Shasta High School
The four years that comprised my high school experience were not great. I wasn’t able to find enough compelling and legitimate reasons to stay engaged in my classes. Eventually, the notion occurred to me that dropping out would allow me to use my time and energy in more constructive ways. Usually when teenagers want to drop out of school, it’s because they are being impetuous, but I was maturely assessing how school related to my life and what it was providing me and the pieces just weren’t adding up. I understood it to be a source of structure—something that was scarce in my life at the time—but there also wasn’t a place for me, my interests, or personal priorities. Band class? No guitar. Computers? No programming. Language? Spanish and French… not Japanese. Baseball? No support from my parents for rides to and from games and practices, and no money for very expensive gear. Girlfriend? The person I pined after was on a completely different track than me. I was an intelligent, ambitious, and highly capable misfit, and there wasn’t a way for me to improve my situation. I also came to sense that high school was delivering an initial dose of a lifetime’s worth of reinforcements to become another displaced warm body in society. As such, I kept returning to the idea of dropping out as a real and sensible solution; I wanted to do something with my life and my day-by-day school experiences were doing nothing to help me with my path forward. As I reckoned, school was burning up 30 or more hours of my week, clumsily pushing me forward in an arbitrary direction, and accomplishing little else.
Did I drop out? No. I would always stifle the urge because the world stresses how important it is to finish high school. I finished with a 2.39 GPA and 257th out of a graduating class of 316 (bottom 20%). In hindsight, I feel as if I did a disservice to myself by following conventional wisdom instead of trusting my gut and making a hard decision that could have created a workable solution to a difficult problem. Dropping out of high school in the last couple decades is not the same as it was in the decades before: a high school diploma has become completely worthless. Dropping out does, however, mess up any plans a person might have to go directly to a four year university, but most potential dropouts are not going to be concerned about this because they clearly have other issues that they are trying to work through. (It’s not like these people are thinking to themselves, “Well gee whiz… do I want to go to a private school over a public school?”)
My time in high school wasn’t all bad, it was just utterly nonproductive academically. Like many teenagers with a passion for music, I had been learning how to play the guitar and the instrument was becoming a big part of my life. Unlike most teenagers, I was genuinely improving on the instrument and recognized that something important was happening: through music and the guitar I discovered a device through which I could make substantial time investments and reap substantial rewards. It was something I was good at, that brought me enjoyment, and that I could use to provide some degree of structure in my increasingly destructuring home life. Music made sense, and was healthy and productive. Unsurprisingly, I was a teenager who was pursuing this gift over an institution that was mostly a source of confusion, frustration, and disharmony.
There were times where I tried to make both school and music equal priorities. My freshman year went very poorly and this left me feeling both upset and concerned about what could happen over the next three years. According to others, I was turning into one of those troubled-youth types, and this was incredibly fucking irritating to me. Yet, for all the cliques and pathways and niches that exist in high school, somehow this one was a better fit for me than the others. I retaliated during the first semester of my sophomore year by earning grades that were more in line with my true academic abilities. I earned a 3.67 GPA in my college prep classes: four As and two Bs. This was still below my true level—the only thing I changed was that I did my assigned homework every night—but I never studied because it cut too much into my music time.
It is now necessary to point out that there is a natural reward that comes along with performing hard work, and I did my best to develop this type of relationship with school as I had with music. I did feel rewarded, but only in the sense that I got to be the long-haired music-loving hippy classmate who could also somehow get really good grades. It felt more like a nifty parlor trick I was performing for my classmates and teachers than anything else. The work was not challenging and oftentimes I could perceive how haphazardly curricula were put together and delivered. My efforts did not last and, by the end of the year, things would return mostly to how they were before: with me losing interest in school and focusing on my own projects.
One unique aspect of my personality is that I will oftentimes still care about something when no one else does, so I was soon back to scheming up ways to make school a sustainable priority in my life. After my efforts in the previous year, I determined that the biggest issue within my control was that I wasn’t being challenged enough by my schoolwork to stay engaged. Before my junior year, I spoke with my academic counselor and requested to be placed in the Humanities program, which was a pathway where students could earn honors credit. It also happened to be the same program in which a certain girl was enrolled; she had been the object of my affection since I first conversed with her back in the fifth grade. So I got a little creative and leveraged this romantic interest to generate additional motivation to focus on my school work and, hopefully, generate some positive change in multiple areas of my life. It was a brilliant plan—how could it not work?
My request to enter the program was granted, certainly because of the one semester where my grades were excellent. Awesome! On the first day of school, I found out there were two sets of Humanities classes and, by the bad flip of a coin, I was placed in one set of classes with the girl being in the other. Major bummer #1! I also soon discovered that I was not responding to the material as I had hoped—more was being expected of me and my classmates, but much of the material was still delivered incompletely and ineffectively. Major bummer #2! To make matters worse, in these courses a student actually had to do his or her homework in order to have a shot at getting a passing grade, which was an altogether new concept to me. Major bummer #3! Throughout the year I made strong attempts in short spurts here and there, but in the end my relationship with school remained unchanged. It should come as no surprise that I ended up with the worst report cards of my life that year.
Embattled, I took a different tack my senior year and enrolled in the College Connection program. This allowed me to take required high school courses taught by high school teachers—English, Government, and Economics—along with courses offered by my local community college (such as C++ Programming and Music Theory). Things actually improved, but I was still struggling to make school click into place on a personal level. I was also relying heavily on friends for transportation to and from the college, which created some problems later on when I started taking night classes. By this point, I had mostly decided that school was not for me and so I was simply wrapping it all up so that I could finally move on with my life.
And on an unceremonious note, below are five reasons why I should never have been allowed to graduate high school. Maybe I should have dropped out after all?
- Received an incomplete in the second semester of History during my junior year; History graduation requirements were never satisfied.
- Due to transportation issues, I earned an F in C++ Programming for the second semester of my senior year, resulting in only 3 of 6 required college units to stay in the College Connection program.
- By circumstance, somebody called in a bomb threat to Shasta College that was also around the same time as a big Mathematics midterm I was about to take; this had the result of postponing my exam a week which made a big difference because I might have failed it. I needed to pass this class because I failed the second semester of math my junior year and needed 5 more credits in order to satisfy Shasta High’s Mathematics graduation requirements.
- In my sophomore and junior years I had more than 14 absences in one school year; school policy is (supposedly) that anyone missing more than two weeks of school without sufficient reason must repeat a grade.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY: For the better part of four years I was not doing any work yet somehow passed nearly all of my classes.
Shasta High School Transcript