Because journalism always takes me to new places and affords me new experiences, I had the honor of attending my very first high school commencement ceremony early this summer.

It was way too early on a Saturday morning (I work at night) and the air stank of hope, promise, endless possibilities and all that other inspirational drivel that makes me want to stab my eardrums. Not today, I told my cynical side (which is really more like a side plus five-sixths of another). You aren't going to sully these young people's good time just because you dropped out of ...

Yeah, that's right. My name is John, and I'm a high school dropout. I'm proud of this, because many other great people in history have quit high school and things worked out well for them — people like Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan.

OK, bad examples, but there is something to be said for summoning up the courage to loudly proclaim, "You know what? I've got better stuff to do today."

I was a good student in elementary school as long as it wasn't devil math. I was well-behaved unless you count that time I was thrown out of DARE class for raising my hand when the police officer teaching the class said, "How many people here would jump off a cliff if all their friends did?"

What can I say? It was a stupid question.

Middle school also went well. I made gunpowder out of dog shit for my sixth-grade science project. By the time high school rolled around, I was bored. I'm too smart for regular classes and too lazy for advanced placement, so I took up petty crime, mostly just to anger school administrators, who were my sworn enemies since third grade. I'm an anarchist at heart.


It's been 20 years, so I'm a little unclear on the timeline. At one point, I was asked to leave school but required to write a letter explaining why they should let me stay. I wrote a letter describing why I wholeheartedly agreed with them throwing me out. The superintendent said that aside from the profanity, it was a very well-written letter.

I also dropped out once because they wouldn't let me wear a hat, which was against the rules. I suffered a serious sunburn during a forced camping trip with my family. My entire scalp peeled off. Because I was an insecure teenage boy, I demanded I be allowed to cover the fried onion on top of my head. It was at that moment I heard the six words that drive me the most crazy:

"Sorry, sir, but our policy says ..."

Of course it was from a school administrator. I put my hat on and walked out.

What followed was nearly a decade of insanity that doesn't bear mentioning here, and my professional life started off late as a result. Aside from making my mom miserable, I have no regrets. It was too much fun.

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