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Problems with School (and Life in general)

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A [not so] brief history of my problem. It's probably more than necessary, but it's best to include too much than too little, IMO.


From probably 4th grade to the present, I have not liked school. The two teachers I had for K-3 (small private school, 2 grades per teacher) were excellent, but after 4th grade everything just started going downhill. I can't speak quantitatively about my middle school years, but I do know that each successive semester in high school, without exception, had a lower GPA than the previous one. And midway through senior year, I crumbled. Crashed, snapped, burnt-out, whatever metaphor you want to use, you get the idea.


A bit about how I am today. I'm almost 18, I like to think, love math and science, am one of the biggest anime geeks you'll probably ever meet, and am very intelligent. I scored 96 on the ASVAB and 34 on the ACT. And yet no one in my family can fathom that I have failed miserably at school.


I am simultaneously on of the most naive and gullible (*stupidiswrittenontheceiling!!* "Where" *snickers* "I don't get it, what's so funny?") and most observational people I know. And almost all throughout my life I have held one single belief about school. That it exists only for the purpose of teaching me what I need to know and what I want to know. And that belief is central to my problem.


The main culprit is Literature, although other subjects did contribute. No matter what I tried, whether puzzling the situation out myself or asking other people, I could never see Literature as something I needed to know, and it was never something I wanted to know. Don't get me wrong, I love to read, but I hate having my reading list dictated to me. Even worse is when that list is a bunch of useless garbage I don't care for (Shakespeare and The Great Gatsby can burn). Needless to say, from probably 7th or 8th grade forward, I hated Literature class.


But I endured. Going against every bit of my firm belief, subjecting myself to brutal mental agony in the process, I endured through about 3.5 years of high school Literature. I didn't "press forward", nor did "just do it and get it over with", I endured, doing only the bare minimum of what I felt like doing. Most of the time it was just enough to pass. Even worse than the pain of endurance was the sting of betrayal, that I was loosing parts of myself by attempting to bend to the "system's: will. Also, the irony was not lost on me that while "individuality" is often discussed and supported in Literature class, it is often discouraged in the grander scheme of school. The hypocrisy added just a bit of extra zing to everything I was feeling.


However, all that negativity that I was holding inside of me (generated mostly by Literature class) wasn't just sitting like a lead weight inside of me making me feel bad and depressed while just in Literature. It was evolving. It changed slowly at first, but about the beginning of senior year it took on a new form. It was an acute burning sensation that literally felt like an acid was dissolving my soul. And that acid spread until it was affecting everything. I started to dread everything and to withdraw into my shell. I even started to dislike math class, and that - for those that don't know me - is scary. Damn near the end of the universe. Me not liking math is like a duck not liking water.


Around halfway through the year, the cumulative affect of all those years of mental betrayal and torment, combined with the looming deadline of college applications and graduation (an event my mom made a huge fuss about) led to my inevitable collapse. I didn't literally collapse (I didn't faint), but it felt that the acid had finally eaten away enough of my soul that everything, even my will to live just came crashing down. I stopped caring about anything. I did nothing at school, didn't even participate in classroom activities. There were days I didn't go to school because I couldn't even muster enough will to get out of the bed. My depression was so deep that the only reason I'm still alive typing this is that my paralyzing fear of pain and death and my equally paralyzing indecisiveness outweighed the relief I would have gotten from ending my suffering the hard way.


Fortunately, my teachers did, take notice, and I got into therapy. Eventually, I was able to get into a situation where I could stop coming to school altogether, and the only thing I needed to do to graduate was finish my Literature credits. I took a correspondence course to deal with those. But, my philosophy of "need to know, want to know" reared it's head again, and that came to an apathetic halt as well. So I don't have a diploma, and right now it looks like I'm not going to get one.


My mom is obsessed with me getting my diploma. So obsessed that she nags almost constantly about it. She refuses to listen to what I have to say. She pretends to, but nothing I say has any effect on her. Her constant nagging threatens to undo all that has been done to try and stabilize my mental condition and drive everything back to square one, to possibly drive me back to "Plan Z" (suicide, because let's face it, once you've thought it, you can't unthink it). I've told her this many times, yet she never stops. She admits to being selfish, that she wants to diploma for her sake and not mine, just so she doesn't look like the parent of a dropout. I cannot reason with her, and so every mention of the word "test" or "diploma" is like nails on a chalkboard for me, unbearable. My feelings often shift between and ](*,) and that acidic corrosive feeling when talking to her.


On a light note, that head-smashing smiley should be standard on every forum and IM client in the world. It's too perfect.


