That One Time I Lost a Scholarship and Found My Calling

No, really. I lost a four year tuition scholarship and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Now, this post is NOT a “college is bad” type of post. I don’t believe college is stupid, but I am a firm believer that it is not a necessary step for everyone—particularly when it comes to business.

I'm sharing my own personal story but I don't have any answers. If there's one thing sharing my story can do--I hope it helps someone feel less alone and inspired to forge their own path.

I was 18 years old (or was it 17? I don’t exactly recall) and I was struggling with the idea of college. I’m not a very woo-woo person. I don’t 100% believe in "intuition," but during my mid-teens I got a deep-gut feeling that my path wasn’t going to college right after high school, if ever.

Which scared the crap out of me.

One: because I was very unsure and insecure, and I didn’t have many deep-gut feelings up until that point.

Two: because my future was already planned and I if I didn’t follow that path I would disappoint everyone and end up working at McDonald’s my entire life.

I went to an online school in 10th grade, and there was a mini-class on discovering your ideal career. In the lessons they covered the “What about Bill Gates, the guy who owns Dell, Richard Branson, Walt Disney, etcetera?” argument (successful people who don't have a college degree).

Their response was that these people were exceptions—and that we, as young people, needed to take the safe path.

This starkly implied to me at 15 that we would not be exceptions, we were not special, and we could not forge our own path like the people just mentioned.

We were ordinary and because of that we can't take risks. Not going to college was too big of a risk to take.

Needless to say, I wasn't a big fan of what they were saying. And the more I delve into the business world, the more I find that to be an entrepreneur means taking risks almost constantly.

It doesn't mean don't make thoughtful choices. It just means don't be afraid to take leaps--don't be afraid of being bold and daring.

Yet as a teenager I was told to play it safe. While every entrepreneur who eventually makes it failed many times and continued to take risks--in fact, it seems to be a determining factor of success.

As an adult, I have a strong opinion on college. On risk taking. On what successful people are made of. I'm truly interested in what makes a person successful, and I've read and studied them for years. I've found that it's complicated, but that college isn't in the equation.

There are go-getters—people who work toward their goals and get back up after every failure. And then there are people allergic to all kinds of work and who really do just want to play video games all day and work at the McDonald’s across the street until they retire.

Then there’s plenty of people in-between. Some leaning more toward a strong will to go after big dreams, and some leaning more toward not striving for anything but the same-ol’.

I can’t bring myself to judge anyone. But I know which direction I want to lean toward. Since I was young, I’ve striven to do my best and reach for bigger goals. I’m not perfect, but I show up. I'm still working on the fear of putting myself out there--and it's always going to be a work in progress. But I will not give up on it.

That’s the key difference. Success is not predicated on if someone got a college degree so much as: are they willing to fail? Are they going to keep trying? Are they willing to take risks? Are they putting in work? Are they going outside their comfort-zones?

That’s where success is born. Deep inside the core of who someone is. All stemming from their deepest beliefs about themselves.

There are some people who dream of being a medical doctor and, no, of course they won’t get there without a college degree. No one will argue that.

But if someone wants to start businesses, direct movies, write books, or do anything that doesn’t absolutely require a college degree, then with enough passion and persistence they can excel.

The question isn't if they have a college degree. It's: do they have the drive and the will to be relentless about chasing that goal?

At 12, I was put into a class specifically to help me get into college right after high school. All throughout my teens, my relatives and teachers and friend’s parents wanted to know where I was going to go to college—and they wanted to know that I was actually going, right?

But inside I was beginning to feel a deep, sinking feeling that I had to do what everyone else deemed was right for me. Regardless of what my inner voice was trying to tell me.

I’ve never been someone who’s rebellious for the sake of rebellion—I never partied, drank, smoked, or did anything crazy in high school, college, or after.

I didn’t want to disregard the advice of adults around me because it was cool or fun. Our elders and those who came before can have really important advice that we need to deeply consider.

After considering the weight of what everyone was telling me, I found that same nagging feeling in my heart. It was saying that's not your path. You're meant for something else.

The for what part would come in time.

So, because I wasn’t sure what else I wanted to do I felt I HAD to go to college right off the bat, no matter how wrong it felt.

I even, at one point, read a book about a kid who felt the same way I did. Kinda. The resolution to the book? He forced himself to go to college anyway and . . . The End.

I was discouraged no matter what direction I turned for help.

My parents, however, knew me best and sensed my feelings. They didn’t push me to go, but I felt compelled for a list of other reasons. And while they weren’t pushy, they weren’t sure what to tell me. They knew it was my decision to make. I continued to try to look outward when I had my answer already found inwardly.

To make matters worse in a way that would make others jump for joy—a university sent me a letter. A letter saying that I had received a full tuition scholarship based on my GPA. If I kept a high GPA, they would pay my tuition for four full years (basically, a tactic to bring up the GPA of the whole school).

I realized I essentially received $32,000 in the mail that day.

Slumping onto my bed, I just stared at the paper. My vision blurred and I covered my face.

In that moment, more than ever, I felt shoe-horned into going to college as soon as high school ended.

And how could I deny it? It was an opportunity others wished for, and it was handed to me.

