What I Learned as a College Drop Out

I’ve never been too public with the fact that I’ve dropped out of college — twice, and I’ve been less public towards the fact that I was actually kicked out due to grades the first time.  Nevertheless, the time afterwards was interesting.  I don’t regret my decisions, but if someone were to tell me they wanted to drop out, I wouldn’t encourage it.

The negatives:

1.  No Motivation

Since I didn’t need an alarm to wake me up in the morning to go to class, I ended up staying in bed until I had to go to work that night at the restaurant.  I would literally get out of bed at 4pm and be at work at 5pm.  Generally I would get home around 11pm, and when I got home I would do nothing but watch Netflix or play video games staying up to the odds end of the morning.  Rinse|Repeat.

2.  Failing Social Life

In college I had a group of fourteen friends.  We were all very close and really tight.  By the end of my first year, about half of them dropped out or transferred to a different school.  My second year the group fell apart exponentially.  With a total of five of us.  I got kicked out of school that fall semester.  Two of the remaining of us moved back home, and another friend of mine also got kicked out.

When I got kicked out, I stayed in Chattanooga, but because I wasn’t in an environment that allowed me to socialize with people my age or in my social group.  My social life became my work, and it never expanded.

3. No Career Aspects

One of the biggest reasons why I wasn’t initially motivated to attend class was due to my knowledge of the field I was studying.  At the time I was a Mass Communications major.  (I wanted to study Film, but the school didn’t offer it.)  Prior to college, I worked with a closed circuit news network as a producer.  It wasn’t the best set up or studio, but it was honestly a great learning environment, and because of that training, I am still able to hold my own.  Come college, I volunteered with the school’s video program, and I hated it.  It wasn’t challenging, or professional.  I grew bored.  I then got a job with a start up production company and held that for a bit.  It felt pointless to study a field I’m already working in.  Leaving a 1010 class that day, then working with a professional studio that night….

The issue with start ups is that they are risky.  The studio ended up going under, and thus my job too.  After I left college the first time, I tried my hardest to land another job in the field.  With multiple interviews (even including the Travel Channel) I had no luck.  Each time I was told I had an excellent portfolio and I had great experience, but they would not hire me because I did not have the credentials/degree.

4.  Embarrassment

This is probably the most shallow reason.  I don’t tell many people that I’ve left school.  My Facebook still says I attend the first college I went to.  I didn’t tell my best friend that I dropped out until I dropped out the second time.  Whenever random people ask me about it, I always find a justifiable excuse.

“Oh, I just moved to town and missed the enrollment date for this semester.”

“Yeah, I graduated last semester.”

“I took the semester off because I’m saving up to move somewhere.”

It’s easier to lie than to explain the truth.  In the end no one really cared about my problems.  But I cared how people perceived me, and was too embarrassed to admit otherwise.

5. Money/Loss of Benefits

Money in this refers to the amount of money I owed.  A couple months after I dropped out, I was contacted by the school to perform an exit counseling meeting.  Which, more or less, just refers to an official withdraw from school.  After I did that, I was immediately contacted by my loan agencies and had to immediately start paying back my student loans.  After only two years I was oddly in about fifteen thousand dollars in debt.  Which subsequently made my credit score go way down, as my annual income was that of a server wage.

During the fiscal issues I was going through, I was informed by my health insurance company that I only had a few more months left on my plan before I would be removed.  I spent the next two years without health insurance, and only recently got it back — last week.  This made a lot of things difficult for obvious reasons.  When ever I was feeling ill, I couldn’t go to the ER, I would have to perform home remedies.  I also had to stop seeing my therapist, because lets face it… therapy is too damn expensive.  I also have a few allergies, which made me more cautious when dealing with these things, and any time I got in my car, or stepped outside, I took a huge financial risk.  I thank my lucky stars that nothing serious happened to me during the past two years.

It’s a little harder to talk about the positives.  If you have or are considering dropping out, then odds are the biggest reason is the unfathomable freedom you gain.  Most of my positives can fall into a broad freedom category, but let me delve deeper.

The positives:

1.  Endless Summer

Call it freedom.  Peace.  Ease.  No responsibility.    This was a good time for me.  I did whatever, whenever I wanted.  I stayed up all night without fear of repercussion.  Multiple occasions did I just sporadically embark on an adventure, only having to call up my work place to ask off.  Life was easier.  I wasn’t worried about my next test, or a paper, or even attending.  Life became about me, what I wanted, and doing things that made me happy.

