaos. I think that’s how I perceive life now. I want a lot of things like everyone else. I want to be a lot of things like everyone else. I’m not different from the average person, but I find time to really appreciate and enjoy the smaller things.”
Jesse hasn’t crossed paths with Tyler since they parted ways after his first year of college. Fortunately, he continued to meet new people who would encourage him to work toward his goals.
It’s normal for a college student to take an extra fifth year to complete degree requirements or take extra classes to obtain a minor. However, in Jesse’s case, his fifth and final year in college was more than extra time to complete his degree requirements–he found a new path in life. He was invited to be a part of independent projects, developed projects of his own, and took on new challenges. His reason for this: “I met interesting people.”
The catalyst for Jesse was people who supported him and simply said “Hey, you can do that. Come on, we know you can do that.” They helped him realize that he can actually do things with his dreams. These people raised his ego and gave him the confidence he needed to take action on his ideas.
Jesse credits his growth spurt to his involvement with the Before I Die UCI team.
Reflecting on the person he was 5 years ago, Jesse would advise his younger self to “daydream a lot but actually try to make things happen.” He would encourage himself to meet more people—all sorts of strange, passionate, boring, fantastic, weird people.
“People are wonderful, people are interesting. Some of the weirdest people might be your greatest inspiration.”
Although Jesse believes that meeting people is the key to personal development, he does admit it can be difficult. “Some people will turn you away and some will think you’re weird, but when it clicks, it’s heavenly.”
When stressed, Jesse gives himself time to focus on something completely unrelated to what he is stressed about. As a resident of Newport Beach, he likes to tune out the world by riding his bike down to a remote location on the beach and simply listen to music. Other times, he will spend time on another project or passion such as playing the guitar. “Some people say tuning out is bad because you miss a lot of things, but I think when I have a problem that’s so hard-pressed to get me stressed, then it demands that everything [else] should be shut out.” Once he feels refreshed and calm enough, he gets back to solving the problem.
Jesse believes that a positive mindset is not just about being focused on the good things in life. You must have an upbeat attitude to reflect on past experiences, good and bad, and “look through the negatives to develop the positives.” It’s a matter of learning as you go. You’ve got to pay attention to the people and things around you then pick and choose what you can do better or differently in the future.
“I think positivity is a huge journey. It depends on you to find out who you are and fall into and out of different paths.” Some paths may end up being destructive and others constructive, but at the end of it all, you can look at everything and take time to reflect to bring yourself to a place of positivity.
Jesse quotes lyrics from a song “I wanna live in a dream in my record machine” by Noel Gallagher and states “we’re all dreamers–that’s what makes us each individuals.” However, what separates one person from the rest is when that one person goes out into the world and acts on those dreams. “We all want to be something [or someone]. The best way to do that is to go out there, dip your feet in the water, and try to make things happen. If you don’t try, you’ll be stuck daydreaming.”
“I’m not saying daydreaming is a bad thing, but you should always take a step toward making it more than a dream.”
Affiliations & Involvements:
Before I Die
Inner Art Movement
Open Jam (Musician’s Club)
Student Center Board of Advisors
UCI Men’s Soccer Team
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Picture Sources: Jesse Oduro