In high school, I was your average student. I made good grades, participated in student government, and had a group of friends that I had been with since grade school. My senior year was a typical one, consisting of slacking off just the right amount to maintain my GPA, and frantically applying to colleges. I applied to 6 or 7, and decided on a university close to home that had a good English department, which was important at the time because I thought I wanted to be an English teacher.
This path felt very comfortable and expected; go to college, get a safe job, buy a house, start a family, and be happy. I never really thought twice about going to college, because I had been taught that the traditional education system was the best and essentially only way to learn. So I did the whole shebang. I lived in a dorm, bought the overpriced books, and went from class to class with an optimistic attitude. The optimism faded when I realized something: I f#*$ing hated it.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the parties, the friends I was making, and the endless amount of greasy food I always had at my disposal, but the whole schooling part just wasn’t doing it for me. I felt uninspired, like a freshman robot, just droning on from class to class (if I wasn’t sleeping in), taking notes and memorizing facts for exams that would determine if I was smart enough to get a piece of paper telling me so.
After a semester and a half of what felt like drifting through the motions, I had a sudden wave of doubt and fear. I was doubtful that I was doing or even knew what I loved to do, and I was terrified at the thought that I had become too comfortable. I wanted to replace my practical thinking with dreams that seemed scary and impossible. So I finished out my spring semester and that was it. While everyone else was preparing for the fall or taking summer classes, I was working three part time jobs in order to fund what was
about to be the best year of my life.
The year 2014 was my first year as a dropout. I started it on a plane, taking me from my hometown in Virginia, to San Francisco. I spent three months living in a house with 13 other people from all around the world who were young and ambitious and curious about learning without college. I explored the fashion industry, interning under people who I looked up to and who could teach me real world skills. I learned how to network, how to market myself, and how to become someone who motivated myself to learn. I worked hard and took the time to learn about myself and others.
I then took it a step further and found a way to travel outside the U.S. I became an Au Pair in a small town in Spain, taking care of children who knew as little English as I knew Spanish. I learned the language and about the culture in a way that I don’t think is comparable to learning through a textbook. I met people who were so different from me, yet with whom I always found common ground.
I also learned a great deal about myself. I learned about my bravery, my ability to learn, and my love for writing. I now find myself living in New York, my dream city, blogging, exploring, and continuing my never ending learning journey. Looking back, I realize that stepping out of the traditional education system was probably the best decision I ever made. I got to know myself, I learned how to learn, and most importantly, I became comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I realize that this path may not suit everyone, just as college isn’t right for everyone, but I am a firm believer that everyone should take some to time to reflect on where they are and if they are there because they feel like they should be, or because they want to be.