I never set a firm schedule for when I would post here, as I feared a set schedule would make this space feel more like work and less like the creative outlet I’ve been aiming to make it. However, I’ve generally been posting on Sunday evenings and I slipped up this past week. Being the stickler for schedules that I am, I’m trying not to beat myself up over this lapse and to focus on keeping this space flexible.
Basically, grad school is a time-consuming black hole and I got spoiled with an abundance of free time for thinking and writing over winter break. Three weeks into Spring Semester and I can already say with confidence that that’s all over.
All of that being said, I’ve been throwing around an idea for a series of posts that I think I’m ready to dive into, which I’ve lazily entitled “The Gap Year.”
It’s about- you guessed it- my gap year! I know, I’m very clever.
During the fall of 2014, I noticed that a tiny seed had been planted in the far back recesses of my mind. I didn’t realize it until that seed started to bud and flower and I had to acknowledge its presence. That tiny little flowering idea was telling me that I wasn’t ready to sell my soul to grad school, but I also wasn’t ready to be locked down in a 9-5; I wasn’t ready for late nights of reading high theory or early mornings of sitting in rush hour traffic.
I knew I needed a break. I wanted to get out of Georgia, cross off some of those big ticket bucket list items, and do things I had been promising myself I would do “one day.” I knew that “one day” was quickly approaching, so I decided to embrace it, to take in the emptiness of it, and to not look back.
So on May 8th, 2015 I graduated Magna Cum Laude with two Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Georgia with absolutely no concrete plans.
And now all the liberal arts grads are collectively laughing at how painfully accurate that last statement is.
So with no solidified plans, all I knew was that I was going. By the time anyone would ask about how my plans were coming along for after graduation, the plans had already changed. First I was going to travel all around South America for a year. That plan then morphed into a plan to live in Peru for the whole year and to get a job there. Then I decided that I couldn’t be gone for that long, that I just wouldn’t be able to handle it financially or emotionally. Then it changed to six months in Peru and getting a volunteer position at a nonprofit. Then other opportunities came along, and it slimmed down to two months of just being in Lima, with occasional excursions to other parts of Peru. By the time I was eating cake at my graduation party, I was quickly telling those who asked, “I’m going to Peru… at some point?”
I got questions about what I was doing for work, when I was going to apply to grad school, if I was even going back to school ever, what I was going to study if I did, if I was going to go to school in Peru, if I was going to move to another state in the US, if I was going to go to school in said other state- and oh my gosh please just stop asking.
The lesson I learned from this almost-a-graduate experience was that less is more. Don’t worry about impressing people with your big plans because they will inevitably change and impressing them is not worth the interrogations later when they want to follow up on your glamorous vagabond agenda that is no longer so much vagabond or even an agenda.
So May 8th rolled around, and while I sat in a sea of black gowns that had jobs waiting for them in accounting firms and consulting agencies on Monday morning, I shrugged my shoulders, threw my cap in the air, and went and ate at Waffle House at 11 PM with my best friend. And truthfully, I felt great.
I worry so often about the steps I’m taking, the path I’ve chosen. But this time, in my core, I knew that this year was the right decision, the only viable decision for me. I was going, somewhere, anywhere, wherever I was offered an invitation, and sometimes even places where I was not.
The Gap Year turned out to be challenging, exciting, unpleasant, beautiful, hilarious, lonely, and fulfilling.
From May 2015 to July 2016 (yes I understand that’s more than a calendar year, but The Gap Year is a symbolic year, thank you), I visited almost twenty different places. I plan to highlight them over the coming weeks. Looking back now, I can say with confidence that the plan was to just go, and I certainly went.