Dropping Out of School was the Best Decision I ever Made

Hi! My name is James DeLaney, & I am currently at a transition point in my life & career. I am currently finishing my master’s program in applied developmental psychology & am about to begin journey on a new path towards doctoral studies in applied statistics & research methodology.

How Dropping out of High school Changed my Life

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

This decision to change gears has been difficult for me - as I have grown comfortable & accustomed to my current area of study. As a very intuitive person (& a Sagittarius), it was the realization that I may have become too comfortable which lead me to make the change. While I know I can succeed by continuing on my current path, I feel like I can make a truly positive difference by listening to my heart & following my true passion & using my real gifts. It was this same intuitive feeling that lead me to a doctoral program in the first place, against many, many odds.

My Journey

My seventeenth birthday marked the time I officially dropped out of high school & obtained my general education diploma (GED). In my current line of research (e.g. adolescent development & education), this is oftentimes regarded as a bad thing. Not as much of a bad thing as it happens, but it is regarded a sign of bad things to come. At the time, it seemed like the most viable option to my goal of eventually earning a PhD.

How was dropping out of school a viable option to getting a doctoral degree? Why did I so badly want a PhD at the age of seventeen? Why?

Honestly, I still do not have any concrete answers.

Like my current journey, these decisions were largely guided by a combination of intuition & self-righteousness. High school did not suite me. I felt that this time of adolescence was my time to be free. It was the only time in my life where I will not have mouths to feed & bills to pay. I felt as though it was my right to explore during this time in my life, on my own time, & not to spend my adolescence & young adulthood living according to clock I would follow in my adult life.

From this frame of thinking, it did not matter how or what subject area I would focus for my doctoral studies. All that mattered to me was to show the world that I can choose to spend my time exploring my own identify at the age I choose, & trust that the rest of my life will be dedicated to working on the path I laid out as a teenager. I believed that all of the details would follow on their own time.

Going my Own Way

My decision was met with turmoil from my family.

It is hard to fully support someone when their decision is based largely on the intuition that it is the right thing to do, when that decision goes against the grain. I was able to enroll in a community college & slowly build up my savings so I could afford a university degree.

On the day following my ninteenth birthday when my father past away & left my mother (his ex-wife) with his estate & savings that things changed.

Prior to my father's passing, my mother was reluctant to support my dropping out of high school. Something happened when my father passed though, & she gave me a choice that would change my life. She offered to give to me all of his savings & estate, as long as I took the associated responsibilities of closing the estate, selling the house, & settling all of my father’s unfinished business.

A Unique Opportunity to Live & Learn

The following few years were replete with experiences in negotiating, winning, & losing, a series of emotional & financial battles. I saw sides of people I did not want to see – but these sides apparently reveal themselves when a naïve 19-year-old is solely responsible for a lifetime of earnings & valuables.

Eventually, these experiences led me towards psychology, & eventually, psychology led me to mathematics. Finally, after six years of studying, & carefully negotiating finances, I was able to make those steps I dreamt of during my teenage years. My experiences with my father’s passing gave form to my goals & turned my dreams into tangible goals.

My current phase in life is eerily similar to that when I first started this journey.

I did not fully anticipate my experiences thus far in my doctoral studies & did not expect to change my area of focus. Just as it was in the beginning, I feel such a strong sense that I cannot describe by words. It is this sense that got me here – & it is the trust in this sense that will take me to wherever it is I am going. My experiences have taught me that there is nothing wrong in following what cannot be explained by words.

The words will always follow the choices we make – but they alone may be a poor substitute for the feelings that underlie everything we do. The only way I have made it so far on the pathway to my dreams is by following my feelings – even at times when I could not use words to describe the path I take. 

Do you have any questions or comments about going against the grain & getting your GED instead of completing high school? Make yourself heard in the comments. You can also reach us via email at info@TheEssentialLife.org. We would also like to invite all of readers to make their mark on The Essential Life by becoming one of our contributors. If you would like to share your story, your words & your wisdom with The Essential Life community, & you'd like to see your articles featured here on The Essential Life website, please submit your articles here

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