FULL DISCLAIMER: I neither condone, nor sanction any actions I describe in this piece, despite them being my direct actions. Do not emulate unless you are overtly confident enough to succeed in your own right regardless of school. Moreover, I take no responsibility in any harm or injury, bodily or otherwise, inflicted on anyone who tries to emulate actions described in the following passage. Reader discretion is advised.
What kind of student were you?
I got asked that a lot when I was searching for my first job. And I still get asked that by a lot of the people I meet today. There’s a perception that’s built around me, rather against my own will, that I was a good student growing up. That I was that all-A student with stellar grades across the board — one that could have gone to any school, so I did, and went to one of the best business schools in the nation.
There is an argument for that claim, however. I did have a stellar SAT score, and I only took the test once. And I did end up going to, what I believe to be, the best business school in the world (your experience may differ). But that’s about it, really. I’m one who believes that the journey is more important than the end or the start. And, in my case, despite the milestones, the journey was a bit of a mess.
I started skipping classes in the second half of junior year of high school. They say the first time you do anything is the most difficult. That was true for skipping class as well. The difficulty here was covering up my tracks. In high school, teachers still took attendance, and that was an issue. It was going to be recorded, which meant my parents would find out about it one way or another. So the first time I skipped class, I skipped class half way in. I left to go to the bathroom, and went home instead. I thought I had been clever in gaming the system, but by the time I had reached home, the school had already contacted my parents, and they were, understandably, furious.
After such an incident, most people would be hesitant to skip class again. But I wasn’t. I was, rather idiotically, determined to find a loophole in the system. I was determined because I hated school. It went against every bone in my body. And I never learnt anything that was useful for me in my development.
I was always more into doing non-academic things. I liked learning about things that would have been seen as useless in an academic sense. For example, I was interested in singing, and the entertainment industry, and thus, I used to skip class to go to karaoke, or go home and play the guitar. I was also interested in learning about how the world worked, in terms of macroeconomics and what not, so I read the news rather incessantly. And Wikipedia. Oh how I love Wikipedia. Even now, I go on Wikipedia to start my research, and get lost on a maze of one hyperlink after another. But I digress.
So the drive was there; all I needed was the solution. And it was rather simple. Late slips. Our school had a policy of handing out late slips to students who were late to class, as a sort of receipt for students to log their tardiness. Unfortunately, it stopped there. There were no checks and balances, apart from one caveat — you were only allowed 3 lates per school day, else risk a call home. I had found my solution, and was preparing myself to abuse it to its fullest extent.
Sophomore year passed, and junior year came. And, along with it, a brand new drive to get out of school. This was despite the fact that I was now beginning to get empty time slots on my schedule at school. This was despite those “spares”, as we called them, being strategically placed (mostly thanks to my outrageous luck) around the noon hour, and end of school. Even despite school having been shortened by an effective 10%, I was not satisfied. To me, school was still, very much, a place of rigorous curriculum, designed to sap the creativity out of me.
So I got to work. First, it was just one skip a day. This allowed me to come home just past lunch time. This gave me free time to pursue my real interests, and I began to get lost on my own adventures. I taught myself how to talk in different accents; I taught myself how to dance; I taught myself how to play the piano. This made me want more. And, soon enough, I was skipping classes, left and right. My report cards were filled with the traces of my lack of drive for school, and, by the time I graduated, I was best known as the guy who was never there — the student they knew by name only.
This was problematic when it came to get references for college, but that’s a tale for another title.
Because, if given another chance at high school, I don’t think I would change a thing. In fact, if anything, I would have skipped even more classes to do even more daring things. Because the experience of going it alone, without instructions, to find my own drive and motivation, was the single, biggest lesson in my life. And it was the one thing that wasn’t taught in school.
In school, the motivation to do anything is pretty clear — to get good grades. There’s a tangible, very real outcome to what you do. But, in life, especially now that I’m between jobs (at the time of this writing), I realize nothing is quite so clear. There is no real input-output function to life. The places where you place your values, and the things that motivate you are all arbitrary and entirely dependent on you. But, in school, that was never quite so clear.
Is this method for everyone? No. That’s why I have that disclaimer up top. But are there things that cannot be taught in school? Absolutely. One of the most interesting people I’ve had the privilege of meeting in my life told me, “You could do anything you want, but never lie to yourself about who you are.” School wasn’t who I was. I was never the archetype of the student. Nor was I the Asian stereotype. I was, and forever will be, some crazed lunatic looking to find the next big adventure. And school was the biggest obstacle in that life. That’s why I skipped school. That’s why I did it. And, boy, am I glad I did it.