Tales of an Art School Dropout

A crowded Spirited Goat after a musical performance

Have you ever ended up in the most perfect place, at the most perfect time? Like all the planets aligned in such a way that was almost unreal?

That’s how I felt after deciding to drop out of school.

This isn’t a story about how everyone should forego a college education, leave everything to chance, and fully envelop yourself in experiencing the uncertainty of life… but sometimes that happens. For me, that time came when I was 20 years old and had just completed my first year of college. Intimidated by student debt and responsibility, I decided to drop out indefinitely. That’s when I started spending all my time in a small village just outside of Dayton, Ohio.

Yellow Springs is an interesting place with an interesting history. It was founded in 1825 by about 100 families who were followers of Welsh social reformer, Robert Owen. Their goal was to turn Yellow Springs into a utopian community, complete with it’s very own healing springs which are the namesake of the town. It also featured one of the final stops on the Underground Railroad, and in 1979, became the smallest municipality to pass an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. It has always been a tiny liberal island hiding in an ocean of corn fields in Southern Ohio. Today, Yellow Springs has a population of under 4,000.

I found my home in the Spirited Goat Coffee House at 118 Dayton Street. The walls are covered in dreamy orange and pink clouds that stretch around all sides of the main room. The coffee bar is to the left, and bench seats are on the right. At any given moment, there is at least one person lying down on the benches, relaxing as if they were at home. There is a stage in the far right corner of the room, and guests are free (if not encouraged) to get on stage and play music as they please. There are weekly open mics, musical performances, comedy nights, poetry slams, and more. The owner, Mike, is a sarcastic asshole and one of the most kind, generous people I’ve ever known. He welcomes misfits, homeless, people of all ages and backgrounds into his shop. He challenges your perception of reality. You always leave the Spirited Goat with more than you came. I worked there as a barista for two years, and it was still one of the greatest jobs I’ve had.

While off the clock, I was one of the people lounging around the shop, as if it was my home- because it was. My friends did too. We would lie around until a large enough group of friends arrived, then go for a walk through one of the nearby parks within walking distance. We mapped out every square inch of Glen Helen Nature Preserve, John Bryan State Park, and Clifton Gorge. These three parks all joined together to create one giant playground for my barefoot cadre.

Left to right: Me, Kelin, Jessica

Seasons flew by, and I enjoyed every blistering summer and frigid winter. Every day of every season was meant to be spent outdoors. I hosted art shows, learned how to spin fire poi, attended my friends’ concerts, traveled alone to Los Angeles, and learned how to pull damn good espresso shots. I learned that you can’t plan everything, and relinquishing control of your life can sometimes lead to some of the best moments you can possibly imagine.

My friend Chris once said something like, “Right now, we are living in the ‘good ol’ days.” and he was completely right. We were, and I still am. It’s great to recognize those moments while they’re still happening so you can appreciate them entirely.

So fast forward: I realized I didn’t want to live that chaotic life forever. I went back to school, graduated, and got a job in a field that I am passionate about. I’ve lived in three states in two years, and have finally settled into a place I really belong. I’m still living in the “good ol’ days” and enjoying every moment. It’s easy to get caught up planning what’s next, but it’s important to remember to appreciate what’s here and now.

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