What I Wish I’d Known When I Finished School

This time six years ago I was laying in bed scrolling through my Facebook feed with tears rolling down my cheeks and regret consuming my every movement. Three months earlier I’d dropped out of my final year of school gripped by the debilitating effects of depression and anxiety. Now I was forced to look on in envy at all those who had ‘made it’.

Mum feared the worst. I feared the worst. I thought for a long time that my life was worth nothing. Though I tried to resist the feelings, the day inevitably arose in which I didn’t want to be around any more. It seemed that without my Year 12 certificate and the prospect of a university degree (which it seemed everyone was going to have in three years time) my life was going nowhere – fast!


Over time and through much heartache I learnt that there was in fact a life after school that lay outside the confines of what I’d been told over and over in the years preceding. I didn’t need to go to uni. I didn’t need to have that particular OP score. I didn’t need to worry about what everyone else was doing!

I just needed to do what made me happy.

Of course at the time I was so panicked and stressed about the situation that I couldn’t see the wood from the trees! I wish I had someone to stop me and tell me, ‘Paul, don’t stress, everything will work out even better than you’ve ever imagined!’

It’s funny too because I was actually looking at the prospect of Uni for next year and discovered there’s a simple test I can sit in order to qualify for almost all of the courses. So even if I did now want to pursue that path I could.

There are always options.

For those now leaving school worried about the future or unsure what to pursue in their lives I’d give them the following list of options:

  1. Travel
  2. Start a business
  3. Fail
  4. Start another business
  5. Fail again
  6. Live in a different country
  7. Try a few different jobs
  8. Read
  10. Volunteer for a charity
  11. Pursue a childhood hobby
  12. Create your own YouTube channel

Truth be known you’d probably be better off starting your own YouTube channel than going to Uni anyway! But regardless, live life, have fun, meet cool people, smile and you’ll figure out where your passions lay eventually. And even if you never do (which I doubt) at least you’ll be having a blast and learning a lot more than you could in any classroom!

Life’s too short to live in the shadow of expectation.

Unfortunately I spent far too much time wallowing in my own well of self pity wishing things were different and envying those who were treading the path most traveled. Instead, I should have been enjoying the opportunities that were right on my doorstep.

Luckily though it’s never too late – for any of us!

Me in Montenegro
Traveling through Montenegro earlier this year. I didn’t even know it was a country until we crossed the border!

Greatness Via Passion.

How has your life turned out since leaving school? What you expected or a very distant cousin?! Leave your thoughts in the comments below and share this with any school leavers you know 🙂

Me!About The Author (That’s me!)

I’m 22 years old, live in the land down-under and am a writer, sometimes speaker and beyondblue Ambassador. Fun fact: I’ve only missed one Summer, northern and southern hemispheres, in the last four years! You can say G’day on Twitter or Instagram or read more about my story here 😀




23 thoughts on “What I Wish I’d Known When I Finished School

  1. Hey Paul! 🙂 Boy can I relate to this! You’re talking to someone that has been to college twice…and dropped out….twice and I can safely say there IS more to life! Thanks for sharing that here because there are many young people out there feeling the pressure to do what you’re apparently “suppose to do” You’re right! Do what makes YOU happy and at the end of the day everything else will follow 🙂 Also, just wanted to invite you to my meet and greet. It’s my way of catching up with fellow bloggers and meeting new ones and this post would be great for sharing! Hope to see you there 🙂

  2. I managed to finish my schooling, but I was too afraid to apply to the college I wanted to go to, and I struggled until my late 20s to decide what I wanted to do with my life. Everyday I try to in courage my students to keep going no matter what their fears are.

      1. Well I have always been a writer. I spent years as a singer/song writer and then I just stopped one day. I figured it out during postpartum depression and I just started writing. It made me feel like me again. Then my last year in college I realized I wanted not just to write, but it teach and two years later I got there.

      2. I had a philosophy professor when I was 19 tell me that in order to live a happy life, first you have to find what your passion is. It took me a long time to find mine, but I’m glad it didn’t take longer. I think it’s great you are finding yours now.

