Why I Dropped Out of College
1) I’m an idiot.
I am fucking stupid. Everyone knows that graduating from college is very likely to make my life easier in the future. Isn’t that the point of life? After all, we live in America, under a system called capitalism, in which a college degree demonstrates evidence of the qualities required to succeed in the modern workforce as a productive, responsible citizen. We all know about those studies that show that on average, college graduates make like a million dollars more in their lifetime. Why would anyone want to give that up? Besides, Wesleyan wasn’t just any school. Wesleyan was one of those schools: on those lists, with a big endowment and research grants and professors who write books and loads of very important alumni who are doing very important things. One of those schools, you know the kind, where you get far more than a piece of paper. You can also gain access (if you didn’t have it already, which you probably did) to elite socioeconomic status; exposure to the primarily upper middle class/rich kids who populate the upper echelon of American society, with all their inherited cultural know how and privilege. Bourdieu tried his best to tell me that that’s valuable, that through some kind of crazy magic, it morphs into economic opportunity as we enter the workforce. But it just didn’t sink in. (Until now, that is. Damn.) Anyway, now I’m entering adulthood without that. My individual life is probably going to be more difficult because it will be harder to gain access to the jobs and careers that could make me the most money. I really should have thought harder before I made such an idiotic, impractical decision. Why would anyone do such a thing? What the fuck was I thinking, putting in three and a half years just to let that Wesleyan degree slip through my fingers, especially being a black girl from the projects with absolutely nothing else going for me besides some music that only my friends listen to? Fuck!
2) I’m a genius.
Just kidding. Put your eyeballs back to where they were before you started to roll them. I don’t know if I’m a genius or even what a ‘genius’ is, but that’s beside the point. I just have a pesky little habit of thinking very original thoughts (that’s no walk in the park though, & I’ve got several psychiatric diagnoses to prove it. More on those in the future. Oh man it’s gonna be so awesome to be real as fuck with this blog, such a great release of fear of what you think of me, dear reader 🙂 ) I also have a habit of vocalizing them, which often unfortunately leads to a feeling of abject isolation and a deep sense of frustration in the normal classroom setting/in general. To give an example: One day, this past semester, in the Sociology of Education (s/o to Professor Long!), we were asked to write one paragraph about what we thought was the biggest factor causing the achievement gap in the United States. I was probably a little bit stoned, and feeling philosophical. Here was my answer: “I think the most important factor for narrowing the ‘achievement gap’ is reconceptualizing what we mean by achievement. The standard for how we define this socially often (but not always) relates to performance on tests which demonstrate that students know how to obey authority and learn due to social pressure and fear, rather than true interest and a flowering of their natural abilities. The way we measure achievement forces students into a similar mode of being and the ones that cannot conform fall through the cracks. I guess I didn’t exactly answer the question, so here is another more pragmatic answer: socioeconomic and racial disparity clearly increases the gap and concentrates a lack of educational resources in those neighborhoods that need them and have always needed them the most. Narrowing the gap could involve a concerted federal effort to bring those schools up to date in the most basic ways (student teach ratio, up to date/enough textbooks) so students in them can compete on a more level playing field.”
Professor Long got excited and basically announced my answer in class, to my dismay (I’m still a bit shy). I perked up, secretly hoping someone would bite, but no one else had anything to add, the rest of the class went on as usual, and we stayed safely within the bounds of the race/class answer. I zoned out and left as soon as the clock hit 10:20. Later, he told me that no one else thought of that and I was surprised. This is just one example of me getting bored in class because of my wild, divergent style of thinking. I always felt like I was coming out of left field. I wanted to make quantum leaps and undermine the questions and untie the assumptions behind them, like delicious little knots beneath my fingertips. But we had to go step by linear step, stick to whatever the current author was saying, and say things that the professor wanted to hear in order to get that participation grade. I wanted to learn and discuss passionately, to express emotional reactions to the material (in class? what the fuck Coral?) and talk about my theories and convictions and relate personal experiences with schooling, as I find them to be a most excellent source of knowledge. (Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m not the only one.) I wanted to transcend the separation of academic disciplines and go skipping through the humanities, all within one comment (it’s connected I swear! Let me rephrase. Uh….Cue social anxiety never mind…lost my thought…..*shuts down*)
I just….I dunno. I just wanted to engage. Deeply and honestly, with shit like vulnerability and, god forbid, self-disclosure. I didn’t give a FUCK about my grades and thats why they were always subpar. I wanted to look critically at the exponentially accelerating disaster of modernity that my generation must somehow deal with, stare it in the eye and acknowledge all the fucked-upness that seemed so transparent. I wanted that from the people around me, and I wanted it badly. But, when we read Dewey, we discussed Dewey. Not ourselves, not life, not the role of our own presence in academia and it’s reinforcement of inequality and the significance of it all in the bigger picture. But more often than not, Dewey was Dewey, and that was that. (I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant…..I’m not looking down on anyone, promise. Just expressing myself. But its my blog so I’ma keep it 100 and judge if ye so wish, I’ve been through worse.)
