First Of All, What Is A Gap Year?

A gap year is basically another chapter in life where we can take a breath and take a look at ourselves. Are we where we want to be? Are we who we want to be? Are we happy right now? There's no yes or no answer, but just think about it.

I was not aware that such dream-like thing known as a gap year existed in reality, because despite growing up in an open-minded family, the concept of going to post-secondary right after high school came to me very naturally. Since everyone in my school was rushing to get to a finish line as if we were in some sort of a competition, I felt obligated to rush as well.

I soon realized that post-secondary does not always have to be plan A and that there was no good reason for me to conform to society just to feel associated with everyone else. I had to ask myself, "Do I want to go to university because I really want to or just because I have to?" I knew I wanted to continue my post-secondary education one day, but I just felt that the time wasn’t right.

I couldn’t understand how the 3 month gap between high school graduation and university enrollment would make me an “adult” and help me transition to the next big chapter in life. More importantly, I did not want to be pushed like a chick flying out of its nest for the first time. The more I thought about my life and myself, the more I became certain about taking a gap year.

So What Did I Learn?

1. There Is No "Later"

I used to be a planner. I always made plans for my week, year, and life, while trying to make them as meticulously perfect as they can be.  When I started my gap year, I set out to create a new plan that would make this year exceptional. I started by creating a bucket list and reading numerous articles on what others did during their year off school.

There were over 50 things I wanted to do, such as travelling, learning a new language, acquiring skill certificates, and picking up a new hobby, but in the end, I said, “I’ll do this later when I have more money and time.”

I quickly realized that neither lack of money nor lack of time was the problem to any of my plans. I thought too much about all the things that could go wrong and blindly waited for the perfect moment to do them until I realized that every moment in life is the right momentI stopped planning and decided to do whatever comes to my mind and inspires my heart. 

2. You Can Be Anything You Desire

Lina Park

As a child, I had many dream careers while growing up, like wanting to be a princess, a filmmaker, and/or a humanitarian. Despite all the things I wanted to become, I always had one idea at the back of my mind.

In Grade 8, I joined theatre and I completely fell in love with being on stage. What I loved more than acting was writing plays, which I did during my free time. It was by far my favourite hobby. I never really thought about sharing my scripts and ideas, because I knew that I could never become a professional playwright or a filmmaker. It wasn't until one day during my gap year that I decided to show my ideas and portray my creativity to the public. So, I started my YouTube channel, a huge platform where I can freely express myself and engage with people around the world. It’s not a career and only a hobby for me but, still, I learned that I can be anything I want to be if I have the right mindset and never ending passion.

3. Investing In Yourself

Aly Sebold

Life is not a race! As simple as it sounds, life is not a marathon where people rush towards a finish line. When I decided to take a gap year, I was worried about falling behind others because I was simply not in post-secondary or at least on the same path as most. It was tough being competitive in high school, as I compared myself a lot to other smarter, funnier, and prettier people, which often caused me to degrade myself.

While exploring different regions of Canada, America, South Korea, and Japan, I met a lot of people who live dramatically different lifestyles and experienced what people call "culture shock." I’ve never felt so embarrassed about how I took a lot of things for granted. I realized that there is not one single way of living life and that there’s no wrong way of living life either. We just have to keep in mind that choosing one path over another doesn't mean it’s right. It’s all about living with purpose and truth and not by other people’s directions. 

4. Everything Will Work Out Just Fine

Lina Park

We are not perfectly shaped cookies being stamped out of a systemized factory to follow the steps into becoming whatever society wants us to be. It’s perfectly fine to move slow or take a rest once in awhile for whatever the reason may be. My view of university was the main reason why I took a gap year, but another reason why I did so is because I felt that life is too short to put the things we love aside.

Just a month before graduation and a few days before I decided to take a gap year, families, friends, and teachers faced sorrow when one of our classmates got into an accident where it ended up taking his life. I felt very sorry, as well as thankful to him for teaching me that I should go for what I love to do because I am still young. As long as we stay young forever, everything will be alright no matter what happens.

5. Everything Is Up To Us

water, Ocean, Hiking, scenery, one hiker, Backpacking, Greece
Shelby Cohron

Creating that bucket list with over 50 things and reading countless articles certainly did not help me at all. Why? Because I’m different. I did all those things because I was scared of making mistakes, but I realized that without making mistakes, I don’t learn anything, and the year would just go without any valuable lessons learned.

It's so much easier to be genuine and happy. Nobody else can live or make decisions for anyone. I lived through the year taking in advice and stories from other people, but I tried to live exactly the way I wanted to. It wasn't like a "Summer of Yes," but I spontaneously explored and tried to see and do new things every single day. After all, our thoughts and feelings are what makes us ourselves. Only we get to be the main character and writer of our own lives.