To Go or Not to Go? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Lately it seems that all people my age can talk about is college – when they're going and where, how excited or nervous they are. But I'm not going at all. And that's unusual. I spent the last seven years at a school where college is usually the next step. My career advisor certainly recommended I go on to higher education of some sort. But I never imagined myself going to college. So I avoided the not-so-subtle railroading into the university system with great success, and now I've left school and don't really have a clue what I will do with my life.

It's a difficult decision, I'll tell you. While I didn't need to worry about my grades as much as those who were headed for college, in other ways not going to college was the harder choice. Everyone who has just gone (or is about to go off to college) knows what they'll be doing for the next four years; it's all planned out for them. But not me – I'm floating along by myself, having to plan every step using my own initiative and making choices others my age won't face until they're done with college.

When I told some of my teachers that I wasn't going to college, they asked what I would do instead. When I replied that I didn't know, you should have seen their expressions! They clearly thought I was going to end up homeless living in a cardboard box or something. And it wasn't just my teachers; random people took it upon themselves to ask what I planned to do with my life. Honestly, it was like I had a sign on my forehead that said, “I'm leaving school soon. Ask me what I'm doing next!”

For example, I was doing some work for my local paper, and was at an agricultural show interviewing a woman selling homemade jams. Now, bearing in mind I was supposed to be the one conducting the interview, I spent ten minutes answering her questions about my plans after graduation, why I didn't want to go to college, what career I wanted, and all that jazz. Not that I minded particularly, but I find it difficult explaining all this to people again and again and end up feeling guilty I'm not going to college.

The most annoying question people ask me is “Which university are you going to?” They just assume that everyone my age goes to college, which is very presumptuous of them. Of course, then I have to deal with their shock when I say I'm not going, like there is no worthy alternative, which makes me think it would be much easier to just go after all. But even though I seriously considered changing my mind, I stuck to my guns. I might not know what I want to do, but I know lots of things I don't want to do. Which I suppose is a start.

I remember when I first realized I was okay with my choice. I was taking a break from my homework and watching the movie “Say Anything.” I don't know if you're familiar with it, but it's a film from the 1980s about two teenagers leaving school. One of the characters says something that really helped me accept the fact that I hadn't made a concrete choice about my future, like it seemed everyone else had. He said, “I don't know, but I know that I don't know.” And from then on I knew that I was doing the right thing by not deciding my future before I'm ready.

I have always known that I want to be an author, but often writers need another job as well. And it's that job I'm struggling to choose. I'm still not any closer to deciding, but I'm fine with that. Once I know, I will focus on trying to achieve it, but until then, I'm happy not knowing.

I must admit, though, when people enquire about my future plans, I have been guilty of saying, “Oh, I'm having a gap year” just because it's easier than explaining. Sometimes it backfires though; common assumptions reign again when they then ask, “Where are you going after your gap year?” to which I have no answer, so I end up having to explain my whole life-choice difficulties after all.

Anyway, I was terrified of the future and the fact that I didn't know what was around the corner, but I'm much happier now that I have a bit more direction: I'm pursuing my writing. I've just published a couple books on Amazon for Kindle – and I have a part-time job to tide me over and gain some experience in the “real world.” So I'm keeping busy, and I've finally got something to say to those nosy folks who ask what I'm doing with my life.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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