Two and a half years ago I dropped out of school, not sure if I was ever going to go back. It was a confusing time of my life. I wasn’t happy where I was at Marquette University in Milwaukee and didn’t know what could change that. My grandpa used to tell me that many times, people have to figure out what they don’t like before they can find out what they do. And so, I based my decision to leave on his advice. That December, my parents drove the seven hours from Duluth to help me pack my things. I drove away from the old brew city nostalgic, but with a sense of hope. Somehow—after a semester of sleeping on the floor in my parents’ living room, reading books about how to make a sustainable life for myself and checking items off my bucket list—I decided to go to UMD and give school another chance.
And now, three years later, I’m still here. It worked out for me. It wasn’t quite that easy, though.
Like most transfer students know, being a half-blood Bulldog takes a lot of effort and patience: the relentless battle for transferring credits, decoding building slang like “the Wedge” or “the Ven Den” (the who? the when?), starting over in the social world and reassuring yourself that you made the right choice.
Out of all those hurdles, trusting myself was the hardest. Nobody ever told me that transferring schools was normal. Nobody ever told me there was a life outside of getting a degree, making a career, lassoing a husband and then having kids. The straight path.
Nevertheless, this common path would’ve never satisfied me, and it doesn’t for many other people. So, why is it forced down our throats by so many parents, teachers and media figures? It’s because the meandering side trails are unknown and the unknown is terrifying.
But for me, the most accepted route was terrifying when I was at school in Milwaukee. If I had stayed there, I wouldn’t be camping nearly as much as I do now. I never would’ve met my good friends in the Canoe and Kayak Club. The name “Ven Den” would mean nothing to me. And I’d still be depressed, wondering what was wrong with me instead of what was wrong with society.
Of course I made the right choice. And, that’s what college is about: making decisions. It’s the time of our lives when we’re supposed to explore, learn and figure out who we are before we settle down. Experiment a little or a lot.
For me, the most admirable people are those who lead their own lives and face their own realities, people who question what they’re doing. Some of those awesome people are transfer students like me. Then, there are those students who jump back and forth and sideways between majors because they’re either so passionate about everything or so turned off by everything that they can’t yet decide.
It’s easy to get teased (or worse) for living an un-ordinary lifestyle. Even those who do end up getting jobs and raising families right away are admirable if that’s the life they conscientiously and purposefully choose. The point is nothing and nobody should tell you how to live. Make your own decisions. Accept what’s right for you, even if that means jumping off the main train.
BY ALOYSIA POWER firstname.lastname@example.org