Hey, Read This If You're Actually Thinking About Dropping Out Of College

Hey, Read This If You're Actually Thinking About Dropping Out Of College

Happiness is a grind. Find yours.
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"College isn't for me."

Raised with the mindset that a college degree is the ultimate life goal, I used to think this was just an excuse made by those afraid to try. The only thing that made me think differently was actually going to college myself.

There will always be stories of people who graduate and build careers in fields completely unrelated to the categories on their degrees. That's all they are: categories. I even hear professionals in my field talk about using their physical degree twice in a lifetime-- to take pictures and hang it in a frame on the wall.

We pay all this money to attend universities that are constantly finding ways to charge broke students more money for things like overpriced school spirit attire and parking spaces that are never available. Then we take a field trip to the "real world" and are made to feel like the last two years of required general education courses were a complete waste of time and money.

It's discouraging.

I've sacrificed so much time and sleep in an effort to keep my grades up and maintain statuses like the honor roll and Dean's List-- titles that I should be proud of but aren't an end-all-be-all.

Those who aspire to go to graduate school and generally value academic merits over life experiences need these titles to succeed-- and that's not a bad thing. I admire their dedication, but I also admire those who aren't afraid to admit that college isn't for them and are genuinely happy with their choice.

To each their own.

I've certainly had my fair share of existential crises while in college. Why am I here? Why am I waking up at six in the morning when I'm lucky if I get to bed by one or two? Why am I required to pay for course material I'll never use again? What is the point of all of this?

Am I happy?

The more I study, the more these questions invade my brain and push me to a breaking point. There will always be unnecessary bullshit to be dealt with, even after college. It doesn't stop, whether you attend trade school, community college, state school, ivy league or no college at all-- it doesn't stop.

Then I hear stories of people who had wished they stuck with it and are trying to find the means to go back. They gave up on something they've always wanted to do because they feared the obstacles. These are the stories that keep me from throwing in the towel. I imagine the day I apply for a dream job I feel qualified for but am turned away because I don't have a degree. It's time to swallow my pride.

Happiness is a grind. I have goals, and to obtain those goals, I need to navigate the obstacles. I've been given the opportunity to succeed in a field that makes me happy early on in life, and I'd be a fool not to follow through with it.

If you're genuinely dreading the thought of the path you're on, by all means, change it; but if you have a dream and are just trying to understand why you have to struggle for two, four or even eight years to get there, don't stop now.

There are infinite finish lines out there, but you'll never cross your own if you detour in the wrong direction.


Cover Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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To The Girl Who Isn't Graduating On Time, It Won't Feel Any Less Amazing When You Do

Graduating is something to be proud of no matter how long it takes you.

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To the girl who isn't graduating college "on time,"

I promise, you will get there eventually, and you will walk across that graduation stage with the biggest smile on your face.

You may have a different journey than the people you grew up with, and that is OKAY. You may have some twists and turns along the way, a few too many major changes, a life change, you may have taken most of a semester off to try to figure your life out, and you're doing the best you can.

Your family and your friends don't think less of you or your accomplishments, they are proud of your determination to get your degree.

They are proud of the woman you are becoming. They don't think of you as a failure or as someone any less awesome than you are. You're getting your degree, you're making moves towards your dreams and the life that you have always wanted, so please stop beating yourself up while you see people graduating college on time and getting a job or buying a car.

Your time will come, you just keep doing what you need to do in order to get on that graduation stage.

Your path is set out for you, and you will get there with time but also with patience. The place you're at right now is where you are supposed to be. You are going to thrive and you are going to be the best version of you when you graduate and start looking for a company that you will be proud to work for. Don't look on social media and feel less than, because at least you're still working towards your degree that you are finally passionate about. You will be prepared. You will be ready once the time comes and you cross the stage, move away, and start your journey in whatever field you're going into.

Don't question yourself, and be confident in your abilities.

With love,

A girl who isn't graduating on time

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Identity: Rejecting What Other People Think Of Us, And Rejecting Self-Esteem

"Because He loves me and He accepts me, I do not have to do things to build up my resume. I do not have to do things to make me look good. I can do things for the joy of doing them. I can help people to help people -- not so I can feel better about myself, not so I can fill up the emptiness."

Ryan Fan
Ryan Fan
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"I don't care what the world says about me. I don't care what you say about me. I don't care what I say about me. It is about what God says about me." - Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy.

The Keller book is transformative in my understanding of identity. The book focuses on a passage in Corinthians 3:21-4:7, and the three things that the Apostle Paul shows us in the book are the world and society's established forms of identity. Our identities are in the form of what's in our hearts, and what our hearts feel about who we are. Paul gives us a guide, with Keller as a messenger, of how to supernaturally transform our heart.

"He's not after some superficial outward tinkering," Keller writes. "But instead a deep-rooted, life-altering change that takes place on the inside...the Apostle Paul calls us to find true rest in blessed self-forgetfulness."

