Goodbye Gap Year
It’s a bittersweet feeling but I’m finally home for good. Never before has a year gone by so quickly. And never before have I experienced and learned so much in that amount of time. Taking time off from academics has by far been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Before taking a gap year I was always confused as to why people who had been on one didn’t develop a little more on what it was like. Now, I understand. It’s difficult to reflect on an entire year, and each person’s experience is highly personal. If I had to describe in one sentence why this year was so meaningful to me, it’s because it allowed me to gain perspective. With each new person I met, new skill I was shown, new country I discovered, I realized how small my world before had been.
A friend I met on my gap year (Suzy) shared this quote with me: “Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.” (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) Lately I’ve started asking people if they find that quote negative or positive. At first I personally found it negative but I now see it as freeing. Life has so many different colors and textures; there is so much out there to discover and try. It’s vast and exciting and makes me enthusiastic about this life philosophy: “If you surrender[…] to the air, you [can] ride it.” (Song of Solomon)
At the beginning of this year I think I was searching for something, but I didn’t really know what I was searching for. I was motivated but I felt like every step forward was a struggle, like I was forcing something. What I realized during this year is that I was trying really hard to ask the right questions, find the right answers, and move in a linear direction but that’s not living. During the year I simplified it down to allowing myself to be curious and that felt natural. All the things we focus on improving (our intelligence, our empathy, our dedication) happen on their own when we are curious. We learn the minute we decide to ask a question. When we learn we add details to our understanding of the world and therefore become more empathetic. And once we’ve experienced the sensation of making our world a little bigger, we’re instinctually motivated to repeat the process because of how satisfying it feels.
Do you ever feel like you are asleep when you are awake? More often than we’d like to admit we feel tired and put ourselves in automatic. “[We] are under the illusion that [we] would be even more tired if [we] listened with concentration. But the opposite is true. Any activity, if done in a concentrated fashion, makes one more awake.” (The Art of Loving) It’s a simple yet eye-opening observation. So, take an interest in everything you are exposed to; it’s the greatest gift you can give yourself and others.
To anyone reading, I hope you find purpose, balance and happiness. I’ll leave you with this final quote (can you guess which song it’s from?):
“If you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.”