Convincing me over and over again, that I was not allowed to be myself.
Prickly glances, negative whispers and an overarching feeling of discomfort. High school was neither a nice, nor a safe place for me. With boys hurling hurtful words at me for being too feminine in their eyes or even waiting for me in the shadows after a party. With the aim of convincing me time and again that I was not allowed to be myself and that I was definitely not wanted.
I not only had to deal with this kind of behaviour at school, there were also men on the street who felt it necessary to loudly label me as gay. All this behaviour therefore eventually led to me becoming depressed, for which I had to seek help. Therefore, when I got the chance to drop out of high school during that period, I grabbed it firmly with both hands and never looked back. Even though this left me with a learning deficit that I am still trying to make up for to this day.
Benefit seekers, lazy and criminal, this is often how our society looks at people who do not manage to get a piece of paper with the word diploma and thus would disappear down the drain of our society.
All prejudices that, in many cases like mine, could not be further from the truth. I have found my niche within the hospitality industry, which makes me incredibly happy. Yet the fact that I don't have a degree still evokes shame sometimes.
When peers ask about what I study and I have to tell them that I am already fully employed and that I did not manage to complete secondary school, it does set an immediate tone. "How is it that you didn't manage to finish high school?" is then often the follow-up question, but to start explaining to everyone why this is the case, I am usually not looking forward to that.
Besides the shame I sometimes still feel because of other people around me, there was also a period when I felt insecure about not having a diploma. This is partly because the promise of a bright future full of opportunities is often sold with the requirement that you must have completed some sort of education to do so.
If this opportunity suddenly falls away, it definitely starts to gnaw at where you stand within society. Even though this was the right choice, the question remains whether this so-called promise for me has now disappeared. At the end of the day, everyone wants to be happy.