The High School Dropout Explains Herself and Wonders

Hi everybody!

Fun fact about me:

I’m one of those high school dropouts.

Three years ago I was a freshman at a local high school with over 3,500 kids. My history of schooling was a wandering path through states and institutions private and public. I had dropped out of school twice before, and the only school I had ever attended for more than one year was a Montessori for 7th and 8th grade, with only about 30 kids in the entire middle school.

The year didn’t start out well, with students like myself being sexually harassed and one committing suicide. Math and Science were the absolute lowest levels, and I became rather like a teacher assistant for math.

There were good parts. Two of my classes were part of the GATE program (like honors, but instead of extra paperwork, art projects), and quickly became engaging enough to keep my interest much of the time. Yoga and Theater were my electives, two of the most coveted classes in the school. Yoga changed my life, beginning to knock down the harmful self-consiousness issues I harbored at the time. Theater taught me how to increase outward confidence to stand out from competition, even if I wasn’t confident inwardly. Creative writing cemented my interest in writing creatively and is probably the reason this blog exists.

But I was bored out of my mind.

Bored to tears!

I felt I was wasting my time being told what to do. In practice, school controls you 24/7 if you factor in homework, and the fact you have to be somewhere from the morning to afternoon (plus travel time) which makes any kind of traveling difficult and impractical.

What was I learning I couldn’t learn elsewhere or by myself, in a much less toxic and redundant, and much more stimulating, environment?

Khan Academy would serve as math.

The library and it’s colossal collection of literary works would serve as English and History, as well as Math and Science.

Of course, the internet boasts all sorts of labratory-at-home ideas for Science, and classes or informational websites on every subject I could ever take at any high school.

And the very best way to learn was by doing, right? Homeschooling would leave me the freedom to participate fully in NaNoWriMo and other writing adventures, to travel, to attend conferences, to get a job or internship, to practice silent mediation in the mountains for a week.

So I dropped out over the winter break.

I ended up

  • “writing a novel” by surpassing my 50,000 word goal by 10 words in 21 days (Camp NaNoWriMo)…
  • …before going to Costa Rica for 12 days on an educational adventure (after fundraising over $1000)
  • job shadowing at a local veterinarian’s office for 4 hours/week for months (10am-12pm Tues&Thurs)
  • completing a job readiness workshop
  • completing a college prep workshop
  • spending much needed quality time with my mother, brother, sister, and father
  • taking a literary analysis class on the Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • completing independent studies in math, history, biology, and current events
  • and much much more I never could have done otherwise.

It was worth it. There is no experience that can compare.

My only problem was the social scene. There weren’t as many people my age around, and I grew a little lonely. Sometimes it was worth it to have left the rather judgmental A-F soup that is high school; sometimes I considered returning to school just to have more “friends.”

On the Costa Rica trip, I saw how happy the seniors from CHS were with their choice of school, and decided to go there for sophomore year with the understanding I’d drop out if I really didn’t like it.

It turned out CHS was a good fit. However, by the time winter break rolled around, I didn’t think I wanted to leave, but I knew I was ready for a change. That was when I started looking into study abroad programs for the following school year.

Now I’m back, and CHS is still probably the best high school for me. But especially considering my recent travels, the education system in Arizona, no matter the forward thinking teachers there, is rather mundane.

I just happened to find a book called College Without High School by Blake Boles, given to me freshmen year when I dropped out. It’s quite the inspiration, really, and offers a lifestyle of many appeals. However, the social scene….


Thoughts are required.



Re-Entry is so much fun (not)

This is a new category, “Re-Entry”, where I’ll put posts specific to reverse culture shock, en-entry shock, coming home––there are many names for the effects on a traveler coming “home” after living abroad for an extended period of time.

So what’s the big deal about re-entry shock? Culture shock in your host country is understandable. A new language, new people, new social standards––basically, new everything, including toilet paper (if not the toilets themselves). Adjustment is difficult, and homesickness is the exchange student’s worst enemy.

But coming back to a country and lifestyle you’d lived for years (in my case, 16), that should be easy, right?

I thought it would be. I expected that once I got over the little things like a three story house, clean and running water, limitless electricity (in comparison), and throwing the toilet paper in the toilet instead of the trash, things would pretty much go back to normal.

If only this were the case.

You may even feel like you are on a roller coaster—one minute excited to be home and proud to share all you’ve learned, and the next bored or frustrated and feeling out of sync with those people who have always been closest to you.

This is an excerpt from an article by, a website on opportunities and advice for those wishing to travel abroad. If you know anybody who has recently returned from time abroad, I encourage you to do some research so you can better understand what your friend is going through.

As I was reading, I felt as if somebody was reading my mind and putting all these feelings jumbled inside into cohesive sentences. It’s almost unnerving how accurate these articles’ descriptions are. My life seems to be that roller coaster, where day I’ll be gloomy and weary of the mundane, and the next, something will have sparked a memory and I can’t help the flood of facts, opinions, and experiences that pour out of my mouth, dominating the conversation for the next five minutes or more, leaving the other unlucky person to fend for themselves.

This list describes it well:

Below are some of the top challenges students face when coming home:

  • Boredom
  • Nobody wants to hear about our experiences
  • It’s hard to explain
  • Relationships have changed
  • Feelings of alienation; seeing home with critical eyes
  • Fear of losing the experience, like storing it away in a souvenir box that we only occasionally look at
  • Fear of losing the new friends we have made overseas

High school, after only a few weeks, is arduous to sit through.

