Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Part of my job as director of an alternative high school is to do intakes with students interested in the program. These are students anywhere from 15-22 years old who for whatever reason are not functioning well within traditional school.
Some of these students have trouble in a larger school setting with higher class sizes; some have anxiety and can't get themselves out the door in the morning; others struggle with waking up early and would prefer our later schedule; and then there are some who have a family to support and work during the day so they have to take classes at night. Whatever the situation may be for any of our students, some feel that going to an alternative school has a negative stigma attached to it and that the traditional route of graduating high school is the only way to graduate.
Now these are students who for the most part, really disliked their experience at their former high school. Often times they can't recall one positive memory when asked about their previous schooling experience. Some even go so far as to say they hated it.
When I see that a student is nervous or uncomfortable during the intake when imagining themselves in an alternative setting, I try to remind them of why they are even sitting in my office to begin with.
They are here because things weren't working in their previous school and they knew that something had to change in order for them to be successful and receive their high school diploma.
I remind them of Einstein's definition of insanity quote, that if they keep doing what they're doing, they're going to keep getting what they're getting. If they stayed in their last school environment, they would still be unhappy and graduate without many (or any) happy memories of their teenage years or they wouldn't have graduated at all.
I also ask them that if they were a high school or college graduate, would they intentionally and willingly put themselves into a job they had to go to every day that caused them the stress and anxiety that they currently feel about their high school?
The answer is always no.
So I ask them, why should it be any different at this point in your life? Why should you have to worry about going to a building you dread each day with no real connections among the people you surround yourself with?
I tell them that there is always a choice and the fact that they even got themselves to my office to begin with is a huge and valuable step. Being in my office means that they realized there was a problem, they decided that they didn't want to experience that problem anymore and so they sought out options that would be better suited for them - ones that would make them happier and more successful.
When we get to this point in the conversation they usually begin to recognize that just because their parents, teachers, friends, or their own mindsets may think there's something wrong with not graduating from the same school as the kids they grew up with, that this isn't about the other people in their lives. This is about them and the state of their own, personal well-beings.
When I reflect back on this, I find it so interesting that even at a young age, some teenagers believe that things have to be done a certain way because society, their parents, teachers or friends have deemed it so. I think of all of the students who didn't take the step to seek alternative options and are living day by day in what some of them consider to be a personal hell.
And for what? So they can appease their parents, fit in with the normal route of graduating high school, not succumb to another way of going about things or letting themselves down?
And how many of us are doing that today as adults? How many of us actually take the time to think, evaluate and consider our state of happiness and the action steps that we could take today for a better quality of living?
It's always so amazing to me that some of these thought processes and ideas are not taught in high schools when it's so critical to making the world a better place. If we were taught at an earlier age to value our well-being and happiness above other things, then maybe more people would recognize a passion or purpose within themselves and realize that they have something to offer the world.
To me, a life without passion or purpose is not living a life at all.
So my question for you today is this: Are you merely skating by in life, working the Monday to Friday routine with no real awareness of your full potential or are you actively seeking out ways to lift your purpose to a higher level?
Do you feel you are doing what you were put on this earth to do or are you just waiting for something better to come along when you're not putting any thought or action into getting somewhere better?
This life is yours and only yours.
Make your mark, be happy, go after your dreams, believe you can do whatever it is you set your heart to and you won't be doing the world a disservice by not adding your own, unique value to it.
The world needs what you have to offer.
What can you give?
What are you capable of?
How can you make a lasting impact?
I dare you to ask yourself these questions.
And then I dare you to go for it.