I’ve been noticing that more and more of my friends have been opting for dropping out, something that I never considered I could do as well. It’s probably because of Asian culture that I never thought it was something I’d allow myself to do – after all, the mere action of suggesting that one should drop out often leads to a sort of loss of face (dishonour on your family, dishonour on your cow!). It’s not the loss of face to yourself that’s the worst, but rather the loss of face to your family, most especially your parents.
However, at the end of the day, it is your life, and you have to live your truth, and sometimes school just isn’t for you. Maybe not right now, maybe not ever – and that’s okay. You’re not less of a person, it just is how it is. That’s what I realised, anyway.
So here goes! These are the things that helped me through the decision of dropping out:
This was probably my main priority. You know that saying “health is wealth”? It’s usually used in connection with physical health, so many of us do not take our mental and emotional needs seriously. That has to stop.
Law school wasn’t the problem for me – it was my own personal mental health issues that made things difficult. I had been diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, and I had to relearn coping mechanisms in the middle of my education, and that eventually took a toll on me.
It especially didn’t help that I was based in a foreign country that was xenophobic and racist. Receiving racial microaggressions on a daily basis (“ching chong ling long” – guys, I’m not even Chinese!), being ignored during discussions with groups (especially when they were all white guys), all these things added up to affect my mental health.
I then realised I had to do something drastic for my mental health to recover.
More Career Options
Tertiary education is the end all be all of Asian culture – you’ve got to be someone with a piece of paper or you’re nothing. My family obviously subscribed to the “doctor or lawyer” thing, and insisted I either become a doctor (I did pretty badly in my organic chemistry so that was out of the question) or a lawyer (dot dot dot – that didn’t turn out pretty well either).
They’re all wrong, though.
Going into trade is definitely an option, classism against trade be damned. The civilised world could not and would not function without people in trade.
It’s definitely harder to find a job without some sort of certification, I’m not going to lie about that. But if you have a passion, why not pursue it? I mean, I went from law school to writing this article, and I can assure you that I didn’t care a whit about the supposed “classiness” about being a lawyer, or the prestige of law school. I realised that I didn’t have to impress anybody but myself. There’s also the fact that the legal industry is oversaturated, thanks to the large number of law schools that have been opening up.
There is also a whole list of jobs that give you a comfortable life that don’t require a degree, if you intend to enter the workforce without one. When I was at a loss for career advice, Google showed me the way.
Another option is to just switch degrees to something you do actually like – which is an option I’m also considering. But, of course, that does depend on whether you’d still like to spend the money on school.
Not Ready For Tertiary Education
Another valid reason to drop out is that you just simply don’t feel like you’re ready for the commitment of school. That’s also fine! You can go back to school more prepared for the workload and the stress later.
I know what most parents (and busybody aunties and uncles) will say: “You’re wasting time”. But why would your time be wasted? If you choose a good job that you can build your future career change on after you go back to school, through networks or through experience itself, that would be an investment, wouldn’t it?
Not Any Less Of A Person
Most importantly, I realised that a person without a degree is just as valid and just as much a good member of society as a person with a degree. I personally find it interesting that we’re literally sold the idea of an education (just remember the BAC ads that were up everywhere from YouTube to the newspaper to the cinema and billboards – you couldn’t bloody move without the sight of one of their ads) by a society for whom income rates have not risen as sharply as college/university fees.
So you know what?
Do what you need to. I got a lot of support from my friends who all scrambled to help me out in various ways, whom I love dearly. My sisters as well stood by me and love me no less for doing the unthinkable. My parents are confused. Nobody else in my extended family knows what the heck I’m doing and I’m very cool with that.
In the meantime, I take odd little jobs (like this) and teach myself new things through online courses (right now I’m learning copywriting and teaching myself Python, the programming language).
Everything works out, eventually.