Dear Lauren,

I want to drop out of high school and follow my dream to go on tour with a rock band. My parents of course won’t let me. I feel stuck in a boring existence. Should I just take off and do it anyway?

Wait! Don’t go yet—let me grab my suitcase—I’m coming along! Seriously, I would love to run away and join a rock band, too; sounds exciting, invigorating, creative….

Your dream is a lovely one, and never give up or lose that artistic spirit which moves you to want to create and play music.

However, I do have a question for you: is there something you are running from? Because, although the creative process of making music is a laudable life’s goal, why does it necessitate your leaving high school? What are you running from which makes you feel the need to not complete your schooling?

Whenever I counsel my clients, I always try and make sure they and I both know what the actual problem is; otherwise, my helping them work things through will be ineffective and ineffectual. You have to know the real problem in order to figure out the correct solution. You say your existence is boring. That’s the issue to tackle first. What about your present life is not fulfilling or exciting enough? And is it really excitement which you feel is missing from your life, or is it a sense of purpose which is lacking?

Is it really excitement which you feel is missing from your life, or is it a sense of purpose which is lacking?

Is the “exciting” or “anti-boring” life in a rock band on the road really going to fill that empty place you feel inside? In my (granted, vicarious) experience, rock bands on the road are basically about removing themselves from reality via drugs, alcohol, and other numbing activities. I’m not convinced that numbing yourself will solve your problem—the problem will likely just fester, as you drift through some time in a semi-conscious state. Is that really what you want?

Just last week I experienced an example of not knowing the real problem, and, therefore, not providing the correct solution. I was in Shop Rite, and I saw two men bending down near the milks. One was shaking his head, and said to the other, “She said ‘Shop Rite organic milk,’ but I don’t see it here.” I thought to myself, “How sweet! Two men, out shopping for their wives or girlfriends. So nice of them. Poor guy, though. Can’t find the Shop Rite organic milk she wrote on the shopping list. It’s right there in front of him. What a Kiddush Hashem [sanctification of God's Name] it’ll be if I help him find it.” So, being the Good Samaritan I am (or, rather, the Good Jew), I said, “So nice of you to shop for her! There’s the Shop Rite organic milk, right there.”

The two men turned towards me, looked at me incredulously, burst out laughing, and showed me their Shop Rite badges with their names emblazoned on them. “Did we look that clueless? We work here and our manager had us looking for something!”

If we don’t figure out what the real problem is, our solutionizing will miss the mark. In your case, the real question is: what is it about your existence now that dissatisfies you? Do you have friends who understand you? Do your parents listen to you and appreciate you? Are you able to find subjects in school which you feel you are proficient at, and which can excite your passion for life? If your answer to any of those questions was “No,” then my advice to you is: stay where you are, and work out those issues.

If you don’t have close friends, figure out what it is about you or about the friends you choose which doesn’t allow the relationships to flourish. If your parents aren’t accepting and respectful of you as a person, talk to them about their feelings, ask them to listen to yours, and maybe even get a third party involved to help you work it through. If you don’t find satisfaction in school, maybe use your creative thinking to figure out a way to make school more comfortable for you. Maybe talk to your teachers about a creative assignment instead of the regular, dry one. Maybe talk to the principal about your spearheading an artistic initiative in the school.

Many times we run, but we can never hide from ourselves. As the saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Instead of running away, my vote is for staying in high school—staying with the difficulty—and working it through. Sometimes all the good we seek is actually in our own backyard—or, in your case, in your own garage…rock on!!