Never stop learning chalkboard - thoughts on being a successful high school dropout

Thoughts on being a successful high school dropout

I just can’t believe that my English teacher marked me down in high school for using too many parenthetical statements in my text. To be fair, he usually liked my work and I low-key suspect it was a ploy to make sure no one knew I was his favorite. (I mean really? Too many parentheses? Say it ain’t so.) Any concern I had is a bit silly now, because nothing he said ultimately mattered. I dropped out of high school.

How it happened

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, 9th grade is the last one I completed in public school. After that I went to a private school for a year, then entered 10th grade in public school the next fall while waiting for them to evaluate the quality of my credits. I was 17 when I dropped out. About twenty years ago I did some community college classes but never finished.

Before you get all, “I knew there was a reason her writing sucks so hard,” please understand that the conversational tone of my blog is completely intentional. The pop culture references are intentional, the idioms and clichés are intentional, the silly Internet vernacular is intentional, and the profanity is intentional. This is my voice. I’m a Penguin published author (surprise!) with a two-decade career in technology, and all things considered, I’m not a complete fuck-up.

One of the reasons I’m not a total waste of space is because ever since dropping out (for parenthetical reasons I will elucidate below, along with a definition of “elucidate”) I was very self-conscious about it. I didn’t want to drop out. Well, I did and I didn’t. I had a devil on one shoulder and the Winchester brothers on the other.

In the end it didn’t matter who won that fight because I didn’t have any choice – the church “private school” my parents sent me to was nothing close to accredited. After evaluating my “credits,” the public school declared it would take me until I was 20 to graduate. So, being the plucky young thing I was, I went and took the high school equivalency test and moved on with my life.

Still, it ate at me that I didn’t have a diploma. There was a chip on my shoulder the size of a school. I threw myself into learning everything I could about anything that even remotely interested me and was determined to be educated even if I wasn’t schooled. At the time I wanted to get myself to a place where I could go to college, but you know what? Life happens while you’re figuring out what to do with your life. Depression, relationships, jobs, manic episodes, moves across the country, and pretty much everything except going back to school.

Thoughts on being a successful high school dropout

Luckily, I was ambitious. In between bouts of depression, ridiculous relationships and gallivanting around the country, I managed to make a few good decisions.

I entered the tech industry in 1995, back when you could get really good entry-level jobs without a computer science degree, and it clicked. After that I took evening classes at a local community college for a year or so, but life just kept happening and I was a passive observer.

It wasn’t until recently that I let go of my insecurity about not having a degree. Well, mostly. With the tech industry the way it is now, and my age, it would be difficult to find a new job without a degree. That doesn’t make me feel secure. But socially, I’ll cop to not having a degree anytime. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished with my career, and I’m proud of overcoming the many challenges I encountered along the way. I would put my (very liberal) liberal arts education up against anyone else with a Bachelor’s degree, and not feel threatened if there was something I didn’t know. There is a bit of an ego boost in thinking of myself as a successful high school dropout, especially one who has a not-insignificant mental illness, and knowing that my lack of a diploma or a degree has never really been a setback. There is still risk, however, if I ever lose my job, and that is enough to bring me back down to earth.

It took a long time, some hard knocks, good therapy, and great medication to get here. I’m no longer a passive observer of my life. There is a lot to be said for the sense of freedom that being intentional can provide.

Sometimes I think about going back to school, because I am a curious person and because maybe it would improve my chances of getting a better job. Then I remember that I’m shooting for FI in 8 or so years and realize it wouldn’t be worth it, financially or energetically. This is it. This is me. I am an idiosyncratic human; an under-achiever in some ways, and an over-achiever in others.

For someone with bipolar and a 9th grade education I’m not doing too badly. At this place in my life, I’m feeling stable and fulfilled.



Any typos you find are not intentional, and I have been known to abuse commas. I believe sentences should not be written in passive voice, but prepositions can be put at the end. And I LOVE sentences that begin with conjunctions. In case you hadn’t noticed. Fragments are good too.



make (something) clear; explain; school yo ass. 😉

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