I Learned More About Myself When I Dropped Out of College

My dad has always wanted to be a police officer, and he always wanted me to be a police officer too. From a young age I internalized his desire and decided that I would go to university, earn a degree in Criminology, and become an FBI agent. I began physical training, and I dug into the complex world of criminal behavior and psychology. I watched documentaries about serial killers and their criminal profilers. I fell in love with the thought of devoting my life to the career that my dad wanted for me.

During my senior year of highschool, I applied and was admitted to CSU, East Bay and I declared my major as a B.S. in Criminal Justice Administration. Almost immediately, I began to fail my prerequisite courses. I failed statistics three times, psychology twice, and sociology once. They were all required for me start my core courses in my chosen major. Then my girlfriend and I found out that we were expecting a daughter. At the time, my girlfriend was a Junior in high school, and I was a sophomore in college with a minimum wage job as a barista.

After a year and a half at university, with a cumulative GPA of 2.4 and a daughter on the way, I decided to drop out of university altogether and start working full-time as a barista. During this time, I learned the most about myself and who I wanted to become.

My consistent academic failures and the shock of becoming a parent resulted in depression. I tried many things to deal with my depression, but nothing helped me as much as reading. I began to read an average of 4 to 5 books every month (that’s about 4 to 5 times higher than the national average). I’d never done that before, so I never realized how much I loved the written word. I understood all the metaphors, allegories, allusions and illusions, structure, genre — it came easily to me and I loved it all. I found something I was truly passionate about.

What did I learn during my three years as a college dropout? I learned that I am one of many young people who have depression and I am still learning to live with it. I also learned that I love to read — fiction, non-fiction, essays, poetry, short stories — it is all captivating and soothing. Finally, I learned that I cannot base my life around the desires my dad (or anyone else) might have for me. Regardless of the purity behind the intention, I cannot succeed unless I am sincerely passionate about the goals I set for myself. I failed my prerequisite courses because I was not passionate about Criminal Justice. In following my passion, I fell in love with literature, re-enrolled at CSU, and am now a university graduate with a degree in English Literature.  

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Robel Espino

Robel Espino

Robel Espino is an education specialist assistant, worked as an after school instructor, and serves as a youth leader in his local church. A first-generation college graduate, Robel attended California State University, East Bay in Hayward, CA, and received a degree in English Literature. Robel is an Oakland native who received k-12 education in the cities of Oakland, San Pablo, and Richmond, CA. He is a husband, and a father of a four-year old.

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