Approximately two months ago, I was pretty sure that I should drop out of school. That may look like an impulsive decision at first glance, but a part of me knew there was more to it. It wasn’t an I-hate-finals moment (although I’m not necessarily a big fan of them either). There I was, sitting around being extremely unhappy and unproductive, having a hard time coming up with even the slightest idea for my research paper, and realizing how my creativity was in the process of being destroyed by all these years of “education.” Sustaining joy despite all circumstances, keeping up a hopeful attitude and staying creative in the midst of dealing with the most boring necessities of life are the very principles I hold dear and try to establish in my life. That moment of epiphany, therefore, was extremely painful, and it sparked only one reaction: “There is no way I’ll continue doing this, I’m dropping out!”
Even the idea was a huge relief at that moment; yet I didn’t go on and fill out the paperwork right away. Before making a decision that big, I needed to be tested first to see how well I could defend my cause, which seemed to be the only way to make sure that my reaction was not purely impulsive. I was quite aware that I didn’t have a backup plan, or a new opportunity that would justify my intentions.
When I went on to discuss these ideas with a few friends, I sincerely felt blessed. Not only did they take me seriously and treat the matter with great care; they also offered me their honest opinions while keeping focused on my well-being as their most important concern. It is moments like this that make one realize there are people who really mean it when they say, “I got your back!” After hours of discussion about possible future paths and what might be the next step if I were to drop out, I settled on continuing for another year and a half to finish my degree—but not because it was the easier choice. I am finding it requires more willpower than I’ve ever had: every single day I enter into a battlefield, tired yet proud, knowing that I haven’t quit. I haven’t given up on the pursuit of happiness and a fulfilling life by any means, and never will. I’m just convinced that quitting when things get hard won’t bring me what I am searching for.
Now, why did I share all these inner battles with you? Well, I know for sure that there are at least a few people out there who can identify with the way I reacted. You’re absolutely right—life isn’t fair, we’re forced to live in a system that doesn’t consider our happiness in the least, and I find that simply horrifying. Yet it doesn’t necessarily mean that we should quit. I encourage you to do whatever is in your power to challenge the system and take a step toward what makes you happy. I came to that crossroads almost three years ago, when I realized that being a biologist wouldn’t be the most fulfilling career I could have. It took me some time to figure out the next step, and I did consider a few other choices before arriving at literature, but when I finally came to the conclusion that this was what I should study, it made perfect sense. It still does, to the point of asking myself how on earth I didn’t realize this before. Even my father, who didn’t like the idea of my changing majors, and especially choosing yet another one where there’s not much possibility of making a lot of money, acknowledges that. I won’t say being a student became extremely easy, but I love how natural it feels to study literature. That is the very reason why I’ll be carrying on in spite of all the struggles I continually face.
There is a time and place to quit, or to ignore what is demanded from you and follow your instincts, and I absolutely respect those who have the courage to do so. Even so, there is also a time to dare to finish what you’ve started, to fight your way through the darkness with the hope of seeing the light in the end. Emerson says, “To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number
of good hours, is wisdom.” He might be calling that wisdom, but I call it life, and if things get hard, I got your back!