How To Drop Out Of College

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Step One: Start early.

You’ll be conditioned to think smarter people are more successful. Think that from a young age. Convince yourself you’re ahead. Let lack of cleverness be an insult, a slur, Be offended when your brain isn’t your biggest attribute. Smile when people say you’re a bright child, and even though you aren’t old enough to have explored your ecological strengths, answer adults when they ask you what you want to be when you grow up.

Something smart. You want to be something smart. A doctor, maybe. Work at NASA. A scientist. President.

Before long you’ll be in high school. They’ll separate you into groups: the smart ones and the other ones who aren’t any less but they really are. You are so much better. Of course you are. Of course you are smart. Brilliant. Bright future.

They’ll say, “Things have been easy for you so far, but they’re about to get so much harder. You won’t be able to scrape by with the bare minimum any more.”

Don’t listen to them. It’ll be just as easy as it’s always been,

You’ll sit back in school. Bring things to keep you busy. Why are these other kids so worried? Homework is boring. Don’t do it. Do it ten minutes before it’s due. Don’t study. You don’t need it, this is easy stuff. Why are these other kids so worried? Get A’s.

2. Step Two: Aim high

Senior year, remember college.

You haven’t thought about it much, but they’ve all been telling you how important it is, what a reflection high school is, and that college is the only way to get where you should go. And you’ll want to go, because everyone tells you if you don’t you aren’t smart, You don’t want to be like those people. They have crummy jobs. You’ll never get out of this town unless you go to college. 

Where are you going to college? Have you thought about what you’re going to major in yet? You know, these majors are useless. These majors are the ones that will get you money. Pick a good college. No, not that college. But remember money. You don’t have any. There is no “we” in paying for school. Apply for scholarships. Let strangers pay for your school. 

You’ll settle on a school for some inane reason, something like “I got in” or “My dad went there” or “It’s a big school”. Settle for that. You’ll tour the campus and be a little put off, but don’t show it.

Be surprised when a stranger asks you if you want to go to college, This will be the first time anyone’s asked you that. Be embarrassed when you don’t say yes right away.

3. Step Three: Swing low

Arrive at school for your freshman year and meet your new roommate. Your room will be a closet, but it’s yours. Climb into your high-rise bed and wonder why, in the middle of August, it is so cold.

They’ll say, “Things have been easy for you so far, but they’re about to get so much harder. You won’t be able to scrape by with the bare minimum any more.”

Don’t listen to them. It’ll be just as easy as it’s always been.

Try to meet new people, but your strong personality puts people off. Should you change it? Settle for a group of people on your dorm hallway that like your nickname. Spend all of your time with them because finding new people is hard and this will do for now. 

It’ll be fun. This is the wild parties that everyone warned you about. Don’t hold back. 

Spend a night in jail. Cry for a month. Lose your friends. Don’t call your mother, she only tells you what a mess you’ve made. 

And you have made a mess. 

Go home for the holidays and cry again. You’ll feel so bad you won’t want to go back, but you will. Cry about your major that you have no interest in and your lack of friends and your parents.

4. Step Four: Strike gold

Take a theatre class on a whim. 

Dread going to any class but that class, spend your time doing extra credit for it. Theatre will be the only thing in your life worth spending time on. Why isn’t this your major? Decide that it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if you still had your other major and add it. You’ll feel better than you’ve felt in months. 

Slowly get into the major. Meet other theatre majors. Your strong personality will draw them to you. You’ll fit in here; this will be a new and euphoric feeling. Savor that. Get opportunities you’ve never been offered before.

You’ll go home for the summer and your family and friends back home will all frown at your new major, and focus on the other instead. Ignore them, you’ll be happy. Think about going to New York after you graduate. Look forward to it. 

Go back to school in the fall with your head held high. Slowly let your other major fade out of existence. Stop mentioning it, and eventually drop it entirely. Just theatre.

5. Step Five: Hit bottom

You’re having a good time now, but remember the money. You have none. No “we”. Just you. And your school wants money now and you don’t have it because none of the people that gave you scholarships liked your theatre degree or your C’s in your Pre-Calc classes. Panic a little. Panic a lot. Scramble. You always fix things last minute; it’s what you do. 

But for the first time, you can’t fix it.

It’ll be embarrassing, but you’ll get used to the idea that you’ve been taken out of your classes. Just don’t tell your friends that. Pretend you’re still in school. Stick around, even though you’ve been kicked out of your dorm. Keep doing things with the theatre department. Direct, act. Learn new things. Keep going to theatre classes. Have a great time. 

You’ve told your family that you’re coming back Spring semester, and you really plan to. But would it really be so bad it you didn’t come back next fall? Remember New York. The pipe dream. Think of how silly it would be to go there now, to not finish your degree, this money-sucking mess that you’ve always wanted.

But think about why you wanted it. Think about why you did this in the first place. Think of how you got surrounded by the suffocating walls of this suffocating college and your suffocating family that are only following a suffocating society’s suffocating views on what is and is not appropriate for you to spend your life doing.

And then one day, out of the blue, you’ll be sitting in a coffee shop doing homework for a class that you’re not even enrolled in any more, and your head will clear. The music will seem to stop filtering through your headphones, the people will seem to walk slower.

None of this matters.

And it will all suddenly make sense that you are supposed to move to New York and who cares about anything else that people say? You are a sound mind with sound thoughts and a working knowledge of the things that your body needs and craves. Your body does not want this life. Your body craves freedom.

And the rest will all seem to happen at once. You’ll tell everyone you plan to leave in May: drudge out another semester and then leave town for good, Make some money for New York. But then you’ll realize that you only said May because you wanted to stay with your friends for another semester and apartments are cheaper in the winter in New York anyway, and if you’re going to Hell, you might as well do it thoroughly. This decision will come much easier than the ones before.

Step Six: Say goodbye

You will spend the last month of your life there mending lose ends and saying goodbye to the things that you grew attached to. You’ll slowly understand how much this place meant to you, this in-between spot bridging the high-school-bubble to the rest of your life. Tell people you’re never coming back your last week there; there will be tears and you will be missed because your efforts to fit in here paid off.

Spend your last night in your college’s town driving around, saying goodbye to the places where you allowed your life to grow for a year and a half: your Freshman dorm, the gardens where you were kissed silly, the apartment you lived in for a month and half, the street you got arrested on. Think about the bad things that got you to move forward.

Save the theatre building for last.

Park outside and go in the back window that you know is always unlocked, Though this building was full of black mold and asbestos, it was yours. Go by the stage you performed your first show here on, the space you rehearsed the first show you ever directed. Pass by the call board and remember your all-girl improv troupe, the student’s lounge where you met all of your new friends. Realize you never marked your height on the door frame like everyone else did, and do so. Hope that you will be remembered, even a little bit.

Step Seven:  

Leave and never look back. TC mark

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