Editor's note: The United States has slipped against its peers in education attainment over the last few decades. The country now ranks 10th in the world in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with high school degrees, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, while Americans ages 55 to 64 still rank No. 1. There's a similar fall in college: Older Americans rank third across the globe, while the younger age group is 13th.
Yahoo News asked Americans without high school or college degrees to share their story and tell us how they believe their lives are different because they lack a diploma. Here's one perspective.
FIRST PERSON | Expendable.
That describes how I felt after I dropped out of college. At the time, I was not sure what was going on in my mind. I guess the simplest answer would be that I did not care for school. I dropped out when I was 20, back in 2006. I was finishing my general education requirements and was thinking of majoring in sociology, philosophy or film.
I envy those who have a passion for a "paying dream," like those who want to be teachers, engineers or doctors. All I ever cared about was philosophy and film. But this was not something I saw myself making a living at.
I was accepted at Cal State Northridge, Cal State Los Angeles, and UC Berkeley. I opted to go to Glendale Community College. I did not have a car, and I guess I did not want to be that far from my home. During college, my parents struggled financially, so I got a job in retail to help them. Money started coming in, and I lost the little desire I had for school. I decided not to transfer to a university after I completed my two years, even though my mom encouraged me to do so, and I did not obtain a degree. If I continued going to school, I would have graduated from a university in 2008.
In my third year of working, I met a girl. We were swept up in a whirlwind of love. We had an intimate ceremony in Spain and another wedding ceremony with friends and family when we came back home. I began to get tired of the way management was mistreating everyone at work, and I felt expendable. I decided to quit. I lived off my wife's paycheck for a while as I came up with another plan to make money. Yes, I know this was foolish, even more so now looking back. Bad luck hit our little family. Her family's business of 30 years closed down, and she was out of a job. That was the beginning of a spiral of unfortunate events. We lost everything. We moved to my parents' place in Los Angeles until we could climb out of this hole. We are still here. It has been a year and half. But there is light ahead.
I am freelancing now in marketing. I also launched my own film review site. This makes us about $36,000 per year or more, in addition to my wife's income. It is not much, but we are fine with what we have right now.
This experience has strengthened our marriage in many ways. We are finally looking for a home of our own now. Did I make all the right decisions? I don't think so, but that is what life is about. I am now 26, and if I could go back in time, I still would not finish college. Perhaps not completing college ruined me for the workforce. But I was never a wage-earner anyway.
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