Expectations and Reality of Post-HS Graduation – What is a gap year?

As May comes closer I see my younger friends all hurrying to finish high school, worried about the future before them. I also find myself facing the one year anniversary of my own graduation. To say the least, my mind has been twirling so many thoughts about it I might as well be trying to waltz and summersault at the same time. It’s almost impossible to focus is what I’m trying to say.

 

May 25, 2016….

I stand on the football field, a boy I’ve never met in front of me in a shining orange cap and gown, behind me is my friend of only days whom I’ve sat next to my whole senior year in 3rd.  The boy is called onstage, he hurries up the ramp and collects his diploma posing for a quick carefree photo before moving to shake the hands of the administration on stage. One thought speaks up in my mind “I’m next.” It’s not nervous or excited, its… disconnected. A plainly stated fact as if sent to me from someone else. My name is called by the principal, I suddenly feel like I’m full of air, a strange feeling in my stomach. Pride? Determination? Fear? A bit of smugness? All of the above? I gather up my navy gown in both sides  carefully like a long,  fancy dress and march onto the stage like a royal on her way to her coronation. Honestly that’s what it feels like. “Its about time. I’ve finally done it,” I’m thinking. I accept my diploma and shake hands with the administration before leaving the stage and getting another photo at the base of the stage before returning to my place in line. I feel light, free. For the first time in years I feel like my hard work has been worth it, I only wish more of my friends had made it with me…

 

My graduation night  was when all the sleepless nights, missed meals, 14+ hours of classes and homework six days a week, the hair falling out, anxiety, and depression spouts had finally felt worth it. I knew I was on to bigger, better things, after all college stresses were only a mere three months away. Right?

 

Not quite.Almost a year later I am not anything that I wasn’t the day after graduation with the exception of now being 18. My plans to go to college didn’t work out YET. My mom was sick, she needed me to help her with her daycare business and I sort of got caught up in it and just didn’t get the chance to go to school yet. I really do have to stress the YET part.

 

Being raised in an American major university town my whole life I’ve been taught university is the only way to not be a loser. If you don’t go to university straight out of high school you’ll never amount to anything. Poppycock. I’m only just now able to realize that there’s nothing wrong with taking a year off, aka a gap year. Honestly I’m glad for it.

By taking a year off:

  • I’ve decided I want to run a preschool and daycare with my mom, not some little out-of-home operation but a moderately sized business with its own building. ( I don’t want to lose the one-on-one you get with a small size)
  • I learned I’m not only good at teaching, I also sort of love it.
  • I’ve gotten even closer to my mom.
  • I know myself a lot better. I know what I want out of my life is actually a bit bigger than my original plan.

I’m hoping to be starting school in the fall. I can hardly wait to write another English paper! (Sheesh I really am a nerd aren’t I?)

 

I wish someone had told me that a gap year could be so great and so USEFUL when I’d been stressing about post graduation life.

So, to anyone out there about to graduate hear me when I say this; a degree is VERY IMPORTANT! However, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a year to sort out what you want with your life. Just don’t let it be a wasted year. Don’t take a year to play video games and sleep all day (although it can sound tempting).

Steps for a good gap year (my suggestions):

  1. Get a job. (Don’t be a bum, you have to start being an adult after graduation. The rest of your life is starting, not ending.)
  2. Explore your interests. Start that YouTube channel, join that book club, plant that garden, do whatever you’ve been wanting to but were too busy for. Find yourself.
  3. Read books. Okay, you don’t have to write book reports anymore but that doesn’t mean you should stop letting literature influence your way of thinking. Put a few classics under your belt, you won’t regret it.
  4. Travel, if you can’t, use the internet. Learn about different cultures and ways of life.

 

The point of a gap year is to figure things out. Use this year to better yourself and expand your horizons. A year spent binge watching The Walking Dead and scrolling through Instagram on your phone is a year wasted. There’s nothing wrong with taking a year to sort things out and get to know yourself better, just use it wisely and remember to not wait too long to get that degree.

-A

 

 

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