Guest Blog: Why a gap year could be good for you too
With a new year around the corner and resolutions to be made, E2E Guest Blogger Amma Brown speaks on why taking a gap year between college and university can be a great thing.
When you’re in school, it feels like it’s the only thing that matters. There could be other parts of your life that are important; family problems, money issues, new-found body hair! But to be honest, nothing feels quite as huge as school. I’m not talking about grades and the reports; I’m talking about the drama: who’s going out with who, where are we meeting up tonight, what did he just say about her, how’s your side ponytail looking, you know, the serious issues.
In addition to all of that, there’s the “queen bees” and the alpha males that dominate the way almost everyone at my school behaved. Looking back, my days at school were filled with everything from boy bands to driving lessons and back then it all felt so significant. School life was at the center of my teenage world.
I finished school with a rejection from every university I had applied to, but one. Some bad uni in the middle of nowhere, that I wasn’t willing to get £30,000 in debt and 3 years older for. So school was over and for the first time in my life I had to figure out what to do all by myself. Most kids from my school fell into one of 3 groups:
a) Got amazing results, going to a great university.
b) Got bad results, not going to any university, didn’t need it anyways as they were going to be rap stars.
Not finding myself in any of these groups I decided to do something no one else in my school was going to do. I decided to take a gap year.
I thought it’d be easy and predictable: go into the world of work full-time, earn a bit of money, and apply to university the following year. However what I didn’t see coming was the fact that the 12 months that followed after I had finished school turned out to be the most important 12 months of my life to date. I had no mighty epiphany nor any pivotal life changing moment, I simply grew up.
Being outside of the bubble of side ponytails, pencil cases and push-up bras made me put a lot of things into perspective. No longer was I assessed by the yardsticks that these “queen bees” had put up, and I became free to be my own person. Something I could never have realised when I was at school. I spent my days in the midst of twenty, thirty and forty-somethings who cared about whether I was a reliable person, not a big busted one. They valued whether I was a good friend, not a cool one, and whether I actually took myself seriously, not whether I ‘rated’ myself.
Although it was difficult to make decisions about the kind of person I wanted to be, I stepped up to the plate and I really surprised myself. I surprised myself at what I could actually do without being forced by a teacher to do it, and what I could stand up for without a gaggle of girls backing me up. And it brought me real happiness. The biggest relief I felt was knowing that I had it in me to be my own person an it’s that independence that we can so easily lose at school; the ability to see and hear with our own eyes and ears.
Teenage years aren’t exactly a walk in the park for anyone. They’re are full of growing pains; pains that cause insecurities and anxieties about the kind of child we were and kind of adult we will be, and we take comfort in following the status quo at school instead of asking ourselves questions we might not be ready to answer just yet. Taking a gap year forced me to answer those questions. I couldn’t roll over and take a sick day when I don’t want to get up, I couldn’t lie or cheat or say I left my homework at home. If I didn’t take account for my actions, there were enough people behind me ready to take my place. It’s amazing what earning minimum wage day-in day-out can do for you.
Looking back on my school years the people I admire most aren’t the hot girls or the athletic guys. It was the ones that discovered who they were and stayed true to it even when it was so far beyond what everybody else was doing. Funny thing about leaving school is that you realise that these laws of right and wrong that you so religiously abided by weren’t even real. In fact it was never about whether you were right or wrong, it was simply about doing what made you happy, and it was the ones that got cast from cliques and missed off the party invitations out that knew that.
If I hadn’t taken a gap year and got myself out of those cliquey environments, I wouldn’t have discovered this and I dread to think about the person I would be now. We idolise the “queen bees”, act in uniformity and condense school into our very own mini universe; a place we one day have to leave.
Growing up I longed to have the same strength to not care about whether my actions pleased the crowd and a year out gave me that strength. Wherever you go there’s a strong chance that your new world will look a lot like school. There’ll probably be some “queen bees”, some royalty, some geeks and some “allstars”; it’s hard to escape. However, what you can escape is your perspective on it all. Whether confined to a university campus or to the fluorescent lights of offices, for me the pressure to wear the perfect side-ponytail has long disappeared.