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I've wanted a university degree as long as I can remember (it was never forced, but certainly encouraged, in my family). I got into the school I wanted, am nearly 3.5 years into a 5 year degree (English Literatures and Drama Studies), and ... am I certain anymore that this is what I want? No. 

The entire experience, despite its rewards - coming out of my shell a bit, meeting many fascinating and wonderful people, gathering knowledge, making very dear friends - has overall been consistently and damagingly stressful. Every single term, I end up overworked, frustrated, and ashamed of myself. Just when I think I've learned better how to deal with stress, the workload gets heavier. It's like I can't keep up with the curve ... or the curve itself is just impossible, haha. One way or the other.

The stress of higher education is actually what spurred the development of my bulimia, which I've been fighting for almost the past two years. I am trying hard to overcome it with the HCRV lifestyle, and it's helped me immensely this term. In fact, it's the only thing that has truly helped at all. Now, though, I am losing control of the ED again due to the insane workload and schedule that I can't maintain. It is impossible to sleep or eat properly as an ambitious, community-involved student (I have had numerous psychologists/counsellors, none of whom were able to help me deal with this issue.) 

I have always been too determined to question this, too trusting of the voices i've fed myself religiously - "This IS what I want; I NEED a degree to make me worthwhile, to succeed at all." But I'm finally realizing what they are, those voices. They are Society and Institution and Money and Self-Hatred, not me. I don't know which voice IS me anymore. I don't think I can hear myself beneath their roar.

This is not the life I want. It leads nowhere for me. I don't want to struggle to the end of this degree only to earn the privilege of getting another, and then getting a job I'll probably hate that will distract me from finding real confidence, love, fulfillment. A job that is hardly even available, given this economy. I'm a passionate Arts student, but I'm passionate about LIFE too, and LIFE is escaping me right now. I physically feel very often like I can't quite open my eyes, or like there is a fog in front of me ... because there's MORE TO IT than this, this rat race ... I want more than this, if more is possible ... 

Please let me know what you think. Namaste. 

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Hi Amber,

I've read your story and think that many of us feel the same, me included. It's always been hard for me to decide what I wanted with my life. I mean you study for many years to become something you're not even sure you want to become, cause really how can you. You've never been that person, had that job, those responsibilities. And although a lot of things sound fun and exciting, mostly they get boring. Everything, every job has a routine, and to be happy with a job or whatever is gonna pay the bills, it has to make you happy, it has to be a passion. I grew up in the Netherlands, but always said I never wanted an 8-5 job, or work inside all day, nor work with people (healthcare etc) as a lot of people always seem to complain, are never happy. Then I became a medical assistant, as there didn't seem to be many options, and I worked in a job I hated. I felt my brain die slowly, every day I went to work. There was no challenge in it, and I felt my passions slowly die. Until I decided that I wasn't happy any longer, I had saved a little bit of money, quite the day after my contract got renewed and went abroad, travel the world again and enjoy life! After only a little bit I have found my dream job, something I wanted to do since I was very young, I wanted to work with whales, but I never went after it before because I knew it would be impossible to get a job in the field. Now, I didn't get or find my dream job... I've created it... my own company! I truly believe that in for certain positions you need a degree, that's just how society works, but truly, I don't feel that I've learned anything in Uni. I've learned sooo much more about myself and life by traveling the world, and while doing this I discovered or rediscovered my true passion, or one of them. I don't have just one big passion, I like a lot of different things. And I've studied many different things, that all help me in some way.

It might be a good idea for you to step back from thing, don't quit yet, just take a break, relax and get away from everything. People might say that if you stop now, you'll never go back, that's not true. If after a while you find your passion, and you need to finish your degree for it, you will go back, I've done it before and truly listened to my own heart, and not what everyone else was telling me to do. You can always go back! 

Decide for yourself what is most important in life. It sounds to me that you want to find your true purpose, passion, happiness and maybe taking some time away from everything else will quiet societies voices, and you can listen to your own voice. Things are never permanent, you can always change something, even when it doesn't seem to be that way. At least for me making decisions scare me, it's hard, and often I don't make one, I'll let time make it, but I always come back to the same thoughts, I'll think 'why didn't I just try it, if it doesn't work I'll try something else'. But now that I have taken a leap of faith things fall into place.

I hope you find your relaxed true happiness. Time is only time, and now is all we'll ever have.

Enjoy every moment of it and go for happiness, follow your heart!

Your story is amazing! What a gift to be able to work with whales, and to achieve your dreams that way. I am awed by this. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and wisdom with me. I agree, whatever I ultimately decide, FIRST I need some time away from all this. That will have to be during Christmas vacation coming up. 

I had a talk with my mother last night, and she and my dad will support me whatever choice I make. So that at least is good to know. I just have to really get quiet and listen to myself ...

