Why I Chose To Take a Gap Year
Note: I recognize that not everyone has the financial resources nor perhaps the parental support needed to be able to take a year off from academics to explore other fields. That being said, I hope these reflections are relevant not just to people taking a gap year but to anyone who seeks to pursue their interests by availing themselves of the opportunities they are given, or that they make.
It’s easy to say “I’ll do it later.” Will you?
Our most valued commodity is time. I consistently hear people say, and I’m guilty of it myself, “If I had more time, I would…” Then that free afternoon comes around and the desire to rest from the long week (take a nap, watch TV, relax) takes precedence. The issue with this cycle is that goals start to become confused with fantasies.
While in the midst of working towards my International Baccalaureate diploma, I spent the majority of my time studying or with my family and friends. I wanted to learn how to cook, to read more, to travel, but time couldn’t always afford me that luxury. I had to choose my priorities. It therefore became customary to list goals I wouldn’t necessarily have a chance to undertake.
Taking a year off will allow me to identify what goals I thought up on a whim and what goals I truly want to accomplish.
It’s easy to criticize. Can you make it better?
Although we don’t necessarily mean to, the majority of us have a natural tendency to criticize.
I’ve always been very enthusiastic about school but over time I started to notice what I considered to be flaws in the system. I would be listening to a lecture and thinking: “Classes shouldn’t be as long. We should be given time to study from our textbooks at home and then use time in class to exchange ideas, ask questions, conduct creative projects.” It seemed like a great idea, perhaps it still is, but it’s certainly not all that simple. How do you train teachers to acquire the skills for such a curriculum? What about students who need assistance learning from a textbook, or don’t have the necessary stable atmosphere at home to do so?
Now that’s only one example, but in general it’s easy to criticize a system that is currently in place but it’s a whole other story coming up with a better version of that system.
My hope is that taking time off will allow for one of two things to take place, and ideally a mix of both. Just as distance makes the heart grow fonder, so much unstructured free time might allow me to better appreciate the structures that were handed to me on a silver platter. Conversely, exposure to new cultures and perspectives might make me see things differently, and inspire me to design a structure of my own.
Both outcomes appeal to me because suddenly criticism is replaced with either appreciation or inspiration.
It’s easy to go with the crowd. Is that the right approach for you?
The most customary way of life is to go to school, get a job, get married, and so on. Now just in the same way classics are classics for a reason, chances are this lifestyle is one that makes most people happiest. Yet there are some that find themselves blindly conforming to societal norms and then later wondering if they didn’t make a mistake somewhere along the way.
In math class, my teacher would always insist, “Before you can confidently use a formula, you need to prove to yourself from first principles that it works”. I want to use my time off to do just that. A gap year is a chance to experiment with lifestyles, reflect and acquire a better sense of self. If I’m confident I want to go to college for myself and not just because that’s what is expected of me, my devotion to the undertaking will thrive.
As members of communities, we obviously live within societal frameworks. Yet there’s a lot more flexibility than we assume. My goal for the coming year is to better understand myself and then adapt my life choices accordingly. In turn, I hope to acquire a sense of ownership of, and therefore dedication to, the choices that I make, whichever ones they may be.