On Monday, I posted a letter I received from a reader, asking advice about whether he should stay in college. I promised you I would post my reply today, and here it is. I sent this response before posting his letter here, and before reading your thoughts on his situation, but some commenters will notice that my advice jibes very well with theirs; others, not so much! I welcome your comments. Did I do right by N?
I’m very sorry to hear that you’re in such an unhappy position. I am not a therapist or a guidance counsellor (and I think it might be a good idea for you to see one of each; your college services might still be available to you, or they might be able to tell you where to go.) That said, it doesn’t sound like your situation is hopeless at all, although you are definitely in an uncomfortable spot.
One thing that encourages me is that you say your father sometimes tells you to come home and figure things out. Next time he says that, would you consider taking him up on it? I think you will have to demonstrate to both him and your mother that you are not just dropping out of life, but are actively trying to figure your life out, maybe by taking a temporary job, exploring some activities you’re interested in, continuing to pursue your writing etc. It may be that college really is the best option for you, but not now. It sounds to me like you are the kind of person who likes learning and would enjoy college (maybe a different college or a different program?) if you were feeling less pressured and confused.
Let me tell you a story. When I was 21, I returned to school to study education. I was at a very unhappy time in my life, and was living in a city I didn’t like and studying in a program that wasn’t for me. I could have completed my program in a year, but I was paralyzed and depressed. So, less than 3 months before graduation, I dropped out. I moved to another city, got myself a job in a clothing boutique, and spent some time just figuring stuff out. Two years later, I went back to school – a different school, and still in education but in an entirely different program – and was very happy there. I just needed time, experience and reflection to work out my next moves.
Now, I had the support of my parents, although they were worried. But it sounds like you have the worried support of your mother, and that your father might come around if you presented him with a plan. What if you said, “Dad, I need to take a year. I’ll get a job, pay you some rent, and a year from now, I will give you some definite answers about what I’m going to do next.” How do you think that he would react?
I don’t know your parents, but in my experience, parents are able to be a bit more flexible if they know their children have a plan.
Life without college is definitely a tougher row to hoe in the long term, (especially in the U.S., from what I understand.) Our society is not constructed in a way, right now, to support people who take the road less travelled. However, I don’t think you need to put yourself on that road for good, at least not yet. What if you took a year, kept busy, and explored what is out there? You never know what opportunities might fall in your lap.
Meanwhile, some time with therapists and career counsellors might be a good idea…
I hope that is helpful in some way; I wish I could offer you a pat solution. I feel sure, though, that you will work this out if you give yourself some space in which to do it.Best,Siobhan