In my senior year of high school I was homeschooled (unschooled, specifically. So I created my curriculum, learned on my own, or found my own teachers) which gave me the flexibility to attend in-person college classes at my local community college.

I was on track to go to university, and I did right after high school. For about a year and a half.

Now, I didn’t leave college entirely by choice. I have a history of health problems in my life, and after I got my wisdom teeth pulled the summer after my freshmen year, my health started to decline.

I felt sick all the time and couldn’t hold down food or get up an appetite some days. I had this horrible gnawing feeling in my stomach. I already had been eating as clean as possible for years—including strictly avoiding foods I was intolerant to such as gluten and dairy.

As time passed, I got worse. The year before I worked 16 hours a week, participated in a dance troupe, and had a full course load with high GPA. I lost a lot of sleep. Then on top of being sick I was burnt out from stretching myself.

My weight dropped to underweight status, where I was at risk of a heart attack, and though I was complimented for being so skinny (our insecure skinny culture is awesome, isn’t it?) I wasn’t healthy.

Eating new foods? Forget it. If I deviated from my regular diet, ate at a new restaurant, etc, my body would violently react. I would have flu-like symptoms, my body tossing everything back out because it just couldn’t handle the normal things other people could.

After nearly a year, many strains of probiotics along with a multitude of medications, and several doctors, I finally came back to my normal self. It happened gradually and never completely resolved—but it was a huuuge improvement. A normal, healthy weight and the ability to keep down food and even try new foods like sushi! But this took a year to just begin happening.

How do you keep up your GPA when you’re sick? Short answer: you don’t.

I mean, who knows—when it comes to the many tiers of people working at a university, sometimes things fall through the cracks. Maybe no one would have even noticed my grades dropping besides my teachers and my scholarship would have been automatically renewed.

The thing is, I didn’t stick around to find out.

Because even though I was feeling really, really under the weather, I was elated to realize risking my health wasn’t worth it. I stopped stressing out about my grades by slowly removing myself from school with a sense of a million doors of possibilities opening.

What was I going to school for? No idea. I was, as everyone told me to do, just going to go. I gravitated towards liberal arts, but everyone also said that such a degree was pointless. What about fine art? Ha—another “pointless degree.” Creative writing? That would never get me a job.

I was just taking my general classes—and I was taking them online. Which, it’s great that’s an option BUT at the same time, it’s a horrible college experience. Conversations and debates over the online forum are insanely dry and not one student really cares or is interested. We were all just pulling it out of our asses.

For many, many reason—practical and intuitive—I was relieved to be free of school.

I didn’t dislike college because I just wanted to play video games all day. I didn’t dislike college because I hated learning (I still have a great love for learning even after 3 years out of school). I didn’t dislike college because it was hard—I was more than capable of doing it and keeping up with it when I was healthy.

But there are some important gut feelings that we should listen to. We have to find our own path. We have to discover what we want from our lives at the very core of our being—and stay true to ourselves even when the world turns its back on us for doing so.

Not totally ignoring the advice of others, but not just accepting it as our truth, either.

If we follow the whims of others without checking in with ourselves, we’re prone to be leaves in the wind. Floating along, being pulled in every which way.

We’ve all heard that in some shape or form before, haven’t we? That following the path pre-ordained for you might not be your true path. Many philosophies and morals-of-the-stories have made this point to the extent that it’s kind of a cliché.

Putting it into practice? Not simple. I’m finding it’s a lifelong work to continuously reconnect with the core of who I am.

So . . . I didn’t want to go to college because I was called for something else. Just because I wasn’t sure what that was didn’t mean it wasn’t worth exploring.

In fact, when I got better and could have gone back to university by telling them I was sick and that’s what had happened with me—I didn’t want to. It didn’t feel right in my gut.

I had starting a jewelry business, and that's what I chose to stay with.

Not the right choice for everyone. The right choice for me? Definitely. 100 times over.

Was it, and is it still, super, super scary and sometimes lonely? You betcha.

Just a year into being out of college I was learning so much more—about myself, about the world. I grew like never before in my life. Now, I’ve found my calling.

And no, it isn’t to make jewelry.

But it isn’t to not make jewelry, either. My calling is to be an entrepreneur, a storyteller—to be independent. To create space in my life to adventure into my passions through running a business.

To travel the road that resonates with me. To listen when my calling pulls me in a new direction and create a life that gives me the freedom to follow my inner voice. To put in the work right now for this dream.

Your calling doesn’t have to be one thing. It isn’t a eureka moment. Your calling is a journey that might not have a destination.

It’s been a long journey so far, and I’m not wildly successful quite yet. Honestly, I don’t need to be. It’s enough to know you’re on the right path and feel it in your bones.

Did I get sick because I made the wrong choice being swayed by outside forces? Did I just push myself too hard? Was it a coincidence and a perfect excuse to leave college? 

I don’t know. In my own way, though, I’m very thankful for that scary time in my life. And though I may have disappointed most people who know me, I didn’t disappoint myself. I’m on good terms with myself, and I feel in my soul I’m right where I am supposed to be.

Whatever your path is, college-related or not, I hope you learn to sense those gut feelings. And I hope they pull you onto the path you’ve always dreamed of travelling.