Evolution of a College Dropout: My Four Year Journey Into a New Identity & Reality

Confusion

Photo courtesy unsplash via Luis Perdigao (https://unsplash.com/scalabis)

Caution: The non-sexy version of a college dropout’s journey is up ahead.

The Origins of a College Dropout

As I explain to anyone who listens, I received two emails that signaled the downfall of my life:

Email A: We’ve got your internship set up and the internship manager would like to meet with you. (Paraphrasing of course)

Courtesy Morgue File

Courtesy Morgue File

Email B: You’re out of financial aid.

Courtesy of Morgue File

Courtesy of Morgue File

I’ve still been recovering ever since.

Email A gave me hope. Finally, after over 4 years and 120 credits, I would finally be the first one in my family to graduate from college with a Bachelor’s degree.

Email B destroyed everything that I am.

The Survival Memoirs of a College Dropout

Flash forward four years and 2 months later……I survived.

This kind of journey I have been on, as a college dropout, is not the kind that makes it in the newspapers. I don’t have Bill Gates’ or Steve Jobs’ technical skills. I can’t build a social network like Mark Zuckerberg. I don’t have some extraordinary hacking abilities that have start-up companies knocking on my door.

I’m just me.

My version of the college dropout story involves many ups and even more downs.

Successes

As a college dropout, I learned the power of self-directed learning. I have always been someone who wanted to know everything there is to know about my interest. (I’m an INTJ, after all). That trait has been an advantage as a freelancer because it helped me adapt to a constantly changing market. As a result, I dabbled in marketing, publishing, bookkeeping, and more. It was fun, necessary, and interesting.

Courtesy of MorgueFile

Courtesy of MorgueFile

In short, I learned that I didn’t need an educational institution to learn amazing stuff.

I also came to realize that I didn’t always need a “JOB” as I commonly thought about it, to survive. There is always a way to make money. (Be aware that opportunity doesn’t always mean a guarantee!) I could supplement or even supplant my income using skills that I learned, talents that I have, and interests that pull me in a certain direction.

laptop

Courtesy MorgueFile

In short, I learned that jobs aren’t the only place to develop jobs skills or to get income. 

I also got to spend more time developing who I am. When I was pursuing a college degree, my whole identity was wrapped up in getting a degree. I either received the degree or failed. When I did fail, I realized that I still had a lot of personal developing to do. I began that personal development during my time away from college:

  • I gained more skills, mentors, friends, and communities in Paleo.
  • I started this blog.
  • I gained a boatload of friends on Twitter (which has become my second community).
  • I wrote poetry
  • I gained experience in MovNat, PaleoFitness, and everything Primal-related.
  • I learned how to budget money better.
  • I became a more involved social justice activist.

But, I have also experienced incredible downs as well:

Finances:  When you live as a freelancer (especially from scratch), you remain poor for a long time with a few weeks or months of abundance sprinkled in. One month, I might have enough for steak, brocooli, kale, and whatever else Paleo. The next month, I might only have Ramen Noodles.

Employment Options: I’ve experienced the self-employment curse (trying to explain to employers what I did as a freelancer), and what I call the “curse of the all-power Bachelor degree” (entry level jobs that require a Bachelor degree, credit check and more) when applying for jobs. I’ve applied for jobs that I wouldn’t have applied to necessarily if I graduated (like McDonald’s). As a result, I experienced feelings of worthlessness and lack of motivation.

Emotional & Physical Roller Coaster: Living a freelancer and college dropout life, while glamorized in magazines and movies, is not what it’s cracked up to be. It has been a weird ride, and that ride has taken its toll on my emotional, mental, and physical health. In some ways, I’m stronger and more adaptable. In other ways, I’m tired.

So, what have I learned from all of this?

Success will never be what you think it is. I have come to see now that my journey is only partly in my hands. Despite all of the inspirational quotes on Twitter and Facebook, success is not all about what you do. There are just too many factors. Success involves what you plan, what you do, what happens, and how you respond. You can take all of the right classes, do all of the right things, and still not graduate (because of funding). You can fill out all of the applications, create the perfect resume, say all of the right things in the interview, and still not get the job.

Life happens. We have to learn to live within in it. (A good course I learned that helped me integrate that lesson into life was Modern Stoicism)

Your job is what you do, but it’s not all that you are. Yes, as modern humans, we spend a lot more time at work than previous generations. It’s only natural that we tie our identity to that. The problem in that behavior is that it’s external. Should you ever lose your job, get demoted, or can’t handle a job, then your happiness goes out of the window. I’m learning to not get so caught in the hype. A job is what I do to earn income and help someone do something better or faster. It is not a reflection of who I am as a person (even though it feels that way) or what I can offer the world.

Your life will never be static. For a long time, I worked toward a static view of happiness. (To be honest, I still fall into this pattern now). I have the belief:

  • If I just get this job, then I’ll be happy
  • If I just get this degree, then I’ll get the job I want.
  • If I just get this date or marry this person, then everything will be incredible.
  • If I just get 6-pack abs, then life will be awesome

It is not wrong to pursue goals to be more awesome in life. (In fact, I endorse that belief!), but you have to be careful that you don’t get caught up in the “If I just…then” mode of happiness. So many things happen in life that no goal is ever guaranteed success. Even if we reach our goal for happiness, our brain is just going to create another one, anyway.