Also, it doesn't help that I only hear about how much worse life will be without a diploma rather than how much better it could be with one. Or, if I do hear a positive statement, it's "Opurtunities will be opened up for you". However, contrast that to "You'll be living on the streets, broke, with a dead end job, and no hope." Specifics beat abstractions every time, so which side is going to have greater impact, eh?


It also doesn't help that my parents are so nasty to each other I almost wish they were divorced.


So, there you have it. I'm almost 18, with a cruddy family, no diploma, extreme intelligence, interest in math and science of nearly all kinds, and the remenents of a severe depression that leave me in total stagnation.


There are only two thing I need answered.


Is there any hope for me?


What do I do now?


Please be specific.

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I am a teacher and I feel your pain. I will not belittle your pain, it seems none of your teachers reached out to you and helped you cope. I hated math, with a passion. Started skipping school, hated it actually, and barely graduated. Your pain is very real and I do not think your mother is helping you by nagging. Nagging never helps anyone. That being said, if you could write your story, what character from Lit would you most resemble? Who had pain simlar to yours? Being able to see the relevance of the characters is part of lit appreciation, though I don't teach literature.

The human condition is pretty constant and while you don't need lit specifically for life, you will use the critical thinking skills it demands to think about what the writer was trying to say. You could think of some books as simple linear equations, some as the slightly more involved quadratic equations, and some could be as tough as a set of complex matrices or as time-consuming as a long 7th degree equation that your solve using binomial expansion. Finding the characters motivation or problem is much like a proof in geometry. People, like geometric shapes, follow certain laws and postulates and studying literature can help you unlock these "proofs". In other words, think of the plots and characters in books as equations you have to solve. This will not only make lit more interesting to you, you can use these skills to figure out people and have an easier time in life. I do feel for you and I know how unfeeling some adults can be. Please soldier on and I promise you, it will get better. I should know, I hated school and Know very well that burning acid feeling that makes you feel your soul is being eaten alive. Don't let this happen. I hated school and look where I ended up, teaching school! I love kids and try very hard to meet their needs and help where I can. Maybe you can use your experience to help some angry, hurting young person somewhere down the line. If you want, you can p.m. me and I will try to answer sometime tomorrow. Please don't give up on yourself, you write beatifully and I just know you are a person who could give much to the world! Think about what I have said and never let them keep you down or make you give up...EVER.

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My advice is to go to a community college. I was in almost exactly the same situation several years ago; the only difference is that my dissatisfaction had not progressed as far before I "dropped out." (California provides the Certificate of Proficiency which is the legal equivalent of a high school diploma, although it is the conventional routes for high school dropouts.) My high school let me take some classes at our local community college, and in a sharp contrast to high school, I actually enjoyed those classes, and that gave me hope.


As it turns out, by mere luck I started off with one of our community college's best professors. My experiences at the community college weren't all that good, but they were a hell of a lot better than anything from high school; tolerable at least. It is a lot easier to take classes seriously there, although you still can't take them too seriously. At worst, a college class would remind me of high school. But if you use link removed, you should be able to avoid professors who teach like that.


Now I'm at a university, and doing very well. I still skip classes from time to time, but I'm sure to keep my grades decent. Mostly, at a university you can focus more on extracurricular activities. I can only imagine this is what it is like to be an engineer in industry, and the thought is so enthralling!


As an aside, I chose to go to a small and relatively unknown university. Since we don't have a graduate program, it means undergrads get to work on the projects. It still ends up hurting my grades to work on these projects, but it's fun, educational and totally worthwhile anyways.


It's just ironic, that it is generally true the smartest people won't have the best grades. Fortunately many employers recognize that, although it is still difficult for them to discern. Still, try hard and things should pay off--they have for me at least.


For example, several of my friends kept telling me I take school too seriously. Well, now with the downturn of the economy, they've lost their jobs, and just the same I have more job offers than I could possibly take--and really awesome jobs, too! Truly, it seems that hard work, integrity, and genuine earnest pay off eventually. The fact that you're so passionate about learning will carry you far in life. They key to success is to never stop learning, so you should do well. Leave high school behind, and move forward.


Best of luck, and I would really like to discuss this more. If you have any questions, please post them or feel free to PM me.


I think one of Mark Twain's quotes is particularly relevant here:

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."


I could go on-and-on about how our current school system destroys America's creative minds. I, too, had seriously considered suicide on several occasions with my pent-up frustrations from school--now I look back on those times and I'm so glad I never did--and I realize that a good teacher can in fact save lives. Funny thing is, like thejigsup, I want to be a teacher now, too.

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