Wish we could turn back time…

If you ever asked me what I was most looking forward to while I was in high school, my answer would be “graduation”. But looking back, 500 days after graduation, I wish I could go back and do things differently.

What prompted this sudden blog post? Well, a couple of things. First, I’ve learned that MCGamer has been down for multiple days in a row, and that its return seems rather unlikely as a result. Do I have an opinion on that situation? Yes, but it’s not one I plan on sharing publicly now (or possibly ever), and it’s not relevant to this post. What is relevant is that the entire situation has made me reflect on the time I spent at MCGamer.

On top of that, a very good friend of mine is going through her final year of high school (well, the Australian equivalent of it, anyways), and I see in her what I saw in myself in my final year: stress. Stress about studying, exams, university, and the future as a whole. This made me really think back to the time to when I was in nearly the exact same position (minus the whole being in a different country with different systems thing).

In the 2012-2013 school year, I was in my sophomore year (year 10, for all the non-Americans out there) of high school. At the beginning of the second term (January 2013), my focus on school dwindled away. But why? One word: money. I joined MCGamer on January 1, 2013, it became my first real paid job. For once, I was earning more money than all of my peers, which meant that I could afford nice things! Sounds great, right?

But not everything was so great. As time went on, my grades slowly started to slip. I would say I still cared about school at this point; I just cared more about what was making me money now (work), rather than what would make me even more money later (doing well in school). That was my main mistake, and remains my main regret.

My junior year (year 11, 2013-2014 school year) was my worst, when it should’ve been my best. For those unfamiliar with the process, American school students spend most of junior/senior year preparing for university. In junior year, students take the ACT/SAT (depending on the state; for Illinois, it was the ACT), which essentially work as university entrance exams. Generally speaking, a higher score, combined with high grades, means you’re more likely to get accepted to better universities, and more likely to get scholarships to help with tuition and fees. I didn’t do too bad on the ACT: I received a composite score of 31, on a scale of 36. But I know I could’ve done so much better. Several friends of mine were getting 34 or higher. If I had focused more, not only would I likely have higher grades and a higher ACT score, but I would’ve been eligible for entry to AP courses, making me eligible for AP credit that would give me a competitive edge in the university application process.

My senior year (year 12, 2014-2015 school year) was a slight improvement, but there was a bit of a change: I really was done with school at that point. Senioritis hit me hard, and I looked forward to graduation and going to university. So, apply to universities I did. One by one, I was denied from universities I applied for. “Okay, fine, most of these were reaches anyways,” I thought. Then I was denied from what I considered a “safety school”. What?

Alright, life goes on. In the end, I looked into the affordability of a few universities I was accepted to. Turns out, I couldn’t afford university. My income from MCGamer, even though it was essentially peanuts, weighed against me so heavily in the financial aid calculations, that my only options were loans and scholarships. So I applied for scholarships. And I didn’t really get too many. If I remember correctly, I had about $1,000 in scholarships at the end of the school year, which didn’t even begin to put a dent in the $25,000+ I’d need for 1 year of university. I could only take out up to $6,000 in loans a year on my own, and the rest of the loan liability would fall on my parents.

I guess that’s not entirely my fault. The American student financial aid system is fucked, and I suppose I just got the short end of the stick by being born in the wrong country. But it is partially my fault. If I had worked harder in school, I could’ve gotten more scholarships, and potentially even have gotten one of the ever-so-elusive “full ride” scholarships.

So if I could go back in time, what would I do? Well, very precisely, I’d focus more on school and less on work. Why should I feel obligated to come home after school and throw hours on end away working for someone else, when I could work for myself (in the form of study/homework/etc)?

But I don’t think I’d avoid MCGamer completely, simply because I’ve made so many lasting friendships through it that I couldn’t imagine not having. I’ve now been to both Perth and Melbourne, and have had a place to live (or at least a sofa bed to crash on) in both, thanks to the hospitality of people I’ve met through work. Right now, typing this blog post, I’m sitting in a home in Melbourne with two MCGamer ex-staff, including myself. And I’m not the only one that has been positively affected by MCGamer’s existence, either. One of my best friends would’ve never met his significant other if it weren’t for MCGamer.

In the end, if you’re reading this and you’re still in school, please take advantage of my experience to make yours better. Do your absolute best when it comes to school, because it will be worth it in the end. If you slack off, no matter the reason, you will regret it in the end. And don’t let work get in the way of school.