It’s been a while since I have done one of my more personal blog posts and this one is actually really revealing and something I kept from everyone for a really long time. If you have read my blog bio or even read a feature interview of mine before, you may have heard that I started The Prep Guy, as a private journal of all things fashion that I loved online. Although that is true, there is a back-story behind it, which I didn’t feel comfortable sharing before.
A little note for new readers, I have been open about struggling and coping with depression and anxiety for over a decade, on the blog before as well, which may help paint the picture.
So, around 4 years ago, I was at the lowest point in my life. It was the end of my first year of university and I had gotten myself in a pretty bad predicament. When I started my post secondary education at Ryerson, I was forcing myself to go down a career path as an accountant, solely for the financial aspect. But in reality, I wanted to work in the marketing world.
In my first semester at Ted Rogers School of Business Management at Ryerson, I was taking Accounting 110, which was the accounting course that was for students who wanted to enter the accounting or finance major. I really struggled with this course but was still adamant on pursuing accounting. On top of that, I had a difficult time adjusting to the university career and to be completely honest, I didn’t feel that I was ready. I also surrounded myself with people who I shouldn’t have. These people would constantly have drama and I would always get dragged into it, but it was also my fault for allowing that to happen to me. Unfortunately, I failed the course and found myself on an academic probation. That should have been my sign to switch to the required courses for marketing majors, but I still didn’t stop. This really kicked up my anxiety and found myself feeling extremely unnerved by any kind of academic testing.
In the November of my first semester, I was in the line for the H&M X Margiela collaboration, and I met a girl named Natalie Ast, who told me she was a blogger and said she liked my style. She recommended that I should start posting pictures online on a website called Lookbook. So I started sharing pics that my best friend, Trikunj and I took for my facebook profile the year before. It was pretty much an instant hit, and at the time, I would always be one of the top menswear looks of the day.
The second semester came along I made the same stupid mistake of taking the course again and keeping those negative people in my life. I was Dealing with the fact that I was on academic probation was hard on me because I was always an A student and I even completed high school with an 87% average. But once more, I ended up failing the accounting course. However, this was no small blip, as this time, I was required to withdraw (RTW) from my program.
I had suicidal thoughts and I felt completely worthless…
That summer was probably the hardest summer of my entire life. The first month after I received the news of my RTW, I had suicidal thoughts and I felt completely worthless. I knew I had let everyone down and worst of all, I started to believe that I was nothing and would amount to just that… nothing. People, who I also thought were my friends at the time, would make fun of the situation at hand. I literally could not recall a single night that month, in which I wouldn’t cry myself to sleep and it just felt so pathetic.
Around a month and a half into the summer, I started looking into potential ways I could return to my program and pick myself up. Luckily, I discovered that there was a seminar for a program called Fresh Start. The Fresh Start program would allow myself to take 2 courses in the fall semester and I would be required to take courses for the program itself. If I were to be successful, I would be allowed up to 4 courses as well as the fresh start program course in the following semester. Upon completion, the program would allow myself to be reinstated and clear not only my academic standing, but also failed courses from my transcript. So once I was accepted into the program, I finally knew that it was time for me to take back my life and take my education seriously.
My first semester back was completely different, and I also realized that I had changed. I needed to become me-centric and focus only my personal goals and education. One component of the fresh start program course was to utilize different Ryerson academic support systems and do some sort of assignment write-up about it. I decided that it was time for myself to meet with a guidance councillor and therapist. In hindsight, it was the best decision of my life! I learned more about myself as a person, how I could deal with situations better, and also I started cognitive behavioural therapy to cope with my anxiety and depression. I found myself evolving into a better person and student.
Funnily enough, a component of the fresh start program was to create a blog and journalize my thoughts, and also to complete various course activities. This was my first time experiencing the blogosphere and I instantly connected with it as a place where I could release my thoughts and vent. By the end of the second semester of the fresh start program, I was finally thriving in school and managed to get incredible grades and fully reinstated. I finally started to believe in myself a little more
The year I was reinstated, I launched “The Preppy Guy,” which was a private journal where I would write about runway shows, look books and make wish lists of things I loved (ehem…. It’s a little segment that is now called TPG Selects :P). Eventually, I showed it to my friends and they recommended I make it public, so I did. Literally a couple weeks later, I received an email by a person who had a trademark on that blog name, so I changed it and The Prep Guy was born!
I eventually started to write about my personal style and my life, and you, the readers really helped me feel so much better about myself. I felt like I was able to put any negative energy that I had or felt into something positive, which was writing my blog posts. It was therapeutic in a sense.
By the way, I ended up getting into the damn accounting major and managed to make it to my 3rd full year before I realized that I was being stupid and should follow my actual dream, which is marketing. Now, I am in my final semester of my program and with years of hard work, The Prep Guy has become my livelihood. I’ve been able to experience and do so many amazing things with my platform, from collaborating with 100’s of major companies, being featured in over 100 publications around the world, helping my sister launch her successful blog – The Prep Gal, to advocating for the body positivity movement and mental health awareness and being able to support foundations I truly believe in a way I didn’t think I would ever be able to before.
If there’s anything I could tell you guys out there that maybe going through a negative time in your life, it is that, it’s all just an obstacle that you will conquer. A little hard work, help from others, and believing in yourself, goes a lot further than you think. Looking back at everything, I honestly do not regret a single thing. These lessons helped shaped me to become a better person, and I know that I will be looking back in the future saying the same thing about my present.
Thank you so much for reading this post and more importantly, for supporting me for so many years!
Lots of love,
Syed Sohail, The Prep Guy