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“I tapped the cold window with my index finger, ‘squashing’ dilapidated track-side farmhouses as my eyes focused then unfocused on each structure the slow train eased by. I leaned the side of my head against the glass watching my finger tap, tap, tap. There was a book in my bag, but I didn’t reach for it. I didn’t have to read it. I only had to read it if I wanted to, and I didn’t want to. So I gazed and wondered who lived in the large old farmhouses in this particular region of France my train wound through. I had plenty of time to learn–a year in fact. A year felt as long as the train as I was on. I knew where it begin but who knew where it ended. It didn’t matter and neither did the book in my bag. I was on the cusp of the infamous and much anticipated Gap Year.” –an excerpt from my Gap Year journal, if such a journal existed, if I had ever had one.
But I didn’t. A Gap Year, that is. No. Instead, I, as most of my American friends, applied like mad to colleges throughout the first several months of my senior year in high school. Began four years of undergrad the fall after my spring high school graduation. Applied like mad to various grad schools throughout the first few months of my senior year in college. Began grad school the fall after my spring graduation from college and began working my first real job before I even had my thesis results. I believe I took a ten-day break between handing in that beast of a paper and day one of the new job.
I forgot something: to take a breath. The Gap Year has been embraced by the culture I so frequently allude to in this blog. It occurs between one’s final year of high school and the first year of university, if one so chooses to attend, or a career. In my experience, it is more common in England to take a gap year than to not. Seventeen and 18-year-olds choose to spend that year in different ways: traveling, volunteering, aid work. The point is to experience a bit of life before throwing yourself into studies, which as it turns out is not real life.
What would this country be like if we all took a little time off to figure ourselves out in those oh so formative years of age 17 and 18? How many would ultimately decide to attend culinary school instead of a big state university? How many would live in another country and stay there to help out a while longer? How many would realize they actually want to major in art, not finance?
We might be a little happier, a little more at peace, a little more understanding of the world around us. Is it too late?