Hey @Gascoigne, welcome to HeartSupport! You came to the right place.
10 years ago this month, I was faced with the same 3 choices you’re looking at. I had been in school for 6 years and only had an associate’s degree to show for it. I hated school because it was boring and not compelling. I “knew” I needed to finish school so I could be worth something. That changed one day in March of 2013. I was walking to class, got to the steps of the building, then turned and walked away. I didn’t know why, but I knew with absolute certainty I couldn’t go into that building and sit through another class.
I drove home and told my mom I couldn’t do it anymore. She said “Then don’t. It’s clear to everyone that you’re unhappy in school, but you refuse to admit it to yourself. Take time off. Don’t keep working your part time jobs, try to find a job in your field. You can always go back, but for now you’re wasting time and money and you’re making yourself miserable without getting anything done.” When she laid it out like that, it was a logical no-brainer choice I wish I’d made earlier.
I got a low level drafting job. It didn’t pay much and the office was toxic, but I was working in my chosen field. Three months into that, I was looking through job listings, found one that sounded interesting, and got hired as a mechanical designer at a well-established company, where they took the time to train me up on machine design principles and best practices. Fast forward a year and a half, a recruiter called me about a job at a bigger company with higher pay and more difficult work, where I again asked all the questions I could and asked for the most challenging work until I’d mastered it. Two jobs later, I’m making as much money as most of my peers with engineering degrees, doing the same work, with the same title, at a company that offers me growth opportunities and prioritizes employee wellness and success.
I can pat myself on the back all day long, but the point is that dropping out of school doesn’t doom you to a life of menial unfulfilling work. I really wish there wasn’t so much emphasis placed on higher education, both in primary education and by employers, when on the job training will matter more than schooling anyhow. For now, find a job in your field. You’ll find fulfillment in it, you’ll gain confidence, and you can decide whether you want to go back to school to go to the next level or if you see a career path from entry level. Going for medicine? See about becoming a medical assistant or a phlebotomist. Finance? Start out as a bank teller. Engineering? Start as a draftsman or mechanical designer. Not having a degree has kept a lot of doors shut for me, but the jobs I’ve worked have been with companies that were willing to give me a chance and train me up, and those have been more rewarding and personal experiences than I’d have had with companies that hired based on qualifications alone.
Faced with a dead end, get a shovel and start tunneling out. You are never out of options in life. Times might be unpleasant, but you can always find a way. Good luck