Why I’m Taking a Gap Year: The Long Answer

A couple of you asked why I decided to take a gap year, and maybe more of you are wondering. Do I need to “find myself”? Is it mental health? Am I just not into the whole college thing anymore? Am I just tired?

When I say yes, it is all of these things, some people laugh and say, “I wish I could take a gap year!” Some people look away and reminisce that “it would have been better if I took a gap year after high school.” Others think, “I don’t trust myself to go back to school after the year’s over!” A professor asked, “Isn’t the summer enough of a break? What’s going on?” Some wonder, “If she’s doing it, can’t I do it too?”

Yep. You can up and leave college for a year or a semester if you feel that you’re losing your way. Some people know exactly what they’re doing with their life and have all the support they need to prevent burnout and have great focus and love college– good for them! If that’s you, rock on! But if you still aren’t sure where you’re going or you’re really struggling academically, socially, mentally, etc. or college just isn’t doing it for you right now, that is completely okay and beautiful! Don’t feel guilty if you have a different journey.

Taking a gap year, or a leave of absence, is pretty easy; not much paperwork involved, and for Agnes Scott, at least, your financial aid is frozen in time for when you come back. I am fortunate to have parents with the resources to offer me the opportunity to take a gap year— does this sound realistic for you? Don’t rush the decision. Ask yourself if you can see yourself going back to college after the year ends. If so, can you trust yourself to stay motivated to go back to school? If not, what are your other options and are they realistic? Then take some time alone to meditate and write. In the quiet, a small voice will tell you what to do and whatever that is is completely right and perfect for you. Go with it.

Also, I’ll put a disclaimer here that there’s nothing wrong with Agnes Scott itself; these experiences of mine could have happened anywhere. I’m only considering transferring after my gap year is over because I associate certain staircases and benches and whatnot with bad experiences. Agnes is wonderful. Go there. Just know that it’s designed for residentials, and you probably won’t have a totally awesome time as a commuter.

As for me, I went through some trauma in the past school year due to depression and anxiety. Every time I’ve experienced pain, I’ve worked through parts of it and disposed others into the Glass Cup of Unfelt Emotions. Although I still commuted from home because I’m only 17, the transition of college was enough to cause the cup to overfill (actually, at the time it felt more like college took the cup and hurled it against a concrete wall). I wanted to be Super with a capital S, so I was always running somewhere— from internship to college to internship to family drama to bare blue-walled room in the psych ward.

I’ll stop quoting Glennon Doyle in a bit, but she’s a spiritual GODDESS and you should really listen to what she has to say and quote her always and I won’t apologize for that. During one of her biggest crises, Glennon remembered that the root of the word crisis really means to sift. Think of children at the beach sifting through the sand to find treasure. In a crisis, everything falls through those little holes except for the things that mattered. Part of what caused me to struggle so much during first year was the loss of big parts of my identity. The child was gone. The one cherished and noticed by all her teachers and community? Gone. The nerd who made straight As without even trying? Gone. The person who fell in love with bouquets of pencils and the smell of dry-erase markers like some girls fawn over the right eyeliner and Michael B. Jordan? Just another casualty in the war with depression and the overwhelm of too many classes and jobs.

What emerged was a poet. Someone who could make people laugh and cry with her words. Reasons to live? “12. I am a poet. 12. I am a poet. 12. I am a poet. 12. I AM A POET, and 13. I have so, so much more to say.” Someone who says “I love you” often, because she does. Someone who could own her truths and find community through her honesty. And through the wreckage, a Super did emerge after all as someone who could hop out of a mental hospital straight into passing second semester and manage an internship as part of an editorial team for a teen publication. And someone who cares less and less about other people’s approval, as evidenced by this authentic blog and my half-successful attempt to dye my hair blue.

I have to put some distance between myself and the year to come at these more helpful conclusions, though, which happens through writing and therapy and meditation. With a bit of help (read: an unbelievable amount of help) from my mother, my mentor, my grandmother, and my psychiatrist, I realized that life is not a race. A Super is about love and family and resilience under pressure, not about how many bad guys she’s defeated, or in my case, how many credits I’ve got under my belt. In a school year, my whole life turned upside down and I didn’t find joy in school anymore. Does that mean I never will? Does that mean I’m not going back to school? No. It means I need a year of quiet and discovery and healing to get back in touch with my motivations in life.

Honestly, we could all use a year of that, right?

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