Ermagherd, it’s the first day of my 31 Days challenge! (This is what I am doing).
Deep breath, here goes!
Being brutally honest, I had a really shit time in high school. I never fit in, rarely had proper friends, and was always ostracised and bullied. Having zero backbone and a deep desire to be accepted, I billowed from pillar to post, just trying to find a place I belonged. That, of course, meant I fell in with “the wrong crowd” (because none of the “right ones” would have me), and by the time I was 15, I was wagging pretty much every day. My early high school years were spent in a small town in Queensland that I had lived in for the most part of my life. Small towns mean slim pickin’s for friends, and if one turned on you, the whole school did. Almost every day I was on the outer for some infraction or another, and it got mighty tiring mighty quickly. Still not knowing how to tell them all to get lost, I spent a lot of my time being angsty and annoyed and eating my lunch alone. I also moved a couple of times, so being the new girl sucked pretty hard.
When I was 14 I moved to Fremantle in Western Australia, and that’s where the thing that happened in high school that changed my life forever: I quit it. I quit school a couple of days after my 16th birthday, the legal age I could leave. I hadn’t been to school very much since I moved there 18 months prior, and one day when I did decide to show up, a friend saw me before class and held out a piece of the morning notices she’d ripped off to give me. These notices went out to the whole school (1100 students) and it said “If Stacey Godden turns up to class, please direct her to the principal’s office”. I walked out of there and never went back.
I think I probably went to Timezone near the Hungry Jack’s in Freo that I went to pretty much every day anyway. We would bum cigarettes and a few dollars here and there off strangers, and we’d buy chips with chicken salt, and occasionally steal things from Myer. Sometimes we’d get drunk and sit in playgrounds, going home to make Continental pasta and sauce in the microwave before playing Nintendo and passing out by 4pm. I think my report card for the last half of Year 10 said I had 55 unexplained absences – my first term of Year 11 wasn’t looking any better. I had moved across the country to live with my dad, with whom I hadn’t lived since I was six years old. I didn’t think anyone cared what I did (to be fair, my parents had new families of their own and I was a bit of a bother), or where I went, or that I was OK. I wrote about it a little here.
I told my dad I quit school and he said I needed to get a job. I phoned my mum back in Queensland and told her I quit school and I can’t remember what she said, but I come from a long line of school leavers and I don’t think it worried her too much. I wrote about that here.
Well, about a year later, it worried me. School is my jam, education is my currency. I thought about going back to school to finish when I moved to northern NSW a few months later and found it hard finding friends when I was home all day and anybody my age was at school. But I thought back over my track record of school friends and realised I hadn’t had much luck before.
I spent the next 10 years chasing what I’d lost – a high school certificate and a university degree. I had always wanted to go to uni (although in my small town growing up it seemed like a mathematical impossibility), and I keenly felt the absence of doing what I knew I needed to do. At 19 I went to TAFE on the Gold Coast and did a certificate of adult education, which would enable me to apply for university the next year. I graduated from that year of TAFE with the highest marks of anyone who had ever done that course.
I was accepted into a double degree of psychology and primary education, with an OP 3. I spent the first year liking my education subjects and loving my psych ones, so I then switched to straight psych. I did that for another two years before moving to the Sunshine Coast and thinking I would just wait until they offered a psychology degree at their university so I could finish. But they didn’t until about 10 years later and by that point I’d already gotten bored and finished a Certificate II in Hospitality, a Certificate III of Education Support, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism, Politics and International Relations. I graduated top of my class in Journalism, with a 6.25 GPA, only three-quarters of a mark off a perfect score. I was immediately hired to teach there as a tutor in media law and online journalism, and a year later enrolled in the honours program, intending to further study journalism and politics, with a thesis on the reciprocal relationship between Australian politics and the media. I deferred a month later when I found out I was pregnant with Pepper and thinking that level of study with a newborn and a toddler would be nigh on impossible. But I’ve worked at that university as a tutor ever since because APPARENTLY I LOVE LEARNING AND I CAN’T SEEM TO LEAVE TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS.
So there you have it – the thing in high school that changed my life forever. Would I have spent most of my life after high school earning so many qualifications? Who can say. But there’s no doubt quitting school at 16 is probably going to have an impact on your life. Heh.