If your heart's not in it, take some time off and pursue a different path.

Photo by Andrea Marie Tan
Photo by Andrea Marie Tan

I am writing this article now in October in the hopes that you will have time to read it. Midterms have descended upon us, and eventually, final exams will too. Very quickly we will all be too busy to read the news.

When life gets rough, it can get really dark. University can affect our mental health disastrously. Full course loads in addition to jobs are extremely taxing on the body and mind.

The heavy financial cost of attending university - tuition, fees, rent, utilities, food, phones, transport, etc.- puts a heavy stress on every student no matter the financial background.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel however, right? That sought after and almost now industry standard undergraduate degree. It is the one thing that has become the norm, if anything has, for mainstream career growth. Graduate high school, go to university or college, get a degree, get a job. Simple, concise, effective.

Maybe not.

Consider The Cost, The Real Cost of University

The heavy stress of school and all its baggage has taken the lives of many students. We are finding ourselves in a mental health epidemic we are only now grasping. As reported by the Mental Health Commission of Canada “75% of first-time mental health diagnoses occur between the ages of 16 and 25.”

Take stock of how you are doing right now. I do not mean the superficial how are you doing you ask in passing to an acquaintance, I mean a full self-reflection.

Over the past few weeks, how has your mood been? How has the quality of your eating been? How has your sleep schedule been? Are you finding time for friends, or even yourself? Have you felt anxious or depressed?

Are you happy? Fulfilled? Intrinsically or extrinsically motivated? How is your life outside school?

Take some time to look over those questions, it is important to take time to self-reflect.

Some of us are not doing great in some of those departments. The reality is that with all of the pressures this environment creates, more of us are struggling more deeply than we let on.

I am asking because I have seen friends have everything from stress-induced headaches, to full on mental breakdowns. I have heard of students who have become normalized to their mental breakdowns. There are students that cry weekly. Students sometimes can be sick more than 4 times a month.

This is the cost of pushing through. This is the real cost of university.

If no one else has told you that your health and sanity are more important than pushing through, I am saying that right now. The whole point of this article is to say that your well being is more important than a degree.

Photo by Andrea Marie Tan
Photo by Andrea Marie Tan

Leave School (Drop Out)

Here is something maybe no one has told you before. Not your family, friends, or society in general.

It is okay to leave school before finishing. You can always come back, no matter what others say.

You’ve got a lot of life ahead of you, if you’re feeling depressed and miserable in your current environment, take a real break. Stop for if anything at least a whole semester.

If you have any demons or vices that are inhibiting you from having a strong university experience, go and solve them first. Then come back.

This is a country where more and more the norm is to go get an undergrad, so you can fit the norm, but why not join that crowd later on? Some of the smartest people in my classes are in their 30s. They do their readings, do their homework, and instead of just going through the motions, they employ passion and insight into their work. They broke the high-school to university to job mold, and they seem to be doing just fine.

I’m telling you to take the path that is perceived to be less successful, but is not. Why should success be tied to a degree? Set your own goals for success and go reach them. If this place does not make you happy, fulfilled, enlightened, etc., go and find a place that does.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned in the past 5 years is that learning is not exclusive to school. Learning happens everyday everywhere; you just have to look. Almost everything taught on campus can be found on the internet, a lot of it for free. As my mom has always believed, travel is the best education anyhow.

This letter will always be here. It’s October now, so maybe you are doing fine and don’t want to leave. Great, that’s a strong decision. But if you ever come back to this fork in the road in the future, here is the other side. This will always be here, a pro-adventure/pro-health/pro-change jimmy cricket on your shoulder, ready to help you make one of the toughest decisions of your life.

There are over 25,000 universities in the world which aren’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future, but you are. You’re going to great places, but only if you let yourself. I want you to live your best life, and you should too. Leave school.