“Curious that we spend more time congratulating people who have succeeded than encouraging people who have not”
-Neil deGrasse Tyson
I am 26 (turning 27) and I never finished high school. It is officially out in the open for the world, a secret I have only told a select few of my closest friends previously. I would not say I am embarrassed by this fact, but I never wanted it to define who I was or what I might be capable of accomplishing. So far, it has seemingly not impeded my dreams.
So the fact is that I did not have enough credits to finish my grade 12 year and instead of doing another year and finishing I just decided to forget it. I was stubborn, and afraid of being “that person” having to re-do my twelfth year at a sub-par high school. I am sure you may be wondering if I plan to go back and finish, and the answer is not clear to me just yet. I would ideally like to attend a college to learn something and maybe gain some information on the industry I currently want to break into.
It is now 2014, I have two jobs that I love, I get to write every day (about whatever I please), and I am confident in my ability to pursue my dream of being a writer for a living. High school may not be as important as I had originally imagined. To contradict myself immediately, however, it was in my grade 10 English class that I discovered that I could use writing as a way to express myself. Not only that but I realized that I could potentially find a way to be a writer for as a career, which previously I had never imagined was possible. I had been around people my whole life that thought of writing as a silly hobby, something not worth chasing because I would never “make any real money” doing it.
“You do realize that writing is the only thing in life I have ever wanted to do, right?” I spoke this sentence with disappointment in my voice, directed towards my older sister. It was a usual family gathering, my sister and her husband, with their four kids. My mom and step dad, my brother and his fiancé, and last but certainly not least my father. This was a conversation we were having with my oldest niece, who was getting ready to enter her last year of high school. We were discussing what sort of career she might go into, and what interested her in life. My sister spoke first (and loudest) that my niece should enter the navy, because it was a stable career that paid very well. Her step father (my brother-in-law) had been in the navy since he was a teenager, and this was yet another reason why she should think about it. “She wants to be a writer, ha. But you can’t make any money in that, what’s the point?” my sister laughed, and this was the turning point that incited my line from the beginning of this paragraph. She sat quietly for a moment, and gave a quiet chuckle and said “oh…well you know what I mean.” I did know what she meant, she meant that if you can not make a lot of money easily, what was the point? It was better to have a job you hated but made a lot of money in, than to potentially struggle and do something you love. It was not the navy itself that irked me; if you want to serve your country and are fascinated with giant boats, then I highly encourage you to do some research and head to your local recruitment office. My problem is with the idea that if something is not guaranteed to be a stable career, and earn you a high wage, it is not worth doing.
I have a strong issue with people crushing dreams so early on (or at all for that matter). Hearing a parent tell a child at 17 that there was no point in pursuing something she loved because it was not practical or realistic is heart breaking to me. I remember what it was like to be in high school and have adults making it seem as though I needed to decide right on the spot what career I would go into, because if I made the wrong choice I would be stuck with it forever. I want to see more painters, writers, actors, singers, firemen, and whatever else you may dream of doing for a living. I want to see 60-year-old actors, and 20-year-old painters, I do not want anyone to feel as though the fact that they are a teen means they have to choose a career immediately. I do not want anyone that just turned 50 to think that they do not have time to start a new career, because the honest truth is that it is terrifying, but you have time. You may change careers a dozen times over your life, but as long as you love each one, there is no loss there.
Let me get back to the point to wrap this up, and clarify a few things. First, I am in favor of education in all forms, and I believe that finishing high school is a valuable thing. And going to college or university can be incredibly wonderful opportunities to learn and grow as a person, I would never deny that. The point I am trying to make is simple: school is not the only path. It is not even the easiest, or most normal path anymore. There are so many people in the world that have succeeded in creating and contributing such important things to the world with less than a high school education. Having that little piece of paper saying you served your 12 years in school does not mean you grew as a person. Keep that in mind, and remember that you should seek to learn just as much outside of school as within it.
As my last thing to say here, odds are that I will finish high school in the next year or so, and pursue higher education.
Because it is never to late.