WHAT?! 012: What the Hell is School For?

WHAT?! is Drooly Dog’s Advice Column for the Creative and Perplexed. In which I answer burning questions about the creative process and what might be holding up that brain of yours. Send your questions to: hellodroolydog@gmail.com.

Dear Drooly Dog: I am a sophomore in high school. I have not seen the point in school since seventh grade. I don’t feel like there is anything for me there, and the teachers just want to judge me and show me all the ways I am not up to their standards. (For the record I get reasonable grades and I don’t cut classes.)
This year a friend of mine, a senior, dropped out and went on tour with his band. They are working very hard, selling CDs by hand and playing anywhere that will have them. They are barely breaking even, but they are doing what it is they want to do. They meet promoters and producers. And best of all, they are playing their own music in front of real people.
Meanwhile, I am sitting here doing algebra. I feel like I am going literally nowhere in this desk, in this place, while people I know are out there doing something about their lives. What should I do? Do I drop it all and go become a punk singer or an artist or rot here in class? Will I be sorry if I don’t get moving now? I can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing my whole life.
– Sincerely, Student Prisoner

Dearest Prisoner,
There is nothing like feeling like you’re sitting there while everything passes you by. It sucks in a kind of I-can-never-fix-this way.
Here’s the deal, though. School is a weird animal. People fight over how to do it right, the requirements change, the schedules get messed with, and through all that you’ve got ridiculous shenanigans and people’s unmet emotional needs at lunch and all of it.
But here’s the deal with school, at the stage you find yourself: School is an exercise in showing up and that is one of the most important things you can learn in life period.
Let me elaborate. That paper you have to write? It has a deadline. It has requirements. Someone, possibly an idiot, is going to read it. Someone, possibly a fantastic and inspiring person, is going to read it. I don’t know which is the case for you.
What I do know is, you’ve got a thing to do with a deadline and a “client.” And this is professional life in a nutshell.
That movie you saw last week? Totally made by literally thousands of people who had deadline after deadline for a boss they might not like at all.
You mention your friend who dropped out. Here’s what I’ll say about that: While rare, sometimes this is the right answer. But from what you describe, those people are already showing up. They are doing all the things you must do as a professional, and having a go of it. And, they are committed to something that you can not walk away from randomly without making some enemies for life. They are in it deep.
Again, for them maybe that’s the right thing. But I don’t hear you describing one particular thing you want to drop out for. And that hints that, right now your best bet is to keep showing up.
Look, we put heavy trips on kids about college and stuff. You have to separate from that. And escaping in a crappy van with a guitar and an amp and some CDs might sound good. But there are many many ways to show up and all of them count.
Keep building that skill. Keep showing up. And as you get interested in things, show up for them. Show up for that project you’ve wanted to do. Show up and bug your representatives in government. And show up for your own work and your own standards.
This will serve you in absolutely everything. We don’t always choose what we’re working on (ain’t THAT the truth) but we do choose whether we show up.
Sincerely, Drooly Dog

Drooly Dog offers creative advice only. Nothing legal or medical, please follow of your own accord. It’s up to you, man.

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