My entire friend group graduated in the class of 2019, one year before me.
When they graduated middle school, I received a glimpse of what it would be like when they left for college, but that was in middle school. Nobody knew what they wanted to do or where they wanted to live. I didn’t give it much thought.
Eventually the day came where my friends left to college without me. I obviously understand that my friends didn’t choose to “leave me behind”, but sometimes I can’t help but think about what my life would be like now if I had graduated with my friend group in the class above me.
Does your final year of high school shape the person you will become?
I spoke to a few of my friends who had graduated multiple years before me, and I wasn’t surprised to hear that a few of my older friends had dealt with the same sort of thing.
Dawson Daniels, Kayhi class of 2018, experienced a similar friend migration as a junior.
“I had a group of maybe 5 or 6 guys that I was with all the time,” said Daniels. “Those guys had been like brothers to me ever since I was young, so them leaving was hard to accept.”
Dawson still had a large group of friends in his own class, something I don’t exactly have.
“My older friends leaving sucked, but lucky for me I was still close with my class,” he said.
Dawson has been commercial fishing with his dad since middle school, making his decision to not attend college easy. By making this choice, he knew he would be growing up sooner than the majority of his friends.
As it turned out, some of his closest friends in the class above him returned home before he even graduated high school
“All of my buds live here in town now,” he said. “They either came back after a year, or never left.”
I can relate to the sort of awkward reunion that takes place when a close friend returns home. It’s sort of like a “I’m glad you are back” type of moment, but the underlying truth of the matter is that they failed somewhere along the way, and they have returned to try something new. As any good friend should, you want to see your friends succeed. So the moment someone decides to come home, you just hope they have a good enough idea of what they are going to do, and a decent work ethic to make that happen.
“All the guys that came back or stayed, including me, have a solid career or job that works for their lifestyle,” said Daniels. “I have been fishing my whole life, why do you think I’m becoming a charter fisherman? I stayed because I knew what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it.”
Leaving the crowd
Choosing not to go to college is a big choice, and one that some may see as unorthodox, regardless of who you are. For some, college was never a blip on their radar.
Personally, I am going to college. Im walking the line between living the college lifestyle, and diving head first into a career. Attending a maritime academy is going to set me up directly into the maritime industry. I could stay home and work my way up to the top on smaller boats, but that is not what I want to do. I have friends who have stayed in town that have taken paths similar to the one I just described, but I saw what they have been through, and I don’t want that for myself.
Alec Simmons, Kayhi class of 2017, also chose not to follow in the footsteps of his close friends. He did not go to college, instead he set up shop doing what he loves.
After graduating high school, Simmons made the tough decision to forgo college and join the workforce.
“When I decided to become a charter guide, I knew I would have to sacrifice some things that my friends couldn’t relate too,” said Simmons. “Instead of taking out student loans, I was taking out a boat loan to start my career.”
Simmons claims a few of his friends have since followed in his footsteps.
“A few other guys my age have either already started or are just getting into the charter game, and a few more are leaving college to come home and pursue a career,” he said. “At first I was worried I would miss out on a fun chapter of life, but now that I have seen multiple friends drop out and come home, I am confident I made the right decision.”
Through countless long conversations and back and forth friendly arguments, Alec and I have found some solid common ground. Within this, Alec has made it clear to me that it is important to figure out where you want to be, rather than what you want to do. By doing this, the path that will take you to your goals will open wide.
“I knew if I was going to skip college I had to get off my [butt] and get things started quick,” said Simmons. “I’m nowhere near where I want to be in the end, but by making that my top priority, I have found myself doing what I love in order to get there.”
Every parents dream is for their kid to attend a university, get a degree in something useful, and begin to work. Many college students make it through just one semester of college and realize it is not for them. While many might grind it out and stay in school to please their parents and achieve their own set goals, others decide enough is enough and call it quits.
The way I see it, there are two options after dropping out of college. You can either move back home and live off your parents until they make you pay rent. Or you can become a productive member of society.
Dante Troina, Kayhi class of 2018, decided after one year at Northern Arizona University, that college was not what he wanted.
“I decided that I didn’t want to go to college anymore. Period. It wasn’t for me.”
After cutting ties with NAU, Troina began searching for a career at sea, ultimately signing on with Norwegian Cruise Lines.
“After 3 months of FaceTime calls, questionnaires, and phone interviews; I was hired,” he said. “I officially got assigned to the Norwegian Pearl on November 1st, with a starting date of November 22nd.”
Troina sees the cruise industry as not only an alternate path from college, but also an experience to benefit his future self. He also recognizes the immense potential the industry has to offer.
Having both been born and raised in Ketchikan, and having family businesses involved in the industry, Dante and I see eye to eye. He had planned on staying with the local side of the industry, but realized the ships were calling his name. The only way to do that was to drop out of college and make it happen.
“I thought it would be a really good way to put away money and also see the world,” said Troina. “I’ve settled nicely into my role in under a month and am really starting to feel like I have the best job in the world, and that it’s a job that belongs to me — I’m not just a kid on an adventure anymore.”
Troina plans to remain with Norwegian and continue traveling the world as a shore excursion manager.
Having personally worked with and around Dante on several occasions, his decision to swap sides did not surprise me one bit.
One thing that did surprise me was the fact that his mother, a career teacher, allowed him to leave school and join the workforce. I guess this proves that if you really find what works for you, others will see it as well.
So whether you are a lone surviving member of your friend group, a blue collar working man, or a college dropout pursuing a dream, the path you take is only what you make of it.
As a senior in high school, some of the decisions I make now will shape the entire outcome of my life. So decide where you want to be in 10 years, 10 months, or even 10 hours. Whatever you do in the time period you have set for yourself will be something you can look back on and improve over the course of your next journey.