2. Money

Yep, this is on both lists.  I found that with the more free time I had, I might as well fill it making money.  During my time off from school, I got a few full-time jobs.  I was making crazy (relatively) money and had a lot left over for fun.  I wasn’t ever really concerned about what I had in my bank account.  It was comforting knowing that I had the money to do what I want.  And enough left over for emergencies.

3. Finding Yourself

It might be difficult to understand this concept if you haven’t exactly been to a point where you rely on yourself entirely.  In my observations; generally people in my age group are ridiculously immature/ignorant.  I’m not saying I’m the best, but let’s face it — I am in the better percentage.  Finding yourself might seem cliche or vague, but I learned a lot about who I am, why I do what I do, and how I can actually pursue things that make me happy.  If you read my earlier posts, back when this was filled with entirely too many rantings of a teenage boy, you’ll see how arrogant I once was, and how I tended to do things for the benefit of how I would be perceived regardless of my own emotions.

I’d be lying if I said I’m no longer like that.  In this post alone you’ll see examples of arrogance and shallowness, but the extent to which it was, has greatly depreciated.  This is an effect of figuring out how to fill your days.  Initially, I was lazy and unmotivated, but I learned things about myself, that took me out of my depression, and made my days blissful.

4. Pursuing Your Bliss

Stemming from number three, my bliss was travel.  Yours may be different.  Your bliss may be music, volunteering, cycling, or basket weaving.  I’m not here to judge, I’m here to tell you that the opportunity to find your bliss is the best thing possible.  Now, I can’t relate to cycling, but what I will do is explain my own personal bliss.

Traveling is what makes me the happiest.  I learned that after a couple months of dropping out.  I’ve always enjoyed traveling, but I never knew how much it impacted me until I was able to have the time to pursue it.  I would work multiple jobs to save money to take a trip somewhere.  And working became easier when I found a reason to do it.  I’m thankful for the free time I had to jump around the country and do what made me happy.  Just like I’m sure you’ll be thankful for the free time you have to weave a basket.

5. Life Experiences

During those two years I had the opportunity to do so much.  A lot in fact.  A good seventeen-ish of my twenty-one jobs were in the past two years.  I became a disc jockey, I met numerous celebrities, I went to every state east of the Mississippi River, I moved to New York, I became a bank teller, I sold a house, I was in a two year relationship, I went to the west coast, I fell in love, I went to Disney World, I got fired, I became homeless, I almost worked for the travel channel, I worked for a celebrity chef, I was on TV, I moved to Tennessee, I became published, I got my heart broken, and I did so much I could fill an entire journal with my experiences.

Having the time to do what you want, to find your bliss, to save up money, to understanding yourself… it creates the time to make new memories.  I’m not saying you can’t do that in college, because I really don’t know…. I dropped out of college.  I’m just saying that I made some of the best life experiences because I didn’t have college holding me back.

My advice to someone who is thinking about dropping out:

If I can convince you to not do it, then I suggest changing your study/major.  Pursue your dream or goal in a different fashion.  Personally, I was studying communication in hopes to one day becoming some kind of travel videographer/documentarian/writer.  Now, I study geography in hopes to do the same thing.  I have a friend who wants to work in the music industry, and was originally a music major.  Now, he studies communication in hopes of the same thing.  Find a new way of doing the same thing you love.

My advice to someone who has dropped out:

Find your reason fast.  The reason you dropped out is not simply because you don’t like school.  That’s not good enough.  You know it, and I know it.  Figure out why you did it, and then you can begin to use your time productively.  Then work for your bliss.  Do everything possible to make you happy.  In the end, that’s all that matters.  You don’t look back in life at the times you spent working, but rather the times you spent smiling.

If you dream of travel, save up money between trips to take your next adventure.  If you dream of music, volunteer at a studio to learn and better perfect your craft.  If you dream of cooking, get a job in a restaurant.  If you dream of cycling, join a local bike club.  Do what you need to do to never let go. Don’t let your decision to leave school go in vain.  You dropped out of school to find more time, don’t spend it playing video games, and binge watching Gilmore Girls.

In the end it’s your choice.  Just make sure you chose the path that will ultimately let you weave your basket of happiness.

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