I dropped out of college after three days. 10:00 on a Saturday night, I threw on my backpack, strode to my car, and fled.
Let’s back up a few months. If you were trying to identify someone who would withdraw from school after 72 hours, you wouldn’t have alighted on me. I applied for early admission at my college; I was accepted by October of my senior year. I started packing my boxes and shopping in the adorably coordinated aisles of college necessities six months before my move-out date. Five of my friends would also be joining me at said college. I was independent and academically minded with a car, a plan, and motivation.
I had every reason in the world to get out of the town I lived in. I had every reason in the world to continue educating myself. Then suddenly, seemingly without reason, I told my college to go screw itself.
Moments of shocking mental clarity have a habit of finding us in very strange, very small ways. Mine found me as a sat in my friends’ dorm room, a newly minted college freshman, crammed between them and five strangers, lights out, watching Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Nothing has ever quite mirrored my inner turmoil like an on-screen acid trip did, and no one finds this more bizarre than I do. The scene unfolded on the 32″ television screen in front of me: the movie set’s carpet mutated up the walls, actors stood around a casino morphing into gigantic alien creatures. I began to feel like I might crawl out of my own skin and take a leap. From the kids around me I heard plans to go out for the night being made, names of downtown clubs being tossed around, car keys jangling, each person becoming more alien to me by the second. WHY AM I IN THIS ROOM? WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?!?!
Okay, you know what? Chill. The. Hell. Out. Like, what are you even panicking about? (Some of) these people are your friends, and you’re glad to be here, and college is great, and you made the right choice, and you have all this freedom, and you’re having fun, right? You’re having fun, and…
“Coming with us?”
That question was directed at me.
“Naaahhh,” I said, smiling serenely. “I gotta head out.”
I have a really vivid memory of walking away from their building in the dark. Warm. Stars. Crossing campus at an unusually slow pace. Studying the faces of the people I passed. Watching them feel at home. Realizing that I felt like a tourist where I, too, was supposed to feel at home. I walked straight to my car.
I can never be sure of why we are who we are and why we do what we do. Sometimes we know exactly what we want, and sometimes we only think we know. And that’s okay. Seriously. It’s okay to grab a situation and sling it out of your way if it isn’t working for you. It’s okay to unapologetically free yourself. It’s okay to get halfway down a path and say, “Uhhh…never mind.” In my case, it was okay to realize that I loathed my school of choice. Listen, if your instincts start nudging you to do something, by God, your instincts know what’s up.
Fleeing my first college like a bandit taught me that there will always be another path, and it doesn’t really matter how your desire for a new path manifests itself, as long as you are ballsy enough to take it. And that people who will help you move everything you own twice in one week really love you.