This was wrongheaded on a number of levels. For starters, college is a lot more demanding than high school—not that the demands of high school were all that familiar to me, given that I had made little effort to meet them. The other flaw in my pronouncement was that it made an easy assumption about who was footing the bill. My perception, rooted in my Canadian working-class background, was that behind each of these partying coeds were a beneficent and indulging American mom and pop, happily forking over cash to the university, who in turn would feed and water the kid for however long it took for the prefrontal cortex and amygdala to assume their proper weights in the balance of influence.
Floating my "four more years of high school" theory would provoke an earful in response. Did I have any idea what kinds of loans these guys were carrying? I had to admit, I didn't. Much of the expense of their formal education was front-loaded, whereas with my experiential education, I was, in effect, running a tab; especially dangerous, as I'll point out shortly, when you can't do basic math. So, we all felt the weight of expectation. Still, I felt more comfortable not to be carrying all that debt before I had even decided what was worth going into debt for.
Despite being an indifferent high school student, I always enjoyed reading, and was familiar with the story of Sisyphus. I pictured the Maine-iacs, with their student loans, as each having to push a large rock up a mountain. I began to understand that the rock was not the debt, but their course load. The debt was the mountain. Me, I was just dancing on the edge of a cliff.
So each of us, whether they off to college or me off to Hollywood, could be described as full of bluster and bravado, high expectations and low reservations. What separated us, perhaps, was that I lacked a blueprint.
As an exercise, I recently picked up a course catalogue from Hunter College, part of the City University of New York. Reading through the curriculum, I recognized how my life experiences could fit into a prescribed outline for an undergraduate education: the one I had supposedly missed out on. Laying out a series of typical college courses, as described in the catalogue, can help make a case that I have, to some extent, fulfilled the requirements for each particular course while having absolutely no idea I was doing it.
I might have skipped class, but I didn't miss any lessons.