Life of a Dropout
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Life of a Dropout

Leaving High School

It could’ve never been any other way.

Unfinished wall

Looking Back

My desire to leave school goes as far as I can remember. When I was back in the third grade I dreamt of being adopted by an astronaut or a scientist and just be completely schooled by them and taught to invent things.

Later in life, during all of middle school, I went to school in resignation. Feeling that it simply couldn’t be otherwise; my parents weren’t in a position to homeschool me and, despite being active in my community and curious, I felt like it was still the best option I had or, at the very least, the lesser bad.

Things reached a new height when, at the end of middle school, I deeply thought dropping out. I came very close and it made logical sense to me — the first filter for all my choices — , then I talked to a few people, including teachers, my mom and other adults in my life, and was convinced by them that it was not a good idea.

I didn’t drop out once.

Then I went through high school and lots of great things happened, reinforcing the fact that I never should’ve never considered dropping out, let alone doing it! One of those great things was that my biology teacher heard my talk about startups, Paul Graham, Airbnb, Reid Hoffman, and the like (you know, podcasts) and she introduced me to Luis Almanza, the director of Campus’ technology and entrepreneurship park.

I had been immersed to Orion Park and invited by him to be a research intern for Orion Startups, the park’s investment fund for high-risk seed- and A- series startups. A fund assembled from local businessmen with a clear goal: unleashing economic development and creating wealth by making strategic investments in tech companies with the potential to bring 100x Return on Investment.

Thanks to that experience I grew substantially in my ability to work collaboratively, interpret knowledge, and share it efficiently and concisely. I felt ready for the next step; I joined the Park’s Nova Program. A program made for would-be startup founders that want to discover, validate and execute the plan for their startup.

Great things happened during that period. I taught myself to code alongside a friend of mine, discovered the full breadth of my abilities and likes and what is possible to build with technology and with which tools. We coded a lot and build some really good products but, as many founders in our position and condition of “tourist entrepreneurs” we realized this wasn’t meant for us just yet. I regret nothing of having joined Nova and the fact that it all felt so real and high-stakes was great for really getting to know myself as an employee and as a leader.

Nevertheless, that story is for another time.

By the time I decided to distance myself from Nova my priorities had changed. I encountered a love for philosophy and literature and for very hard technical problems without the focus of fixing a problem for somebody. Just nerd stuff for the sake of it. I read a lot and tipped toed in fields I found extremely interesting: Physics and, above all, Machine Learning.

The new time I had, I had to think, and another thing I realized was just how much I loved learning and to “just do” things.

The issue had resurfaced right after a trip I took to Mexico City to the National Week of the Entrepreneur, a — naturally — week-long event for and by entrepreneurs. I wanted to leave high school. But this time it felt urgent; more like I had to leave high school.

This time I went a little deeper and wrote an essay and though very deeply of it. I vividly remember I came to the conclusion that this was the right choice. We were mid-semester but it didn’t matter. I talked to a plethora of people, from my middle school teachers (bit of a dejavú for them I’m sure) to the Campus’ Dean. I had even told my parents and had their support. Heck, I even called MIT, Stanford and UC Berkeley to validate if I would still be able to be admitted and to just generally receive advice. It doesn’t matter how sure I was: I didn’t do it.

I didn’t drop out twice.

And now that I look back the reason is really simple, I was afraid to do it and right after arriving from Mexico City I took too long, as I lost myself in all those consultations, and it simply wore off. The excitement and urgency vanished and what was so clear for a moment suddenly wasn’t. I had seen the end of the tunnel, green fields and blue skies, but with time the fog broke in and I couldn’t but see a dark, lonely tunnel, leaving apparently nowhere.

I didn’t dare to jump.

Looking back, I realize there’s no much sense in looking back unless it is to reflect on how you got here. I don’t believe in God and as a materialist by philosophy, I don’t really see what’s with destiny, but it do like to think that things happen for a reason, and even though I don’t know how my life could’ve been different by taking the decision when it was probably best to (this last time I mention), I don’t think my life will be very different by the time in 30 for it to have mattered. That is dropping out 1.5 years due High School or just 1 year. Ah, but a whole different story is between dropping out and not doing it at all.

I think it is a form of setting the tone for what’s to come.

Looking forward

The fact that I didn’t drop out at a moment when it made sense has no impact on whether or not it makes sense now. And it still makes sense now and, to be precise, now more than ever.

I see that me and school are fundamentally incompatible and I am not afraid or ashamed of it. I simple don’t even care too much about it anymore. It even feels natural that me, being constantly told I am different while being put in the same box, perhaps shouldn’t be in that same box. I learn and like to work differently and that doesn’t make me any better or worse than the rest of you.

The only and biggest fear and clash I had in conjunction with this realization was that it was incompatible with my 5-year-long goal of being admitted into an Ivy League. This was of course problematic as it was contradictory with my goal and, taking this one to be the “bigger” goal, it would seem stupid to support dropping out as it has less precedence then the goal it is in conflict with. The way I got out of this apparent paradox came when it occurred to me to examine the validity of both goals.

Thing is, the college goal was more important, but it was also more fake.

I never really wanted to go to an Ivy, it just felt like the natural thing for me to want. I was so often told to be exceptional, that unexceptionally aligned myself to what every apparently exceptional kid should be like. Now that I couldn’t care less of what I’m supposed to be, I can finally take care of what I really am and what I want to do with that.

I did drop out at the thrice.

My plans have never been fuller and never have I had more clarity on what I should do with my life. And to be fair I am not leaving high school with any bitterness and I don’t see this choice as a “can’t-undo”, quite the opposite. Having clarity with what I want to do with my life, I think it is fairly probable I never encounter the need to even have a high school diploma, and if I do, and I evaluate the best way to get through that is finishing high school, I would.

I’m taking this choice to live a better life, and I would naturally never let that choice interfere with me making my life even better in the future. I’d be shooting myself on the foot.

This is my best evaluation as of this moment of my conditions, abilities and action-space, and with the best logical rigor my brain has to offer, I have taken this choice. This is a can-undo, but I don’t think I will.

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I am dropping out of High School just one year off graduation. How’s that?

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Felipe Acosta

Felipe Acosta

Writing stories; code, literature.

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