Let me first give a SparkNotes and shortened guide on how to supernaturally change our hearts and affirm our identities in correct ways: instead of finding your identity in what others think of you and what we ourselves think of ourselves, let gospel-humility and self-forgetfulness in Christ define out our identities. Hear me out, and give me some time to unpack this, especially for my friends who don't believe in God and aren't Christian.

The first form of identity is the world's form of identity. This is what other people think of us, and how society and our communities define us. This definition of our identities can be extremely restrictive, and make us feel like we have no personal input and choice into who we are. The point Keller makes in the book is clear: that our others' perceptions of our self-worth don't matter. That much is established in conventional and mainstream society, that we shouldn't care at all about what others' think of us. That much is extremely accurate, and a helpful form of advice that I wish I could accept more in my own personal life. However, the solution that mainstream society, psychology, and the self-esteem society have offered is to make our own definitions for ourselves, to define ourselves by what we do and our own perceptions of who we are.

I bought into this self-esteem perception of identity for an incredibly long time in my life. And sometimes, It worked for me, but other times, when what I did wasn't so great, when I was inadequate in my accomplishments and ability to get good numbers like grades or fast times or a salary, my self-perception and self-esteem fell apart. The problem with ourselves making our identities for ourselves isn't that it doesn't work sometimes, it's that it's not sustainable, and sometimes, when we do succeed and what we do is deemed so worthy in our own eyes and our own hearts, we swell with pride. It isn't uncommon for me, to this day, to have an overinflated ego after doing a good thing, and think that I'm the man and don't need anyone to help me because I achieved what I achieved completely on my own.

And that latter form of identity leads to the greatest sins in Christianity and most faiths: legalistic pride and self-righteousness. I say "I'm the man" sometimes in jest, but sometimes seriously because of my good deeds and accomplishments, and believing that I alone can change the world, that I alone am special and capable of being a savior is incredibly dangerous. And pride is always comparative. Notice that when we take pride in our good deeds and accomplishments that it's not about what we do. It's about what we do and how superior or inferior it seems compared to the next guy.

My analogy, from my campus minister, Stephen, is that comparison is dangerous because it results in a dangerous cycle of letting ourselves off the hook from our mistakes because we will always look to the next person and think, "oh, at least I'm not that bad." The guy who cheats on his taxes likely tries to answer his critics by saying, "oh, I"m not like that person, who murdered someone." But what does the murderer say? At least I'm not Hitler?

The way we compare our mistakes and our sins are as dangerous as the way we compare our accomplishments. Think about the last time you boasted in something great you did, like getting a good grade on a test or that great job you had. Was there any moment in that boasting when you didn't look to the next person and think of how much better you were than that person, because of your accomplishments and good deeds? 1 Corinthians 4:6 asks us to not "be puffed up in favor of one against another." The ego is fragile because we always need a standard to evaluate it against, and that's why we cannot boast in our egos. Boasting in our egos means that we always have something to prove.

The self-aware words of Madonna perhaps demonstrate the insufficiencies and unsustainability of this approach best: "My drive in life is from this horrible fear of being mediocre. And that's always pushing me, pushing me. Because even though I've become Somebody. I still have to prove that Somebody. My struggle has never ended and it probably never will."

According to Keller, what Paul does and thinks is special, and goes one step further past the self-esteem evaluation. Keller's summary of Paul's words is that "I don't care what you think - but I also don't care what I think of me. I have a very low opinion of your opinion of me - but I have a very low opinion of what I think of me." And for those of us that aren't religious, that are atheists and don't believe at all in a higher power, that's the story we have to accept and tell ourselves. I do this, and you probably do this: we say things to critique ourselves that we would never say to others because they're too cruel. And perhaps the approach isn't to stop having those thoughts, because that kind of emotional suppression never works, but the approach, instead, is to just have a low opinion of those self-chastising thoughts of shame. And that disregard liberates us.

But here's my appeal of Christianity: God transforms our sense of self beyond outside opinions of us and our own opinions of ourselves. In a courtroom, we have to justify ourselves before we receive a verdict of innocence vs. guilty. But in Christ, we have already received the verdict and justification, that Christ has already died for us, so we don't need to prove ourselves. God is the only one that can judge us so no one else can judge us, and we can't judge ourselves. In this way, we are liberated. We are no longer on trial.

"An atheist might say that they get their self-image from being a good person. They are a good person and they hope that eventually, they get a verdict that confirms they're a good person."

In most cultures, in most worldviews, our performances lead to the verdict. But in Christ, the verdict leads to our performances. God tells us, in Mark 1:17, that "You are my beloved son; with you, I am well pleased." By accepting God, we are accepted into God's family, and that liberates us to no longer care about the verdict, because we have already received the fact that Jesus Christ died for our sins in trial and saved us.

"Because He loves me and He accepts me, I do not have to do things to build up my resume. I do not have to do things to make me look good. I can do things for the joy of doing them. I can help people to help people -- not so I can feel better about myself, not so I can fill up the emptiness."

Therefore, there is no condemnation for those of us that are in Christ. Now, let us accept that, and live with that knowledge and joy.

Ryan Fan
Ryan Fan

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