Growing up, school was always a burden for me, and as I got older, the burden increased. At the end of sophomore year in homeschool high school, I asked to be unschooled for a year. It seemed to me the only real solution to the incessant stress of formal education. For years prior, my parents had found tutoring, counseling, and other assistance to improve my homework experience, but nothing had a lasting effect.
They declined. The thought of unschooling was too outlandish. Instead, I went to a private Catholic school so my parents could outsource the task of schooling and reclaim some family peace. The next two years were very similar to the ones before in quality of life. Nothing fundamental had changed. Most of my days were still spent doing work I hated.
Being in a traditional high school, if anything, lit a fire under my butt to free myself. Around this time I found a bootleg PDF of Grace Llewellyn’s Teenage Liberation Handbook. It served as such an encouragement, reassuring me that I wasn’t insane for thinking and feeling so strongly.
As I approached the end of high school, the last thing I wanted was to attend another school. Initially I played around with the idea of a gap year, thinking that I might just need a break, and that college plans could resume when I was ready. That idea was acceptable to my teachers, counselors, and family. I didn’t get much pushback until I posited that opting out of college might be a good idea for me.
The response was automatic, concerned, and sometimes furious. With varying levels of zeal, people said that if I didn’t go to college, I would:
- be unemployable
- miss out on foundational social experiences
- not find a lifelong partner
- waste my potential
- take a golden opportunity for granted
Almost 5 years later, I’m happy to say that all of those claims have been unfounded! The pressure was a lot to contend with at the time, but my stubbornness prevailed. In some ways, the religiosity around college freaked me out, even galvanizing me against the idea of ever attending. I wanted to prove to people that a rich, meaningful life could be built outside the aegis of the establishment.
The last few years have not been easy, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I’ve been able to explore different careers, develop valuable life habits, meet fascinating people of all ages, and fall in love with a beautiful harpist (out in the real world, mind you). There is so much out there waiting to be discovered, so don’t get cooped up in a school unless you absolutely need to!