I’m a college dropout. I went for a semester and then dropped out on the second or third day into my second semester of my freshman year. I keep waiting for a sinking feeling of regret to hit me out of nowhere, like the feeling that I should drop out had hit me on the first day of my very second semester. I keep waiting for myself to realize what a horrid mistake I’ve made and how I never should’ve left and I should’ve stuck it out.
It’s been 6 months since I left and that feeling still isn’t here. I look for it though, I’m almost expecting it, as strange as that sounds. I guess it’s since my life is (or rather appears) stagnant at the moment. I’m starting a business and things are going slow but steady- I have to save my paychecks from my $10 an hour job so that I can save $1500 that will let me take the first baby steps in production for the product. All I can do now is be patient, show up to work on time, ask for extra hours, cut my spending to the bare minimum (aka skin care products and food :D), read lots of books, and blog.
HOs (high-octanes, as explained here) can make you feel like you should go from dorm room idea to 8 figures in revenue in 30 days. And of course they can help you do that with their online web course. The HO culture at college definitely made it seem that way. My university had a startup boot camp challenge (Oh my god, I hate “challenges.” All of them. They’re all awful.) where students were encouraged to go from idea to prototype to pitching to investors within a semester. This is not possible for everyone and I know for myself, there’s no way I would feel polished enough to be pitching to investors in 2 months.
As a college drop out who is not a former Harvard student running a multi-billion dollar tech empire, my life does seem stagnant right now but I don’t feel like it is. Slow and steady wins the race.
It’s easy to feel like you’re progressing in life when you’re on the well-worn path following the life script. Society has already planned out the route and cleared the trail. But when you start to do your own thing, you have to figure out a whole new path for yourself and blaze your own trail, it takes some extra time. For a while, you can go in circles wondering which direction to take. I know I did. When I first left college, I had an idea for a completely different business than the one I’m pursuing now. I contacted companies for developing an app with specific technology that I would need. I also thought of going to school for aesthetics because I love skincare and I toured several beauty schools. But ultimately, I decided on a route that I didn’t expect to take at first.
And now that I know what I want to do with myself and what kind of business I want to start, it can be hard to clear a path for myself. Starting a business is not easy. Few people have done it successfully. It’s hard to figure out what steps to take and which direction to go when you have to make a choice. Everyone’s entrepreneurial journey is unique and there is no step-by-step guide for your business. Unlike the standard life path, there is no one size fits all solution. It’s easy to follow the formula of going to school, getting good grades, taking internships, writing a nice resume, and getting a decent job. Entrepreneurship requires the introspection to create the “right answers” out of thin air. So while you’re testing various options, trying to make a choice, it’s easy for people to say “Hurry up already.” But I think it’s important to go at your own pace, especially when the people telling you to hurry up aren’t the ones helping you to clear the path so that they can walk down it with you.
I don’t regret dropping out of college and I don’t think I ever will. That feeling of regret hasn’t come and I know that it won’t because I’ve realized that dropping out of college is a privilege. And I’m grateful for it. Not everyone can afford to drop out of college. I know that sounds a bit silly and kind of ironic, but it’s true. The people who drop out of college with student loans will in all probability be worse off financially than anyone else, even people who never go to college.
Going to college and taking on student loans is a more serious decision than getting married and buying a house. I think that the only decision more serious than taking on student loans is having a child, and that’s only because it involves a defenseless and completely dependent little human being. The most serious choice you will ever make is not who you’ll marry. It’s not the mortgage lender you choose. It’s not the career path you follow. Aside from children, the most serious decision ever is taking out student loans. I know I sound dramatic but it’s true. Taking out student loans (and having a child) is an irreversible decision. And when you make irreversible decisions, you essentially forfeit control over the outcome of that choice.
My coworker has a good friend who adopted a boy from another country. She (the friend) is religious and disagrees with transgender-ism. (Is that the right word?) The little boy, however, insists that he’s a little girl, wears feminine clothes at home and plays with “girl toys.” The child came into my workplace the other day with long hair in a ponytail. I saw a little girl. The mom has the child in conversion therapy and is planning to send her child to boarding school. My coworker, knowing her friend as well as she does, thinks that the mom is simply trying to send away her “problem.” It’s sad that the mom would try to sweep her child under the rug and ship him/her off like that. But my point is, having a child is irreversible. You can’t un-have a child and I don’t think you can “un-adopt” a child either like making a return at a store.
You can’t un-have student loans either. There are very, very few choices in life that are irreversible. But two that are, are having children and getting student loans. Student loans are the only debt that cannot be erased if you go bankrupt. And everybody thinks that “Surely I’ll never go bankrupt,” until it happens to them. The fact that student loans will never be erased is more serious than you’d think at first, which is why I equate it to having a child. I could go max out every credit card I get approved for by buying Louboutin heels, designer bags, and couture clothes and it would all be erased in bankruptcy so I could have a “fresh start.” But it’s funny that taking out student loans to get an education so you can be a productive member of society is not afforded the same same safety net.
If you marry the wrong person, you can get a divorce. Easier said than done, but it’s possible. More than half of married couples do it anyways. If you buy a house that’s too expensive, you can sell it (hopefully at a profit) and move somewhere cheaper. If you choose the wrong career, you can have an encore career. Lot’s of people do that. But if you take out student loans, there is nothing you can do about it except pay it back.
