When I heard the words “College Preparatory School” to describe the new school where I would spend my next five years, I knew that I was in for the long haul. After all, College was the last hurdle to pass over and then I could finally pursue my real passion of writing and put the 9–5 grind of school behind me. It stood to reason that the better I did in high-school, the less time I’d have to spend in College, and the faster I could lunge for my passion.
There was just one problem: Prep Schools, especially ones that follow the International Baccalaureate (IB) standards of education, are very rigorous and hard. These schools take the type of deep learning, the projects that show an application of that learning, and the exams that test you on every aspect of your learning that are all present in College and kick the difficulty up to eleven!
On top of all that, the normal aspects of high school (heartbreak, friends, and after-school activities) are also present, and unfortunately, one of those normal aspects is noise.
Now I’m an Asperger suffering, highly sensitive, emotional sponge of an introvert complete with sensitive ears and a heart that is far too big for my chest… so I’m sure you can imagine the effects that a kindergarten through 12th-grade school would have on my body.
Every single day I was stretched like a rubber band, my nerves shot as every sound above a proper inside voice caused me to wince at best and jump out of my skin at worst, or every stressful moment that a friend was having was something I absorbed. Plus, I also had loud teachers, students who didn’t seem to respect the value of a quiet room, the anxiety of getting to my classes on time and making sure I was prepared with homework, and the terror of social interaction and small talk to deal with.
I was literally a nervous wreck, and every day made it a little bit worse until I was practically the first out the door and ready to just breathe and head home so I could have some peace and quiet.
However, it all changed whenever I received my tenth-grade personal project, which was to take something we were passionate about and create a tangible project with it. I decided that I would write a fantasy novel about race relations between humans and elves, making them enemies instead of allies and seeing what effect that would have on a typical fantasy world. I then posted it onto a website called Fictionpress and gave the link to anyone who was interested.
The novel was a success, and while it certainly wasn’t my best work it had proven something to me. I could write a novel people enjoyed to read, and when I posted it online I would get good feedback. So, I wrote a short fantasy story and posted it a few days later and got the same positive response.
As I kept writing, branching out into different genres, and posting my work online, I began to open up to the teachers at the school who had known me so well. They allowed me to write in their rooms whenever I was overwhelmed and understood my differences, working to keep me comfortable.
If a room was too loud, I was allowed to step outside and take a few moments to collect myself. I could skip over loud gatherings and mornings in the gym and stay in an empty room, and some of my teachers and friends were even interested in my work and would trap me in a bubble of relative calm despite how hectic the world was as we took the time to discuss my latest story and tips on writing.
The stress of school was slowly starting to lessen and become easier to manage, and my writing was exploding beyond my wildest dreams… right up until the ‘College’ in College-Prep school began to creep up on me as the 12th-grade end of the year exams began to add even more stress to my shoulders.
The whole point of doing well on these beyond stressful exams was to get points to do better in college, and soon our College counselor was speaking to all of us about what college we wanted to go too. Everything from college essays, to the scores we needed to make on the IB exams to get in, to who we needed to contact within the college to get more information.
The main problem was that I had no idea where or what I wanted to go and do for college because I was having more than enough trouble getting through a day and figuring out how to survive a class or deal with a teacher. So, while everyone else was plotting out their future, I was trying to get a handle on my present and just make it to the end of the year.
As I dealt with the stress of everything that was going on, I began to research how to be a full-time writer. That’s what I wanted to do after College and I knew that I was a good writer and could write things people enjoyed, so when I discovered Freelancing near the end of the year, I was beyond ecstatic. I discovered a life where I could control my income, control my time, and communicate with most people through email. It was the perfect job for an introvert, and after talking to my parents about it I began to research how lucrative it was.
When I found out that Freelancing was not only a lucrative career choice but that people were living comfortable lives by simply writing about their passions and making good constant money off of it, I faced a choice.
I could either go through the stressors of high-school all over again in college, this time in a completely new environment with new people, classes, and assignments where my only way to make money would be going a job I hated. Or I could control my time, money, and environment while seizing my dream with both hands and taking the first step towards becoming a full-time writer.
I ended up choosing the latter, and one year in I am doing pretty well.
The college prep school I went too didn’t make me want to go to college or make me want to overly excel in my studies, and it’s given me some issues I’m still dealing with today. Despite all of that, it did help me find and follow my dream, and for me, that’s more than enough to thank it for changing my life.