Dropping out of school was a tough decision. It took a lot of discussions with a lot of people to materialize - more than any with my parents. Although they’ve been helping me pay the bills the past 2 years, I'm most thankful for all those conversations and all the ones since.
But let’s get back to that money thing. I dropped out of school and my parents are still helping support me financially?! What are they crazy?!
Well, yes, they are (one’s an artist and the other’s a psychiatrist, so you do the math), but the more I’ve thought about it, the more reasonable, even if uncommon, I've felt it is for them to help me through this time.
I'm sharing my rationale below to inspire more discussion and, most of all, to help other students and parents that are in the same position we were.
Is College Really a Better Deal?
When I was born, my parents intended to pay for some period of my life where I would transition from being someone solely reliant on them into someone that was able to support myself, financially and otherwise. For most, this period is college and it generally costs an enormous amount of money.
Although not every parent is in a position to pay for their childrens' collegiate period, it is very socially acceptable - especially in comparison to supporting their kid after he drops out.
I don't quite see the logic here, though.
My college was costing about $30,000 a year in tuition alone. On top of that, there were general living expenses at about $7000 a year and a host of other expenses for school projects (I'm big on elaborate projects), entertainment and so on. That money was going towards something that I was quite sure would not make me happy going forward.
On top of that, I had very little appreciation for this money and almost no concept of how much I was spending. Our society has come to treat college as just another thing all kids have to do, so that's how I treated it, too. College is, for myself and many others, a bubble, totally separate from the real world.
Out of school, my living costs are tens upon tens of thousands of dollars less, yet I am acutely aware of what I spend and the affects that spending has on my life. My parents and I now make decisions about money based on whether or not those choices are moving me in the direction I want to be going.
Finally, I am living in the real world.
Making Money vs. Cultivating a Foundation
But if I’m living in the real world, as I claim, shouldn’t I be busting my ass to make ends meet? Isn't the real world harsh? And won’t I slack off if I don’t have the need to support myself financially?
If money were my only motivation, though, it really would have made more sense to stay in school; I can't deny that getting a typical job is at least good for guaranteed money.
But, I dropped out for freedom to choose what I work on. The motivation was built in - there was so much I wanted to be doing that school was getting in the way of.
Never in my life have I been interested in slacking off and I get the impression that many who yearn to leave college have surprisingly similar motivations. We want to be doing real things.
In fact, I've made pretty decent money in the past doing freelance web-design and programming. With that clear money-making path, maybe my parents should have cut me loose? I could support myself, after all.
Thankfully, they recognize that the most valuable thing for me to be doing is forging a real foundation built of work, experiences and relationships that are relevant to the direction that will satisfy me in life.
I could be paying the rent bagging groceries, and I have much respect for those that do, but I'm not sure that's the best way for me to surge forward. While I have the opportunity, perhaps it makes much more sense to be taking risks developing web-apps that may or may not succeed or developing my writing ability, which is unlikely to support me anytime soon but will have a multiplier effect on my income a few years from now.
My parents recognize that doing great things takes time to build a strong foundation. For some, that foundation is built in a university, for me it's built in front of a laptop and for others it's built in a place I could never expect.
What if My Parents Don't Support Me?
I am so damn grateful to have parents that have helped me through this time but, (don’t tell them) I would be doing this, and eventually find success, even if they hadn’t given me a cent. This is who I am to the core.
These are my circumstances; we all have different ones - they don’t matter. The only thing that matters is finding the direction you care about and relentlessly pursuing it at all costs, no matter how perilous and unconventional that path is.
At the end of the day, support is still just support. The role that parents can play is enormous and I would encourage them to openly discuss and stand behind their kids' passions, whatever they are, assisting wherever possible.
But, ultimately, we must stand for ourselves. We will always have struggles to fight and dragons to slay on our own.
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