“I had a feeling I should come talk to you”

It was Sunday night.  I’d just moved into my dorm.  Classes hadn’t started yet.

I graduated from high school a few months before that.

I didn’t have any friends there.  I was alone.

I went for a walk that evening.  As I was walking I noticed a girl wandering around.  I kept my distance.

Then she came up to me.  She had a feeling she should come talk to me.

We walked and talked for a while, getting to know each other.

We went back to her dorm.  She introduced me to her roommates, who I became friends with.

I started spending more time with her.  I started having feelings for her.

We went to school dances together.  I’d never danced with a girl who wanted to dance with me before.

Later we were alone in her living room.  I was sitting in a chair.  She was sitting on my lap.  We were talking and our lips brushed against each other.

Most guys would have kissed her.  I’m not most guys.  I’d never kissed a girl.  Well, not since first grade, anyway…

I burst out laughing.

Things slowly went downhill after that.

I didn’t see her at all during Christmas break.

I wrote her a long, rambling letter.  In the letter I said I loved her.  I slipped it in her bag before she went home for a long weekend in January.

She wrote me a short note.  She said she was sorry, but she didn’t feel the same way.

I was devastated.

I was secretly relieved to get kicked out of college

I didn’t want to get stuck in a job I hated.

I didn’t want to be mistreated by employer after employer.

I was a computer science major.  I was planning on becoming a programmer.  Then I read this:

Now let’s talk about death marches, mandatory uncompensated overtime, the beeper on the belt, and having no life. Men accept these conditions because they’re easily hooked into a monomaniacal, warrior-ethic way of thinking in which achievement of the mission is everything. Women, not so much. Much sooner than a man would, a woman will ask: “Why, exactly, am I putting up with this?”

Eric S. Raymond, Women in computing: first, get the problem right

For those who are unfamiliar with ESR, he is sort of the godfather of the open-source software movement, and a master programmer.  He knows what he’s talking about.

I wanted to be able to be a family man.  That blog post didn’t give me a lot of confidence I’d be able to do that, or much else I wanted to do.

My enthusiasm about school had already started to cool.  I had to take classes I wasn’t interested in.  A lot of the work seemed like busy work.

I talked to my wife about the doubts I was having.  She left me know she would be very unhappy if I quit.  So I tried to soldier on.

I didn’t do a good job of it.  I wouldn’t do assignments.  If I did them it would be hurriedly, at the last minute.  A lot of times I skipped class altogether.

This went on for a few years.  Then when the university told me I had to switch majors it ended.

I was disappointed, but also relieved.

A few months before the end of my last semester of college, I discovered James Altucher.  Glenn Beck had him on his show to discuss an article he’d written, called 10 Reasons Why You Have to Quit Your Job This Year.

I started reading through his blog and listening to his podcast.  Among other things, he says he regrets going to college:

When I was 19, I won some money in a chess tournament. So instead of using that money for my college tuition I decided to drop out of college and buy a car.

I bought a used 1982 Honda Accord. I drove it around for a few hours since they let me drive it right out of the lot.

But when I saw my girlfriend and everyone else taking their classes I got a little jealous. I returned the car and cancelled the check and entered my sophomore year of college. But I regret it now.

James Altucher, 8 Alternatives to College

James was a college graduate.  A computer science major, like me.  He graduated college and did programming work for them for a few years.  When he got a programming job in the real world, and he couldn’t even program.

I was more conflicted that ever.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to finish school.  I wasn’t sure I wanted a programming job anymore.  I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to get a programming job if I finished school.

But I didn’t want to upset my wife.

That summer the university gave me a reprieve.

I didn’t finish college

I went to college right after high school.  It was a little college in a rural town.  I didn’t know anyone there.

Before long I made friends.  I started dating for the first time.

I worked hard at first.  I took seventeen credits my first semester.  I practically lived in the library.  I didn’t shower for a week.

After a couple of weeks I burned out.  I started skipping classes and not doing assignments.  I hung out with friends instead.

Or I played on the internet.

I never really used the internet before college.  Once in high school our class went to the library to do research on the internet, but I had no idea what I was doing.

In college the internet and I became best friends.  I’d spend hours in the computer lab looking up everything I could think of.  Sometimes I’d take CDs and headphones so I could listen to music while I surfed.

As the year went on my grades got worse.  After going home for the summer I got a letter saying I would have to take a term off.  I decided not to go back .

A few years later I tried teaching myself Japanese from a book I got from the library.  That wasn’t very effective, so I decided to take a college class.  Then I thought, “If I’m going to take one college class, why not take a few?”  So I signed up for several fun classes.  After a couple of years I started feeling burned out.  I didn’t know what I wanted to major in.  So I stopped going.

A few years after that I was married and had a toddler.  We were living in my in-laws’ basement.  Then I was laid off from my job and having trouble finding another.

My wife suggested that I go back to school.  She suggested that I go to the small-town school I’d gone to previously.  I’d dreamed about going back, but I didn’t think it would happen.

I jumped at the chance.  We moved just after Christmas and I started school in January.  I was going to be a serious student and get good grades this time.

I did really well the first semester.  After that my enthusiasm waned.  After a year or two I had a conversation with my wife about whether college was right for me.  She was working to support our family while I went to school, and she let me know that my degree was her hope for the future.

After five semesters at the small-town school I decided to transfer to a university in a larger town.

I was at the university for a year.  When I attempted to sign up for computer science classes for the next fall semester I got a message saying I needed to be in the computer science program.  I was already a computer science major.  I emailed my adviser to find out what was going on.

My adviser informed me that I had taken Calculus II too many times without getting an acceptable grade.  I wouldn’t be able to take it again.  I had to change majors.

I wasn’t interested in another major.  I had gone back to college to get a programming degree.

I left the university.  For a while I thought of other ways to get my degree, including online courses.  I decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do.  There were other paths to success, and I wanted to pursue one of those.

It broke my wife’s heart when I told her.  She had pinned all her hopes and dreams on my degree.

Things haven’t been the same since.