Recently I was reminded about the day I quit high school. Many of my friends believed the decision was made in haste, far from it. I spent a great deal of time on it. I even called a few potential employers and inquired if a high school diploma was mandatory and pleased to learn that it wasn't.
So on a beautiful day in May, I made my decision. It was the first time that I enjoyed my breakfast without my stomach churning at the thought of another day in school. I caught the bus and moved toward the back where a group of people that I was close with were sitting.
As I moved I looked at the faces of the others on the bus and was not sorry that I wouldn't be seeing them after today. We arrived at the high school took out place in the hallway and waited for the bell to ring. I glanced around at the others waiting with mixed feelings.
No more being bullied and no more failed tests. No more gym classes and being humiliated by testosterone-laden teens in the wrestling mat or the basketball court.
When the bell peeled I headed to the office and not with the others heading upstairs where my locker and homeroom were.
"Where are you going?" one buddy asked.
"I've had enough of this crap, I'm quitting," I responded.
I headed to the office and approached the first female I saw at the counter.
"What can I do for you?" she asked.
"I'd like to quit school," I responded.
Now this older female had worked for the school board since she graduated college and had heard everything so she showed no signs of surprise or emotion.
"You must be sixteen to quit. If younger than that your need a note from your parents," she responded in a matter-of-fact voice.
I extracted my driver's license and showed her that I was seventeen. She went to the end of the counter and pulled out a long file drawer. She extracted a number of papers that were stapled together and wrote something on them. She then came back to where I was standing and place two sheets of paper in front of me.
"Sign and date these," she instructed. "Now what about your books and the damage to them?"
I opened the paper bag and withdrew all the books given to me at the start of the year. I then produced a ten-dollar bill and handed it to her.
"This should cover it. By the way, I will need a receipt for that," I said in a calm voice.
As she wrote out the receipt the principal appeared. He was of moderate height and always well dressed, he greeted me and asked what brought me here instead of homeroom. When I told him of my reason he seemed distressed.
"We should talk about this course of action you're taking," he replied.
"There is nothing to talk about. I was kept back a year when my family moved to this suburb as the rate of education in the city was sub-standard compared to here and I have no intention of spending another year in the same grade. What put the icing on the cake for me was when one of the teachers wrote in red ink across the top of a returned test 'You flunked again, stupid."
The principal appeared quite angry at this confession.
"One of my teachers did that, why didn't you bring that to my attention?" he asked.
"Having a snitch title hung on me would only make things worse. Besides this was a very popular teacher so I can't see much happening to him," I answered.
The principal could see that there was no point in trying to convince me to change my mind and instructed the woman at the counter to issue me a hall pass so I could clean out my locker. As I waited for my hall pass my guidance counselor appeared and bade me a good morning.
"What bring you down here so early?" she asked.
"I'm quitting school," responded.
Like the principal, she seemed distressed.
"Are you sure that's a wise course of action?" she asked keeping her voice low.
"You have told me in not so many words that I was failing this grade so I decided to go," I replied.
She started to speak and I interrupted her.
"Please, no more of your motivational speeches as I know them all by heart. Let me see if I have them correct. There is the nose-to-the-grindstone speech followed by the applying yourself one. Then there is the suggestion of work for extra credit and finding a tutor. Do I have them right?
"How far do you think you'll get without a high school diploma?" she asked.
"As far as I want to," I replied.
"There is night school if you decide that you need help," she offered.
"I will consider it. Now if I may take your leave I'm going to be late for an interview," I replied.
"Goodbye and good luck," she added.
As I exited the building for the last time I felt a weight being lifted off of me. As I walked across the deserted football field I recalled a verse from the King James Version of the Bible. 'And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.'
I wiped my feet on the soft grass before continuing my journey to the future.