Story #7: I dropped out of college. Twice.

Story #7: I dropped out of college. Twice.

My immediate reaction to this is: Oops. Sorry mom & dad! I oscillate between feeling proud and extremely regretful. I used to feel pretty ashamed of this fact, but I am working to see it differently. One of my biggest regrets in life is attending college right out of high school.

On the other hand, I am so grateful I was able to make these decisions and mistakes. And even more grateful that I get to choose and change the way that I feel about them. They weren’t easy decisions at the time. Quite the opposite. They were tortured and required a hell of a lot of work.

In 2004 I started my college journey at Northeastern University in Boston. I was miserable throughout, despite having the most awesome and wild friends (whom I am still close to today!) The winter was incredibly rough and I felt more lost than ever. I decided I needed something different.

I took a leave of absence and attended The Aegean Center for Fine Arts in Fall 2005. The Fall semester spends 1 month in Italy, studying art history at the source! We visited Athens before taking a boat to Paros, where the Aegean Center headquarters are. The next 2 months of the program are spent working in shared studios, making art and traveling around the islands.

After the Aegean Center I transferred to Parsons School of Design. Unfortunately, my time in NYC was equally as rocky as in Boston. Between a complicated long distance relationship and no feelings of commitment towards my art career, I became unhinged. I had no idea what I was doing and couldn’t justify staying in school. The new dream became moving somewhere with my boyfriend and traveling the world while working random jobs.

That didn’t happen though because the relationship fell apart. From there, I moved to Bellingham, Washington to attend Western Washington University. Approximately 2 years later, this is the school I graduated from. I loved the tight-knit community. I made friends at school and in town. I loved the culture and the intimacy of this small city.

There were lots of other weird stories in all those in between times. Many of which I will write about over the next three weeks. I worked in the returns department at IKEA, I traveled through Southeast Asia, I took bike trips, got odd jobs and made a lot of friends along the way.

I am still discovering what “higher education” is actually about. Is it about learning how to learn? Is it about completing a rigorous 4 year program? Is it about skills and training? Is it about exploration? Whatever it is, I have found that it’s best if you can define that for yourself. And if at all possible, own that experience fully. Do not do it on other people’s terms.

Life is so short. I get bummed out thinking how we are often pushed (or feel pushed!) and crammed down pipelines “for our own good.” I wish that I had woken up a bit sooner to the true opportunities available to me at 18.  And I’m one of the lucky ones who has supportive parents. I simply couldn’t see that I was truly the maker of my own future. If I did it again, I would take a gap year to work and travel abroad.

Then, I would have applied to a small school in a hot sunny town by the beach. The rest doesn’t matter so much. I would have focused on building solid relationships and gaining specific skills while getting some professional experience on the side. All based on what I know now, of course. 😉

I am still torn on many issues around education. It’s been a long and winding road, but that’s a common theme for me. I am often taking three steps forward, two steps back. The one thing I can say is that I’m not afraid of change. If you want to talk about shaking shit up, call me.

Do you use your bachelors/masters degree for work? What was your college experience like? Thoughts on education? Leave a comment below.

Live, learn, grow ❤ LB

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