Meditation?  It helps with stress, overwork and following of hearts :)

Definitely, Tom! I have been trying to work meditation into my life, although my monkey mind is still gung-ho to avoid that. But I know that it will undoubtedly be part of my tuning-in to my voice of truth. Are there any particular kinds of meditation practices you'd recommend? I have done lovingkindness meditation, mostly.

Wow ... thank you so much for sharing your story with me, Sarah. That is an incredible new start you have made. I hope that whatever I do, I can have as much courage and loyalty to myself as you have. I will keep you posted - I'm going home anyway in +/- 3 weeks for Christmas, so I will have a while to gather my thoughts and feelings and make the best decision. At the VERY least I think I will reduce my course load, so I have time to live a healthy life as well as keep up with my studies.

I dropped out of college at 18 and couldn't have voiced my reasons for doing so better than you have! I just believed that what they were teaching wasn't what I would need for a fulfilling life. I went and worked in national parks all over the country, moved 17 times in 10 years, with no car and no credit cards, just traveled the country. When I eventually went back to school, it sucked so bad. It was like a jail sentence. Everyone in my family has a degree and/or advanced degree and I thought it wouldn't be that big of a deal for me to get one. There is a reason the public school system is considered an "indoctrination" system- my class discussions were never about getting to your truth as a person and expressing it, it was always about saying what the teacher wanted to hear and getting out of class early. I read recently that the true purpose of higher education, or education at all, is to make a person a lover of learning so they will love to learn for the rest of their lives. 

I say that if you are as in touch with what you don't want as you seem to be, you should act on that. You can't find what you want doing what you don't want. College will always be there; I would take a break. Or cut down to 2 classes a semester. You may find that getting away from school will make you want a degree even more. Or not. :) Good luck!

Thanks so much for your reply, melonhead! :) I was homeschooled most of my life and so I learned early to see outside of the education system and its "indoctrination." Yet I still felt like there was NO CHOICE!!! but to go to secondary school. I wonder why that was. 

I agree with what you read, about becoming a true lover of learning. But for some of us, it is much better to accept that we can love learning without attending school - or even love it *better* than if we did. 

I am cutting down to 2-3 courses this term, so that I can try to live life more authentically. Why pay for that piece of paper if it's not doing me any good? ... thank you for your insights. :)

But why have authority if you can't be an asshole about it?! 

Just kidding. ;)

I have similar posts on this subject at my blog, if you don't care to read them, click on each link below:

Is college the right path for you?

How to Tell your Parent(s) you dropped out of college

How to escape from the pressures of society

Thank you, Cassie! I am sorry for not replying sooner, but I did read your links and they have a lot of helpful info in them. I did take it into consideration when I was deciding how/if to continue my uni career. Thanks for your well-informed and thoughtful articles. :)

Hi R. - I apologize for not replying sooner, but school (even when it's not completely overwhelming me, as it has in previous terms, hence this post) does tend to suck me into its vortex of business. I still want you to know how much I appreciate and was touched by your honesty and telling me your experiences. 

"The world is the greatest of schools." Nothing could be more true - even though I have not travelled very extensively, my life has always been influenced and my dreams developed somehow by my travels. I hope to do a lot more of this when, in less than a year and a half, I am finished my degree. If I want to go on to a Master's, I will wait a few years to do it. Not only to earn money, but to gain experience and see if further academic learning is really what I want, at the cost of other learning. 

Yes, it is certainly foolish to dote on college as the only way, and too many people do, at the expense of their happiness and authenticity. I admire you so much for knowing it was not the path meant for you. That takes more courage than many, many people I know who've dropped out, and could maybe be happier if they'd listened to themselves first. But sometimes such "failed" experiences are necessary, I think - I've learned that the hard way several times. I am still in school because when I find a balance (as I feel that I have, now) between self-care, social/extracurricular fun (like theatre - I am doing a wonderful, collaboratively created show right now!), and school topics that I truly care about, it IS a healthy place for me. I look forward to what will come after it, but for now: I am surrounded by loving, fun, healthy people (though I still can't wait to get to Woodstock this summer; there are no fruitarians where I am) and a great variety of activities outside class that are helping me to be more confident and happy with myself. 

There is too much more I'd love to say, in response to all your lovely and wise words, but just know that I thank you from the heart for reassuring me at a point when I was very vulnerable and needed the positive message you so generously gave. 

I hope your visual arts and other joys in life take you further than you could dream. 

Thank you, R. - this is actually what I ended up doing, to a great extent. I came back in the new term with reduced responsibilities (down from 4 to 3 classes, and not tutoring as much), but also still enough community/extracurricular involvement to keep me busy, while not overwhelmed. Getting over "ambition fever" was important for me to start helping myself to be healthy and happy, so that I can also help others and be there for them. Thanks for your words of wisdom. <3

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