The Dropout: When My Life Plan Went Out the Window

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My whole life, I was told I was born to be a scholar. From the time I learned to read at five years old, I was an avid book lover, spending more of my elementary through high school years in a library than anywhere else. I was no genius, and had to work hard for my grades, but I loved to learn and knew that love could take me far in academia.

It was with that confidence that I started college in 2006 with big plans. I was going to earn a medical degree and become an expert in neonatal science. I was going to get married at 22, right between undergraduate and graduate school. After that the plan was to live in wedded bliss for four years before having the first of four children. It was all planned out so well that to my naive, young mind, there was no way I could fail.

Life had other plans for me. I soon found myself having to work full time to make ends meet while still trying to balance a 12 credit class schedule. Luckily, I had chosen to go to our local community college to earn my associate degree before transferring to a university for my Bachelor’s—meaning that I could take a majority of my core classes online. However, this also meant leaving my job at 5 p.m. and staying awake until 1 or 2 a.m. teaching myself college algebra, English, world history, etc.

My massive indecisiveness also kept me from snagging a diploma. I went from wanting to be a medical doctor to psychologist to accountant to history teacher. Changing my academic goals meant having to back track and take prerequisites required for the new field each time. As a result, it took me three and half years to complete what most students finish in two. Still, I did it—I earned my associate, and was accepted into Florida State’s history program in the spring of 2010.

I walked onto the FSU campus that first day with new plans: I would earn my Bachelor’s and Master’s in history while also mastering the Russian language. Then, once I was done with my education, I would live in Russia for a few years, immersing myself in the culture while researching a fictional book I planned to write about Catherine the Great.

I did not, however, take into account how hard Russian would be. Especially since I still had to work forty hours a week, and stay on top of three other courses.

It didn’t take long for my life to implode. I dropped one class the first week, and then failed Russian, did poorly in my European History course and withdrew from my history of medicine course because I couldn’t imagine catching up after falling so far behind. I even lost a much-needed job due to cutbacks.

Given my poor performance during that semester, the scholarship I relied on was a goner. That setback, plus the loss of my job, left me at a crossroads. I could find a new job in Tallahassee, and make use of student loans to get through school, or I could give up because it was obvious that I didn’t have what it took to graduate. To the girl whose self-esteem had been shattered by that one semester, the choice was obvious: I was determined to give up on school forever.

I decided to get as far away from my academic failures as possible, so I took a job in Washington D.C. as a nanny for three young children. Within months, I was promoted to house manager and personal assistant. I found myself in charge of the new nanny, running the household and organizing my boss’ business.

My two years in D.C. taught me to be self-confident, and to overcome the feeling of utter failure that accompanied my academic struggles. I got to experience the business world first hand, and learned that despite my disastrous semester at Florida State, I was capable of doing much more than menial tasks. I also came to realize that I struggled that first semester because I was mentally burnt out. It was nice to have a break from the textbooks.

Still, I wasn’t satisfied with only having an associate degree. I knew that one day I had to return and finish my education. After two years of being a personal assistant in D.C., followed by two more years of doing the same job for a businesswoman in Chattanooga, I returned home to Tallahassee.

By this point I was nearly 27, and tired of assisting people. I wanted to make my own way in the world. I landed a job at FSU, and decided to take full advantage of their employee scholarship program.

At 28 years old, I’m studying to earn my editing, writing and media degree. After taking the time away to truly evaluate myself, there was no doubt in my mind that I found the right path. I spend a majority of my time either reading or writing, so where else should I be than in a major that would help me make my way into publishing?

Through finally finding my path, I learned that the college experience doesn’t always follow a clear-cut set of steps. Life is not a ladder. Life is more like those staircases in Harry Potter—one minute you’re heading up, thinking you’re going in the right direction and the next minute you’ve been turned completely around.

As someone who has fallen off the proverbial ladder, I can assure you life is more enjoyable if you stop trying to control it and allow it to lead you instead. It’s ok if you don’t end up where you thought you’d be 10 years from now. Embrace life’s insanity and you’ll find your place.

Jenni Stover is a junior Editing, Writing, and Media Major at Florida State University. She hopes to go on to earn her masters in Rhetoric and Composition before working in the publishing field.

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