  3. Oh boy! Right post to stumble into…again. I never made it to Uni…and it’s like a big stain that I can never rub. It seems people just find it hard to believe you can be happy without a Uni degree. Even when you have a job you love, can support yourself, and have a big smile on your face all the time. Go forth and be happy-that is all that matters. Great post!

      1. One starting point would be a local paper of yours; I used to write a good deal for one of mine. Also, there are mental health organisations that could well be interested in publishing it in a magazine or on their websites. Definitely worth having a look around. Keep me posted!

  4. Visiting first time, from Southern, California USA. (Orange County beach area)

    I was the girl hanging out with the really “smart” kids. All presidents of clubs, Valedictorian, top percentages of the class… and I got mediocre grades…and had to work (very hard) for those in College Prep courses not AP (advanced placement) like my friends. They all had these goals and worried about their SAT scores…all trying to get scholarships and acceptances to college. My mom, barely finished high school, no college, and immediately had me two weeks after she turned 19. Intelligent woman that voraciously reads, but she didn’t know the first thing about prepping me for “college bound” life. So I just kind of passed classes, but had no real direction. I was forced to have a job as soon as I was 16, and buy my own car, insurance, etc. My mom didn’t have any money for college. I was on my own. I couldn’t really focus on over-achieving in studying. I never, ever had anything I desired “To be when I grew up…” Never, ever had an answer for that question. It was like, I have no idea. The usual Doctor, lawyer, nurse, policeman, fireman, EMT, etc. Nothing appealed to me. Therefore, No motivation. Made the pressure of SAT score go away…It didn’t matter what I scored. College wasn’t a factor.

    I didn’t suffer from any illness, except the case of the “blahs.” the “Whatevers” and I guess I’ll go to a 2 year jr. college while I figure things out, because that’s what I’m supposed to do, right?…guess I’ll choose business administration as my major. Since I had to work full-time, and go to classes 7-10pm at night, I quickly dropped out…tried 3 times. Finished most of my general ed, but that was it. I knew I was quite capable of achievement, but I never truly desired a particular thing.

    I ended up being fine. Here’s the interesting thing. I live in an area with over-achieving women, all type A personalities. One friend has an Engineering degree in Aerospace and has known a couple of true astronauts that have been in space. She gave it all up and is a stay at home mom, and president of the PTA. That’s one example of many. I’m sure her parents are like….all that college money. Other friends, are working in fields that have nothing to do with their degree. My husband has an Engineering Aerospace degree from UCLA… he’s in sales.

    So, there you go… 🙂

    By the way: I’m Sandi

      1. I am glad you found your purpose in life. It makes you look forward to the day. There’s always something to do.

        Before kids, my hubby and I used to help up with some fundraisers for the soup kitchen. Our close friend was on the Board of Directors.

        After having a couple of kids (10 and 12) my daily purpose is ensuring their childhoods are secure and amazing (as much as possible)

        As for time, there isn’t enough these days, it seems. Always sports (practices and games) and before my husband was coaching the teams and I was team mom (or classroom parent) combined with the demands of school that are now insane. It’s not unusual to have weekend homework. They are beginning to dab a bit into music now.

        Unfortunately, living in Southern CA is quite expensive and my hubby needs me to help financially, as well. I’m always doing some random administrative job. I actually have a pretty great resume of places I’ve in the worked in the past.

        And on top of all that- trying to move. Show me a mom that isn’t wearing many hats and the ultimate multi-tasker!

        For my “artistic” release, I like to blog. Meet other bloggers. 🙂 (right now everyone is asleep, but not for long)

  5. This is incredible Paul 🙂 We need more people sharing their stories so that those suffering know they aren’t alone. One of my favourite sayings is ‘Be yourself, everyone else is taken’. I believe one of the biggest causes of anxiety and depression is people not feeling comfortable with who they are and trying to be someone they’re not. Life is about doing more of what makes us happy, and encouraging others to do the same. You’ve inspired me to continue with my motivation blog. I’d love to chat to you more about it some time 🙂 Happy Australia Day!

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