Why You Should Take a Gap Year

Monday, November 17th, 2014

I like not knowing because ignorance is bliss, right? While in some cases that is true, it’s not the best answer. I don’t like to be ignorant, but I do like the unpredictability of the future. I like to know that there are more than a million maps for my life to take any direction.

There was a specific night in my college career where I interpreted the uncertainty of the future as freedom. The lack of a commitment beyond the 4 years of college gave me a freeing feeling. This freedom feeling came to me while I was enrolled in a Spanish course called Mysticism and its Muslim and Jewish Precursors and writing a paper on Ibn Arabi, a mystic in Sufism. It was 4:30 AM and I was speechlessly left staring at my keyboard unable to form words to describe his ideas. Raised Catholic, I was grateful for the opportunity to take this class, to have my mind be opened to mysticism not only in Catholicism, but also in Islam.

While I was too overawed by the ideas of Sufism to write a coherent essay, I was thinking about my weekend. The Habitat For Humanity chapter on our campus hosted a Cardboard City every year to raise awareness for homelessness. And that’s when the freedom feeling struck me. I was simultaneously debating the philosophy of Sufism while planning my weekend of constructing and sleeping in a cardboard box. I was thinking to myself, “What is this thought process?!” It was freedom. I was free to do whatever I wanted in those 4 years of college; I was even encouraged to do anything I ever dreamed of. Want to start an organization? You can do it in college. Want to be a writer? Write for the school newspaper. Want to build a house (cardboard or real)? Join Habitat For Humanity.

The freedom feeling will eventually flee. But it doesn’t have to end in just 4 short years. In a previous article I wrote about the best days of my life (What the Best Day of Your Life Says About You) and the list that contains them. A reader commented to encourage me to be more open. She said, “It’s good to have some amount of melancholy for special days, but be careful you don’t become one of those people who peaked in high school. Or college even. Life is full of great moments, just be open to them.” In my gap year I have been more than open to the great moments that life has to offer. That’s why my list of the best days of my life has grown exponentially.

The opportunities that I’ve seized this year were once just part of a different list, a bucket list. In my gap year I’ve spent more time crossing off items than adding new ones. I got published on Thought Catalog for the first time, was offered my dream job, saw One Direction in concert, and left my legacy (a picture of myself) hanging in my favorite college bar.

Before this year I didn’t call home very often nor did I get enough sleep. Now I live at home and sleep more hours a night than I did for a whole week in college. I’m free to do what I want, what makes me happy. And in a year, I believe that going to grad school will fall into that category. While higher education wasn’t a prospect immediately after graduation, I hope to cross “get into graduate school” off my bucket list once the gap is closed.

Spend a year not knowing. Add a 5th year of freedom and take a gap year.

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