This title might have you believe that I’m trying to encourage college drop-outs; & that could not be further from the truth.
Let’s backtrack for a minute (If you don’t feel like backtracking with me, scroll down to see more). You might know me as an interior designer, but before I made that my career, at 18 years old I decided to study Electrical Engineering. (Like what even is that major? it’s all magical numbers and symbols..like hieroglyphics I swear). Yeah, believe it or not, I made it through about 2 and a half years of EE, and then I failed my first class. Like big time fail..not one of those D’s or low C’s, no..a big fat F. So I retook the class, and failed it again. That time was also a really deep personal trauma in my life which is partly why I failed, but the majority of the reason was because I could not comprehend circuits…ya know, the electrical stuff that makes your electricity work. Yeah, still no clue how that works.
So I failed a class, decided to go part-time to school for 2 semesters, I literally failed that class 3 times before I finally said Enough is enough, something’s got to give. That’s when I made the courageous decision to drop out of college. I knew it wouldn’t be permanent, but it was a time I desperately needed to figure out what in the world I really wanted to make of myself.
When I finally made peace with that decision in my heart..the next step was talking to my family about my decision.
I talked to my mom first, who has always been a compassionate, understanding, strong woman. I told her my decision and she thought it was a great idea to take time off to make sure that my next major would be the one I wanted. And then came my dad…that was a little harder.
My dad is a phenomenal Electrical Engineer, partly why I chose that field to start with. So telling him that I couldn’t succeed in something he excelled in was a hard decision. At the time of my decision, I was in between semesters and still living in my off-campus apartment with a lease that didn’t end for another 7 months. When I told him my decision, he wasn’t too happy about it as I’m sure many parents feel when their child tells them they’re quitting a major life decision. He expressed that he wanted me to move back home and have me work at home. I fought against that, and made the decision to support myself financially and to live on my own. At first, it was really challenging to convince my family that this was the best thing for me, but once they saw that I not only worked nearly full-time, but I also had an internship in Interior Design, which ultimately led me to making the career change, they had a change of heart.
Whew, now that we’re all caught up on my backstory, I want to offer my insight into that experience and why I believe it’s truly okay to drop out of college.
1.Make sure that your major is what you are most passionate about. Love what you do, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. More often than not, people change their career paths & that’s OK. I believe that as a society, we focus so intently on graduating in 4 years with a respectable degree so we can work the next 50 years to finally retire so we can “enjoy” our hard work. While that’s great for some people, it’s not a cookie-cutter life for everyone. It took me about 4 years after high school to finally figure out what I wanted to do with my life. For some people, they know their whole lives. That was not the case for me. If you don’t know what you want to do, that’s OK, just take some time off to do an internship in the field you’re thinking about. That’s what I did, and it’s the thing that convinced me that being an Interior Designer is what I am meant to be.
2.Have a plan. Once you make the decision to drop-out or take time off of school, have a plan. For me, my plan was working at a restaurant in the evenings and doing the internship during the day. But before I consciously did not return to school the next semester, I made sure that I had something lined up. I made sure I had a job that would allow me to support myself, I found a career I was interested in and called many of the designers in my area to see if I could intern with them. It was an unpaid internship, but it was the most worthwhile decision I’ve made. The experience was life changing.
3. Tell someone you trust. The man I was dating (who is now my fiance) was the person I talked with the most about this decision. Well him and my roommate (should out to Danica-best roomie of all time!). Between the two of them, I was able to express my concerns, my doubts, my fears, and every other emotion. They both were kind and thoughtful of their advice. Neither of them judged me for dropping out, nor did they discourage my dreams. When I expressed my plan and what I wanted to do, they encouraged me to chase after my dream and to make the courageous choice of not returning to school the following semester. Having them to talk to before I told my family was really encouraging because there is strength in community. Knowing that I could talk to my closest friends about it and that they weren’t disappointed, encouraged me to break the news to my family.
4. Take the leap. Once you’ve sorted out the details of going rogue, go for it. You’ve done the research, you’ve found your passion, and you’ve made up your mind. Talk to your family, tell them your plan, and don’t be afraid that they might not take it well. You have to remember that it’s your life. It’s not their life, but be aware that you might have to go be your own support, be aware that you might have to “grow up” quickly. But be bold. I don’t want you, and you shouldn’t want you, to work 50 years only to realize that you haven’t lived a day in your life.
It’s really a tough thing to make a life-altering decision. But it’s yours to take. Don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled. If you decide to not go back to school, that’s your decision, if you decide that a degree is something you want, then go get a degree. Just don’t live your life in a way because it’s “the normal/right/successful thing to do”. But lastly, be proud of whatever you choose to do in life, and know that it’s okay to be different.