The Gift Of A Gap Year

June 9, 2016

I don’t know why it happened, but two weeks into the second semester of my freshman year at college, I looked around and something felt off. I questioned why I was there, what I was doing, the direction I was headed. So I called my mom in tears and she gave me the best piece of advice: “College will always be there. You need to figure out why, and if, college is where you want to be.”

So the next day I packed up my things, dropped out of my dream college and started what would turn out to be my “gap year.”

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In the U.S., a gap year is not common practice. But to our friends overseas and to the north, a gap year is encouraged and celebrated – with some countries even providing gap-year subsidies.

However, when Malia Obama announced she would take a gap year, it suddenly became a hot topic. Stories interviewed experts about the pros and cons, and there were certainly some passionate folks on both sides.

But gap years aren’t just for teens. Many are taking it right after college, before their first job, or in between careers by choice.

So why do people take a gap year? I think everyone’s answer will be different, but it all adds up to the same thing – to find out who you are and answer that nagging question: “What do you want to do with your life?”

I let curiosity become my compass.

I traveled to places I thought I eventually wanted to live – and crossed many off my list.
I explored various career paths through classes and mentoring — criminal justice was a top contender.
I learned how to support myself on a waitress/hostess salary.
But most importantly, I was accountable for everything – my mistakes and my successes.

We’re so often in a rush to accomplish the world that we forget to sit back and figure out what it is we want to accomplish and why. Having the time and space to figure that out is something I will never give back.