And what do I plan to do next??

1. I‘m going back to full-time work (away from the computer) and freelance in a skilled occupation. One of the biggest things I’ve learned about freelancing is how to build and grow a service business. In doing so, I’ve learned that the only way to really make is a freelancer is to have a defined skill that really helps people. If you’re just a “data entry” person or “I’ll do anything online that’s legal” freelancer, you will get paid $.01 and stuck in the lower-paying jobs mill. I’m training in a skill that businesses need on a regular basis and will pay for, so I’m going to focus on that.

Having said all of that, I must admit that I like the stability of a full-time job. Despite all of the hype that “the world will be freelancing in 2017″, I like the idea of having defined work hours, a payroll department, and a boss. I’m going back to the cubicle, but this time I realize it’s a cubicle. I also now I can work outside the cubicle as well.

2. I plan on helping more people who are in a similar situation as me (college dropout, work-at-home people, anyone struggling to be more fit on a “real budget”, etc.)

One of the reasons I started this blog was to share my experiences as a college dropout and freelancer. I wanted to share my story and the resources I found. A big part of that was because I learned about resources from other bloggers like Real Ways to Earn Money Online and Work at Home Job Adventures. These two sites helped me find my first jobs as a freelancer and still serve to this day, as a source for additional income opportunities.

Plus, I also created this blog to counter all of those really happy “success” blogs out there that just annoyed me. You know the kind where the blogger goes around the world, earns $500 per hour, and speaks on TEDX, then turns around and says “You can do it too in 7 easy steps”. I want to talk about the journey to that level. What is it really like to go from a famous blogger when last month you only had $3.50 in your bank account?

3. I plan on blogging more, at least for a little while. As time allows, I’ll be doing a bit more than book reviews. If time and budget allows, this blog will grow into a bigger blog with a bigger purpose.I’ll be adding new categories, new posts, and may dabble in interviews, videos, and who knows what else.

4. I plan on finding more unique ways to bring more awesome into my life. I’ll still on the journey to awesomeness, I just know that it will be more interesting, incredible, terrifying, and complicated than I imagine.

Review: Rework

Rework
Rework by Jason Fried
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The best part of this book is its upfront conciseness. “Rework” challenges many of the habits that we’ve grown accustomed to. For example, most of us love the “worker who stays late to burn midnight oil”. “Rework” challenges that concept. Why do you need to keep staying late at night to do work? It’s OK once in awhile, but if it’s a consistent pattern, then something else is going on.

The book uses clever illustrations and in-your-face language to grab your attention on many concepts like this. The point of all this is to show that we need to reevaluate how we’re working if we want to get better.

The only downside is that the book had a paradoxical effect on me. In some areas, I was awed by the simple brilliance. In others, I was like “Already knew that. What’s next?”

That being said, I do plan on reading this author’s next book. I like his approach to language with insight.

View all my reviews

Review: The Future of God: A Practical Approach to Spirituality for Our Times

The Future of God: A Practical Approach to Spirituality for Our Times
The Future of God: A Practical Approach to Spirituality for Our Times by Deepak Chopra
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary: “The Future of God” is a book for the “I’m spiritual, but not religious” crowd. In the book, Chopra identifies universal spirituality as tool for defense (particularly against atheists like Richard Dawkins) and as a prediction for where our spiritual needs will evolve next.

The book is divided into 3 sections (Unbelief, Faith, and Knowledge), which corresponds to Chopra’s assessment of progression through spirituality. In each section, he confronts atheism through scientific debate over randomness, the mystery of the platypus, and miracles. The goal is to help readers understand a spirituality that is more real than ever. In Chopra’s vision of spirituality, miracles aren’t just examples of faith. They are the work of a living, universal intelligence that was, is, and always be. By getting our beliefs and actions in sync with this intelligence, we can tap into a much stronger version of spirituality than we could possibly know.

Chopra ends the book with a short 7-day action plan for his vision along with an appendix.

Opinion: This is a very interesting book that challenged my perception of spirituality. From what I read in just the first few pages, my faith could be much stronger. I believe, but Chopra is asking for a deeper belief.

“The Future of God” also challenged my belief about spiritual progression. As he points out in his book, faith and spirituality do not occur in an upward spiral. It occurs in loops. Some days you will feel “especially holy”. Other days, you might do everything but “be holy”. Chopra asks readers to continue on their journey anyway, because it’s part of the journey.

Another really interesting concept of the book is “zero point”, the point at which faith transcends into unshakable knowledge. I have never heard about this concept, even though I’ve read plenty of situations that led to this concept.

Having said, the book argues a bit too much with atheists, in my opinion. (If you are an atheist, this book probably won’t convince you anyway!). I was getting to the point of “OK, I already believe that in something other than what we can see or experience. Can we get on to more spiritual insights, please?”/

The book also doesn’t offer a practical enough approach to spirituality, as the subtitle suggests. I expected a step-by-step “this is how you get more faith” kind of book, but the content is more random than that. The language and examples were amazing, but at the end of the day, I was left wondering how to translate the inspiration and wisdom I got on a more practical, day-to-day basis. The book gives some suggestions, but more would be helpful.

