Dropping out of eighth grade completely changed the path I was on


I used to fantasize about what my future would be like. My life was ahead of me, full of opportunities that I was determined to make the most of. I wanted nothing left up to chance, preferring to be in complete and total control. I decided exactly what high school and college I wanted to attend, exactly what subject I would major in, and exactly what career I would end up with.

I still remember the eagerness and firm stability I felt in knowing exactly where I wanted to end up and how I planned to get there. Of course, as I was a young child, this plan was subject to change. By middle school, however, I felt fairly confident in my choices. There was the occasional doubt in the next immediate step, but more or less my plan was stable.

It was towards the end of seventh grade when a breeze of change began to gently blow through my life, interrupting my carefully laid plans. No longer did I feel that the school I was currently attending was the right fit for me. It was the only school I’d ever gone to, but all signs pointed to the end of my time there.

With much apprehension and unease, I adjusted my plan to accommodate this unexpected shift. I simply moved my timeline up by a year and attempted to settle into a new school district, one I’d planned to end up in eventually anyway. I was still filled with the childlike excitement at all the prospects of this minor detour.

As I entered into this new stage of my plan, I found myself completely lost and bewildered. Nothing was turning out quite the way I had hoped and assumed it would. Rather than finding my place in this new environment, I was alone and scared.

I begged my parents to pull me out of the school district; their request was that I persevere a little longer before they reconsidered. So I did. For weeks I persevered, but I finally hit a breaking point. The very thought of going back to school was enough to bring me to tears, and I started coming up with excuses to stay home. It was then that I realized I couldn’t keep going to this school when it was killing me this much.

So I made a decision that completely threw my perfect plan off track; I dropped out of eighth grade.

The decision to do temporary homeschooling until I could find a new school lifted a heavy weight off my shoulders and allowed me to finally breathe again. But at the same time, it threw me into a chaotic whirlwind of undeniable confusion. Suddenly I had no clue where I was going; nothing was guaranteed anymore.

For two months, I was homeschooled. Shortly before winter break, I found myself going back to the school I’d attended my entire childhood; a school that I realized was my home no matter the circumstance. I finished middle school there and will always be eternally grateful for the bonds I formed and the lessons I learned.

But I was still lost, scrambling to piece together everything I had broken. I had no idea how much everything would change because of one decision.

The summer before high school, my entire family moved into the Forest Hills school district. It wasn’t far from my old house, but it was a major lifestyle change and a new school. I was utterly terrified to change schools again. Dropping out again wasn’t an option, and I had no backup plan, so my only option was to fit in and deal with it.

The first day of high school went better than I expected– and the next few days after that. I quickly fell into a rhythm, and in the grand scheme of things, I was happy. Despite everything, FHC quickly became my home.

And all of this was because I dropped out of eighth grade, a decision some may label as cowardly. But I actually learned so many life lessons that I wouldn’t trade for anything. 

It may have been the beginning of the end of my careful plans, but it was also the beginning of my exploration of what life has to offer.

I learned that sometimes you do have to just give up. People are constantly reminding each other to never give up, and while that advice can be applied to numerous situations, it’s not always true. Sometimes you’ll start something that seems like a great idea, and it’ll turn out to not be so spectacular. Perseverance needs to be exercised, but if it isn’t getting better and you have an out, take it.

I also learned that in the most difficult situations, you’ll find your most reliable support systems. I have an amazing group of mentors and friends who stuck by me through every unexpected change I faced in the last two years. They have kept me sane and constantly reminded me of what’s most important.

The last, but possibly most important lesson I learned, is that suppressing the full capacity of my personality will never be the right decision for me. To put it simply, I need to be myself. I tried to be someone I wasn’t, quiet, reserved, and antisocial. That did not work. I can’t reach my full potential when I’m not myself, and if people don’t like me for me, then they aren’t worth keeping around. It’s super cliche, but I can tell you from personal experience that people always say to be yourself because it’s true.

I don’t regret switching schools at the beginning of eighth grade. It may have been the beginning of the end of my careful plans, but it was also the beginning of my exploration of what life has to offer. Those experiences have helped shape who I am, and they’re the first of many.

I am so excited about my future at FHC. I have funny and unique friends who I can tell care deeply, and I’m getting to spend more time doing what I love. I’m being challenged daily, watching myself grow as a human being.

I don’t exaggerate when I say that dropping out of eighth grade was probably the best decision I’ve ever made.