From our very first day of kindergarten to high school graduation, we’ve been told over and over again about the importance of education and going to college. For years we’ve been taught that the only way to become happy and successful is to earn a college degree. When I think about my senior year, I can’t even remember being asked, “What are you doing after high school?” Instead, the question was always, “What college are you going to next year?” Attending college has become the norm. So when I decided that I would start working instead of heading to college, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had made a mistake somewhere along the path to success. Now, after six months of working and paying bills, I’m confident that I made the right choice. However, it did take some time for me to feel better about my decision.
The first step was to understand that my situation was different than some of my classmates. My life at home was a bit…complicated during my senior year. I was afraid to go to school out of state or even in another city because I was afraid of something happening at home when I wasn’t there. Then me, my brother, and my two sisters had to move in with my aunt. We went through a confusing process with CPS, and my parents had to spend some time in jail. For a while, I had to wait for my mom or dad to call me from jail so I could ask them some questions to help me fill out my FAFSA. It was an overall confusing time. Now, I live with my mom while she works on completing classes on substance abuse, healthy relationships, and parenting so she can have our family together again. The court recently allowed the kids to spend more days at our house during the week, so progress is being made (we are very, very close to getting the case closed). It’s still hard for her to find a job so I’m paying the utility and internet bills in the meantime.
Another reason I chose to work was because it was the only option that interested me after being rejected from my dream school. New York University was the only school I was interested in attending because I wanted to learn about the music industry, but I was rejected from the admissions office. After I got over the sting of rejection, I applied to work at the local community radio station, where I started working not too long after graduating. I spend every day listening to dope music, getting to learn how to conduct interviews and creating a cool project for people to listen to. I know I’m lucky. Not many people get a job doing something they’re interested in right after high school.
I also had to learn that just because I wasn’t as worried about the same things as my friends, my problems weren’t less important. While my friends are worrying about studying for finals, I’m thinking about how I’m going to manage my money for the month so I don’t fall behind on my bills…or even how I’m going to get my car fixed. Oops.
Everyone has different stories happening. One thing we all have in common? Struggling. All we can do is help each other as much as we can (I just ordered a pizza for my homie at NAU before I wrote this paragraph).
Sometimes, doubts are able to creep into my mind when I’m trying to go to sleep. Sometimes I clock in at work and wondered if I wasted all the effort my counselor and teachers put into helping me apply to colleges last year. Then I realize that I am still using the knowledge they gave me, and I’m still learning. I write more e-mails than ever these days, I’m learning how to schedule and conduct interviews for work. I do plan on going to school though; I’ll most likely start with evening classes at a community college. My path is a bit different, and I might take longer, but I will get a degree in something.
Sometimes I scroll through Facebook or Instagram and see posts from my friends doing cool stuff on campus, and I wonder if I’d be having more fun if I had gone to college. But when I’m able to take my brother to a comic book shop, a movie, or get him some shoes, I am filled with happiness. When I’m able to take my mom to eat somewhere and finally thank her for everything she did for me when I was a baby, I feel good. As long as I’m able to make my family happy, I’m happy.
“Let go, life does get tough/No need to stress, hold you back too much” – “Revofev” by Kid Cudi