Choosing to put college on hold was a ridiculously difficult choice. As often as the world preaches to younger generations that taking alternate paths and making unique decisions is a good thing, it is still assumed that we will, at the end of the day, follow our peers on a similar mundane journey. So, in the weeks following my decision I was met with handfuls of negative feedback. People told me “you know, college is a great place to find yourself too” and “are you sure you want to throw away all of the hard work you’ve put into high school?” or “just don’t get caught up traveling and lose momentum to come back to school.” Etc. etc. etc. Approximately 4/5 people who heard my appalling news would tell me I was making a mistake. Before long I began to question myself and my choice. I was so scared of making the wrong decision, and sometimes their opinions lead me to wonder if I had made the biggest mistake of my life. Yet, days, weeks, months down the road….the 1/5 of people, the 20%,  who supported me, encouraged me, told me they wished they had done the same, and that they were proud of me for following my dreams, kept me going. And now, I know I am at the right place at the right time in my life.

I encourage others to explore their paths ahead. There is one, straight path, large enough to hold all your friends, wide enough to fit the crowds heading off to college. Within that pack, you are likely to disappear into a statistic, becoming a member of the 80% of United States students who change their major. Or, becoming one of the average college students, who chooses a different major three times over four years. You may enter college unsure, risking wasting time and money. Or….look at the paths around you. Look at the opportunities for entrepreneur programs, internships, work experience, saving up, community college, traveling, career information classes, job shadowing.  No longer do I feel a need to prove myself to those who do not understand my decision, but rather to share my plans with those who are here to cheer me on. My potential plans (though subject to change) include taking a class on intro to nursing (in order to see if a nursing career is truly something I want to pursue). I hope to shadow a second grade teacher to explore elementary education. I hope to get my scuba diving certification. I intend to (and already do) work 40 hours a week to save up for both college and travel. I will take time to visit schools that I did not have the opportunity to look at last fall. I will dive into each and every scholarship I can find (which I will actually be able to do as I will not be consumed by school). I intend to leave for my travels the beginning of November and return in May. I intend to use every second of this year to better myself as a person and to pursue a future of success and happiness.

I implore the world to push their mental boundaries and challenge themselves to realize that college simply isn’t for everyone. Withhold judgement, personal experiences, and opinions and realize that each human being has the right to a unique and a one-of-a-kind life that is entirely their own.

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