Lastly, the book is not for spiritual or religious people who aren’t into the “New-Agey” kind of thing. The book goes into concepts like “universal intelligence” and readily quotes from a variety of sacred literature. If you’re not comfortable with that, you may need another book.

If you are comfortable with reading things like “The Twelfth Insight” or “The Power of Intention”, this book might be of great interest to yoy.

View all my reviews

Incomplete Pieces

Courtesy of MorgueFile

Courtesy of MorgueFile

In his youth,

the patron looked at the clay

and asked  the Artist,

“Is my masterpiece ready yet?”

And

the Artist replied,

“I have just started my work with you”.

In his middle age,

the patron looked at the clay mold

and asked the Artist,

“Is my masterpiece ready yet?”

And.

the Artist replied,

“I have only begun my work with you”.

On his deathbed,

the patron looked for the clay statue

and asked the Artist,

“Is my masterpiece finally ready?”

The Artist smiled,

“Behold, the masterpiece you seek

has always been waiting for you.”

Only now

have you been able to see

what was right in front of you.”

Review: Beyond Certification

Beyond Certification
Beyond Certification by Scott Poynton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Beyond Certification” is a great, concise discussion on something that happens when modern man tries to fix something, definition/label creep. In trying to combat the problems of deforestation and harmful environmental practices, we have created a bewildering array of labels and conferences designed to make even more labels.

Scott Poynton asks if this really helping. Is creating yet another label something that we should be doing or should we be looking at the system of creating labels in the first place?

I like that Scott Poynton was courageous and mindful enough to ask the question. Someone needs to. I also liked how he encouraged introspective practices focused on real results. He argues against practices that make it hard for small businesses to get involved in certification and larger companies to dodge true implementation. He argues that we need to go beyond requiring businesses to “check off boxes” and instead do what is right.

My only problem was with the implementation. Poynton has a simplified plan that addresses how a business should THINK once it has an idea of how to “go green”, but it doesn’t provide a practical enough (at this stage) guide to how “go green”.

Overall, though I think this is an excellent read, especially for organizations and supporters of organizations that certify environment and sustainability products and services.

View all my reviews

Review: The Art of Work

The Art of Work
The Art of Work by Jeff Goins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The Art of Work” is one of the most honest self-help books I have ever read because it diverts from the “everything will be OK if you just think and plan it out” speech that occurs in almost every self-help book I’ve read. Goins was the first author that I read who said that the process to success would be messy. Not a little messy, but very messy as we figure out who we are and what we want to do. Goins goes beyond that to show that even if we do everything right, it can still end in failure or we can end in place that we still need to figure things out.

Despite all of this, “The Art of Work” says keep going.

It is this message that kept me reading this book as I encounter another difficult part of my life. Goins’ book helped show me that the path to success is not easy, nor does it comes with signs. We are given promptings or “gut feelings” that lead us closer and closer to our next steps. I had never heard of that before in a self-help book.

The book is punctuated with many real-life stories (like Goins’ other book “Wrecked”) that show the complexities of success from the semi-confident writer taking a big leap (Jeff Goins) to the forest ranger who ended up working outside of the park industry.

The very last part of his book was a special treat, because it is both spiritual and very practical. I didn’t expect it, but glad that he added it at the end of the book as a way of tying the whole process together.

I recommend his book for anyone who is tired of the same old “self-help” books and needs a more realistic, but optimistic approach to following your dreams.

I read the eBook version and would buy the print version.

Note: This book is based on an electronic version of the book provided for reviewing purposes.

View all my reviews

Review: Making the Corps

Making the Corps
Making the Corps by Thomas E. Ricks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Making the Corps” is a great story of transformation. It covers the 13-week transformation of young males into Marines. Ricks does an excellent job of not just portraying the transformation of these young men, but how that transformation reflects the Marine way of life as a whole. The book doesn’t focus a lot of time on the physical aspects (although it is covered pretty well), but on the mental and emotional changes that occur and how the Marines facilitate that change. For example, Ricks explains why Marine drill instructors are so hard on their recruits and how this changes as the recruits start to internalize the beliefs of their drill instructors. He shows, for example, how recruits’ language change from “I” to “this recruit” and discusses what that means.

Ricks also discusses the unique situation of the Marines as a culture within the military and the larger society. The Marines are a distinct culture that works to maintain that culture in direct criticism of the ordinary society and in suspicion of other Army branches. This is both a good thing (Marines are a specially-trained and unique force) and a bad thing (Marines don’t like to play with other branches’ ineptness so well). No where is this more evident in the last chapter in which Ricks compares and contrasts the Army training base and the Marines training base.

Overall, this was a great book to read in learning more about the culture of the Marines rather than the experience of boot camp. I enjoyed learning more about how the Marines view their world in comparison to their history and continued legacy. The book is a bit older, so their is talk of Nintendo and video games along with Bill Clinton, but the point of transformation through the Marines bootcamp is timeless.

View all my reviews

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