3) I’m unstable.
I’ve always been rather ‘mercurial’, if you will. (Fancy word for a ‘lil bit cray-cray’.) I experience a wide and drastic range of emotions every single day, and this makes the relentless schedule of class for hours, homework for hours, appear socially competent and happy the whole time, aaaaaand repeat, very, very difficult. (Or not. Maybe it’s just my ‘immaturity’, we’ve all got to do things we don’t want to do and we damn well better get used to it! Maybe I’m just a lazy, irresponsible fucking asshole who just can’t get with the program. People are slaving sixteen hours a day in coal mines and I can’t get my ungrateful ass to an air-conditioned building 50 feet away? Damn shame.) Nonetheless, I do not do well in imposed routine. I missed a lot of class and missed a lot of deadlines. I have to know why I am doing something, what it’s for, and how my soul /the world will benefit and grow from it. I’m fucking weird like that. If I don’t get the answers to my whys or cannot choose for myself, I start to die inside. (She’s super over dramatic too, ugh, get OVER yourself Coral.) Extrinsic motivation does nothing for me. I’m one of those kids that teachers really, really liked but regrettably had to mark as ‘inconsistent’ or ‘absent-minded’ a lot. I wasn’t absent….I was in my head, flying away to places they had no idea about…but anyway, I couldn’t do it. The stress of finals ravaged me every single time. The miserable all-nighters, the illegally purchased Ritalin and Adderall that turned me into the kind of person that could succeed at Wesleyan. Due to amphetamine use, rampant at Wes, I couldn’t eat much, and I dropped ten pounds every single time. (And we all know I don’t have many to spare.) No energy, no capacity for joy. Focus, Coral focus, just do it Coral, put your whirlwind thoughts into this nice formulaic essay, just ten, just fifteen more pages. Mood swinging even more than usual. Nightmares. You have to do this Coral or you’ll be poor forever and have nothing. Think about Mommy, Coral, you want to get her a house one day, think about everyone else. Don’t let them down. You aren’t like these rich kids Coral do not fuck this up. Get that A on the final, get that GPA up. 98 pounds went to 95. 93. Vision blurring when I stood up. Smoking too much weed just to get by. My body started protesting. “Coral, what the fuck are you doing? You don’t even care about this! This is some arbitrary shit that you are forcing yourself to do in order to get a job you probably wont even like! I don’t care what Prep for Prep and Taft and Wesleyan and everyone around you expects from you, I care about what I need! Me me me!” My body is a dick. Especially during finals. By November of 2013, I couldn’t do it anymore. Had to put my physical and emotional health first for once.
4) I’m an artist.
I cannot live without making music, I have this need to constantly create, or else I implode. I have to do it, or I lose an already tentative grasp on sanity (whatever that means). After I dropped my first EP in October and proved to myself that I really did have potential and talent, I realized that music was my purpose, not academia. (Insert shameless self promotion here: https://soundcloud.com/fxwrk Free download yay!) I don’t need a degree to do what I want to do. I was so overwhelmed with work that I could not make much music while at school, and it was killing my spirit. Who knows, I love sociology and might go back one day and finish up my degree. But right now, I am driven by this unshakeable inner conviction that is directing me onto an artistic path. Here I go y’all. Even if I don’t succeed in music, I am so excited to devote my time to activism, in whatever form that takes. That is where my heart is, working for social change is what will wake my ass up in the morning in a way that no A ever could. Even if I really have ruined my chances at financial prosperity, nothing could be more fulfilling to me, personally, than fighting for a cause that is bigger than me and my personal comfort. Not everyone takes that path, and no it is not for everyone, but it is mine, and I am finally embracing it as acceptable because I say so. My momma will get that house…I’m just going about it differently 🙂 And if not, she’ll at least have a much happier daughter.
The job market is changing. I’ve realized that even with a degree, you are not guaranteed the job you want or a job at all. This is a time of rapid fluctuation, in every single way. It appears that humanity is on the brink of major social upheaval, even though the most dramatic of it hasn’t hit home for many Americans yet. A lot of my senior friends are as unsure as I am, and they’ll be getting their degrees in May. I wish you guys the best and I’m so happy for you. (I’m turning up for Senior Week best believe.) I hope we all rock it out in the future. We’re all kind of scared and worried, but…uncertainty is a guarantee, no matter what we try to do to avoid this simple fact of life. Instead of staying somewhere that was stifling me, I chose to embrace uncertainty, fall into ‘the flow’, attempt to live spiritually in a secular world, and see where it takes me. I hope we all end up exactly where our hearts tell us to. I have faith in us, with degrees and without them.