Or flee to a country without extradition and live off the grid.
Dropping out of college without student loans is a privilege. And I’m grateful I could make that choice in time. My university was expensive AF. Tuition was just over $70,000, I received a need based grant for about half of that, and my mom paid just under $17,000 for my first semester. The fee for my room and the food I ate during my one week in the second semester was just shy of $4,000 and thankfully, I didn’t have to pay any tuition for the second semester. Mom paid the 4 grand too. Thank you mom. #BLESSED
I’m not flexing- the point is that not everyone is as fortunate as I am. Not everyone’s parents got it like that. Most people’s parents do not have it like that. If I was most college students, I would’ve dropped out $21,000 in the hole with nothing but a minimum wage job to help me pay it back. I wonder if I could even make the minimum payments on that every month. I don’t know if I could be starting a business now if I had that much debt. I think I would be paralyzed with fear and my parents would be on my case about paying off the loan since they’re fans of Dave Ramsey (I think he’s grossly out of touch and prefer the knowledge I get from Robert Kiyosaki, but whatever).
Sometimes I wish I could go back in time, stop myself from going to college, and convince my mom to give me that $21,000 to use towards my business. Or a down payment on an investment property. But, I’m so damn grateful for the lessons college life taught me and the experiences I had, and my friends who I can’t imagine not knowing, plus the fact that I never would’ve had the idea for the business I’m currently working (yes, shameless self promotion FTW) on if I had never gone to college and then left. I had a totally different business idea that I wanted to pursue in college. Dropping out, however, allowed me to let myself let go of that idea and to come up with an idea that actually aligns with what I actually want for my life and my “career.”
I put career in quotations there because it feels like such a HO’s word. The term career connotes a job and climbing the “career ladder” and having a boss and PowerPoints (Prezi’s are better!) and the whole 9 to 5 shebang and being really super passionate about your work in the world!
I feel like the term “career” implies that you have a passion for your job. And part of the HO mindset is that you should. I slightly disagree. I mean, life is long. And it’s going to be a long 40-50 years of work until you retire if you despise your work with every fiber of your being. You’re gonna make yourself miserable.
But also, I think you don’t have to be super passionate about how you make money to make lots of it or to even be an entrepreneur. Passive income is called passive income for a reason. And I think part of this passivity affords a certain kind of nonchalance about it. Obviously it’s not that people with passive income or who want passive income (such as myself) don’t care how we get our money and we don’t care about stepping on people or breaking the law. Not at all.
What I mean is that when you seek out passive income, the goal isn’t to “find your passion” or “find your purpose” and without the need to love what you do, you get that specific nonchalance. The goal is to make the most money while investing the least amount of our precious time. And when you divorce making money from spending time, you’re free to do whatever it is you actually are authentically passionate about without the stress of trying to force your passions to pay the bills. Honestly, I think making your passion your main source of income can backfire for precisely that reason. When your passion becomes an “I have to” and not an “I want to,” eventually, it will start to feel like an “I have to.”
My mom is a veterinarian and she wanted to be once since she was 4. As a poor black girl, she had many people tell her she couldn’t do it. She struggled. She got student loans. But she made it. Her student loans have been paid off since before 2014. She love animals and she loves her job. But she is older now and she’s getting tired of the 14 hour overnight shifts in emergency medicine. She want’s passive income and is starting a business. Granted, she wouldn’t have gotten her business idea without becoming a vet in the first place, just like I wouldn’t have mine if it weren’t for college. But still, it’s something to think about, especially for all you “youngin’s” out there.
Anyways, I really want to find a better word, a simpler word instead of “career”. I just want a word that means “how I make my money.” I would call it “my calling” or “my financial undertakings” but the first sounds oddly religious and the second sounds way too intense. The word “undertaking” doesn’t have the best connotations either. People might start looking at me like I’m a Corleone.
Maybe, when and if I’m fabulously wealthy I’ll call it that, just to sound mysterious. But for now, “financial pursuits” or “monetary pursuits” should suffice.
Choosing to drop out of college is not an easy choice for everyone. Nor is it the best choice for anyone and everyone. I’m not going to say that you should never go to college or that college is stupid because college is for certain people (and it’s not doctors and lawyers like you might think). Dropping out was right for me but that’s because (1) I could afford to drop out and (2) I have an entrepreneurial spirit…
Okay, okay, if I’m being honest, I’m not as “entrepreneurial” as I am lazy. The truth is, I am too fucking lazy for a regular job or a “career.” The idea of getting up before 9 AM, 5 days a week for 40 years sound like my personal hell. My current full time job only has me up before 9 on 2 days. Although it is only $10/hr but hey, I like my job, it’s chill and it’s just what I need right now (not forever though, just for now) so I’m not complaining.
For most students, once you take out that loan, you can’t go back. For most students, dropping out would mean working a minimum wage job while trying to pay off tens of thousands of dollars worth of student loans, which is where I’d be if it weren’t for my mom and her massive savings that I didn’t even know she had. Back in the day, our parents and grandparents could pay for the entirety of their college education with a minimum wage job or two. Now that idea seems laughable.
So while I won’t say that college is stupid, I will say that it’s only for certain people (and in my mind, poor people) and that I don’t think you should go to college unless you can go without taking loans.
But, if you want to go to a Top 40 university in an expensive city like I did, well then, good luck, Charlie.