I am a college dropout.
There is certainly a lot of social stigma attached to that title. People automatically think you're a loser who wasted time and money. They believe you couldn't handle it, or you're lazy and didn't try hard enough.
However, I am a college dropout purely by choice, and I wear the label with pride. Dropping out was one of the best decisions I've ever made.
I'm not saying everyone should drop out, but when I graduated high school, I couldn't seem to correlate my dreams and my plans. I loved English, history, reading and writing. I wanted to help people, share my ideas, be creative and enjoy myself.
However, I was confronted with endless options and information. It was obvious the jobs in the fields I would actually be interested in were few and far between.
I was scared; I wanted to make sure I was heading in the "right" direction. I wanted to make sure I was setting myself up for as easy a job search as possible, many opportunities and decent pay.
I found myself taking extra math and science courses, even though I hated them. I walked across the stage to graduate, and I was handed scholarships for health sciences and medical fields of study.
Before I knew it, I was enrolled in a pharmacy technician program. Two years later, I would be ready to become certified and start working in what had to be the most boring, stressful and unfulfilling career I could think of.
I kept it up. I hated myself and my classes on most days, but about halfway through my second semester, I really started to reflect on who I was and where I was going.
I quickly realized I needed to take responsibility for my own happiness and fulfillment. It was obvious I had made a huge mistake, and I decided to correct it by not returning to school after the midterms.
I have never regretted my choice. I only wish I came to my senses before I enrolled.
The truth is we all make mistakes, and mine really isn't an uncommon one. I didn't want to be unhappy forever. Life is too short to make such critical errors that will forever affect our futures.
I don't think I'm exceptional. I'm not wealthy, and leaving school was a big problem financially.
I'm not brilliantly smart with the ability to quickly change gears and go into any other program I'd like. I'm normal. Anyone could make the mistake I did, and anyone could make the choice I did to correct it.
That being said, I own the fact that what I did was brave. It's not easy to admit you've screwed up, especially with something as important as your future.
It's not easy to move back home and face your past. It's not easy to work a terrible call center job because you're not in school anymore.
None of it was glamorous, exciting or rewarding. I was scared, worried and bored. I was kind of wandering in circles day by day, just figuring it all out. But today, I'm more confident than ever about who I am and where I'm going.
It's been about three years, and now I'm married, doing a job I love and writing freelance. I'm insanely busy, and there is constantly a ton to deal with. But the desperation and regret I felt then is obsolete.
My time in post-secondary is now just another chapter in my book, and I currently don't have plans to return to school.
If you realize after you've begun school that you're not in the right place, it's okay. It's okay to switch programs, it's okay to drop out, it's okay to take a year or more off and it's okay to say it's not for you at all.
There shouldn't be one standard all people are held to once they finish high school. There shouldn't be a rulebook we have to observe when it comes to deciding our fates.
Do what makes you happy, and be who you want to be. And, if you find you've taken a wrong turn, don't be afraid to make it right.