There are many people who ask about Panamá, but few who have the background knowledge to truly understand the “long story short” version, and the backstory of Panamá takes too long for the uninformed to sit through.

Even if they do have the time and energy to try to learn about Panamá, where am I suppose to start? I have to explain the entire school system, the politics, the poverty, the people, the culture, etc, before I can even begin to answer their question about what I learned in school.

My best friends from then are still my best friends now… right? I no longer feel completely dependent on my parents… how does this new agreement of independent people sharing a household differ from dependents living with independents?

Every time I see somebody throw away good food, I don’t understand, and a shiver runs up my spine.

Fear of loosing this new mindset is a huge weight on my mind! I don’t want to loose the person I found, yet I fear it’s already too late to save her completely.

Finally, the friends still abroad. I’ve stopped using Facebook as much because it seems most people on there are the people I may never see again.

I would add also that personally, being on time and instant accountability is onerous after living in the relaxed part of a Latin American country. In Changuinola, you’d maybe call if you were going to be 30 minutes or more late. Here, even one minute past the meeting time and you’ve suddenly got the reputation of being unreliable. Same thing with turning in hefty homework assignments the day after they’re assigned, or typing up meeting notes and sending them out to the group ASAP.

Re-entry, folks. It’s a lotta’ fun.


The Page Position: Not as medieval as it sounds.

Three weeks ago, I began work at a local library as a page. A “page” is defined in the New Oxford American Dictionary as “a young person, usually in uniform, employed in a hotel or other establishment to run errands, open doors, etc.” 

Historically, pages worked for the royals and upper classes as errand-boys (or so authors like Tamora Pierce tell me).

In today’s society, the only time I hear about a “page” is at the library, which lends a certain distinction to the position, and bestows a peculiar air of mystery to the worker when asked by strangers what their day job is.

Duties of a Page

Every day, we are assigned activities to do on a hourly schedule.

“Carts”: Shelving books takes up the majority of our workload. Hundreds of items (books, audiobooks, DVDs, CDs, picture books, magazines) are returned daily and need to be re-shelved or packaged up to be sent to another branch. Once the item is checked in, they’re sorted by category (fiction, non-fiction, si-fi, mystery, western, child, teen, CD, DVD, audiobook) onto carts, which are then taken out to be distributed by author’s last name, first name; or by the Dewey Decimal System.

“Paging Slips”: A list of newly reserved items is printed out, with sometimes 100 items or more, and pages are sent out to find the item and bring it back, where a transfer slip is printed and tucked between the pages and they’re sorted into boxes.

“Shelf Read”: All pages are assigned a section to go through throughly to make sure all books are in the right order.

“Computer Monitor”: The true customer service part of the page job. The main attractions at my branch are the computers. However, not everybody knows how to use a computer. We aid patrons in sign-up and log-in, opening web browsers, finding the URL bar, printing, scanning, faxing, and so much more.

“Open” and “Close”: Unlocking doors, raising flags and taking them down, picking up the books randomly dispersed through the library, putting out the day’s newspapers, consolidating the twenty-something recycle bins into two, restarting computers, etc.

The two things I like best about working at the public library is the relatively relaxed environment (vs. say, a cafe), and how each day there is something new to work on, a different problem to solve, be it printer problems or calling the police in to deal with troublesome patrons. (Also, we get paid just under $10/hour, which is pretty sweet for the pre-college kid.)

Not to mention the multitude of books I end up checking out that I’ve found while shelving that just look too good to let go of.

If you’re looking for a job, apply to your local library. The U.S. has a great library system unlike anywhere else on the planet. Take advantage of it!


Written with the intention of posting

Hi everybody,

Blogging seriously is something I really want to do with my life at this moment. The challenge? Actually sitting down and writing something. Well, finishing something. I have lots of one-sentence starts, sometimes even paragraphs, but nothing “good” enough to actually post out there on the internet as the digital representation of myself.

Charlieissocoollike is a Youtube vlogger I’ve been watching irregularly for years, somebody I look at and think, “If only I could make content that professional and unique. Then would post it all the time too.” Recently I went to his early videos, back when Youtube was just starting out. Guess what I found? While easily tolerable, they’re not quite as good as the ones today. Over time, he’s gotten much better at making videos that I, and many others on Youtube, enjoy.

Practice makes perfect, right?

Starting today, I’m going to make it a goal to post.

Just get it out there.

How else will I improve?

The excuse I usually end up using for not posting or even not writing is that I don’t want people to be offended, or for the people I know in real life who might look at this blog to make assumptions based on the content and style of my blog. It’s a little scary to just put something out there for my peers and more to read, without me standing by to explain any misunderstandings, or my reasons for having the views I do.

One solution I thought about was coming up with an anonymous blog and putting possibly controversial posts or just stuff I didn’t want anybody who had my name to be able to find. The main issue with that is that I could never claim credit for that without rendering the whole thing pointless. And the posts that I like and want to show to both circles I would have to somehow rewrite because it would be too suspicious to have two blogs posting identical posts at times.

For now, I’ll just focus on this one, and put a disclaimer on it: Come talk to me in person (or send me a comment or email) if you have questions or concerns, okay?

Later gator.


Welcome to the new blog!

Hola and bienvenido to the reinvented “No Expectations: Phoebeaway’s Adventures in Panama” blog! Since I’m no longer in Panamá, a change of titles and topics are required. 

After Panamá is the expanded blog where I’ll not only write about events that happened in Panamá, and how what I’m experiencing now, but it will also feature more general posts about anything I can think of.

Enjoy! I hope you like the new theme.