Dreaded gap year

Hailley Brune – Opinion Columnist

We’ve all heard someone say, “if you take a year off you won’t go back to school.” The phrase used to make me mad, but after taking a year off I relate with it to a certain extent. I didn’t take my gap year after high school and didn’t plan to take one at all. Then Covid and online classes happened. I went from loving to learn and never considering taking a break, to knowing that I had to leave for a year. The uncertainty was strong before I decided to take a break, and got even stronger when I did come back.
Now I understand why a lot of people don’t go back to school after taking a gap year. It’s sort of disheartening. Suddenly all the people your age are ahead of you, so you have to join classes with people a year or two younger than you. The friends you had made are gone now, or leaving soon since you left for a while. For me it made me feel disconnected from school, friends, and my determination. I constantly felt like I was getting behind or being left behind while I was gone. When I came back that feeling grew tenfold.
It always used to infuriate me when people would say that you won’t go back after a gap year. After taking a gap year it still makes me mad, but I see where the idea comes from. During a gap year you have a lot of time to think about what you want to do. You start asking yourself if school is a good idea and if it’ll actually take you anywhere. I’m very determined and set on a career, yet I still considered not coming back. You take the year off and you have so much more free time. Sure, you have to work a normal full time job every day, but all your free time doesn’t go to homework.
By the end of the summer I found myself already sad that things were changing. I got used to visiting my sister every day and watching anime together. I got comfortable having my own apartment, throwing small parties with my friends, and having extra money to spend when I wanted. I didn’t want to be at home, but at the same time I didn’t want to leave either.
I’m sure a lot of people take that gap year, and get used to their routines- I know I did. School also has its own stresses that you don’t have during a gap year. I found myself experiencing a loss of motivation. Of course everybody’s gap years are very unique and different. If you have a very positive year off with supportive people, maybe you’d be more motivated to seek out their dream. Others may find out they like just working and that’s why they don’t seek out education. In the end I knew I didn’t want to just join the workforce. My gap year made me tired of being in the work force and influenced me to travel and escape.
In the end there is a little truth to the thought that you won’t go back after a gap year, but it’s more individualistic than that. It’s a negative thing to say, because it breeds uncertainty and doubt in young students. During my year off I constantly thought about what others thought of me, and how I knew there were many who didn’t believe I’d go back. I had friends start assuming I’d given up and telling me what my next step should be now that I wasn’t a student. It’s hard to have confidence in decisions when you don’t know where they’ll take you or what might happen. I run purely off spite, so their disbelief in me forced me to go back. Others feel unsupported and have a lot of anxiety around the subject of school. I was uncomfortable even talking about school with people, because I knew they didn’t believe I would make it back.
After coming back to school and feeling like an outsider. I asked a few friends how they felt after taking some time off. A few had anxiety over the sudden age difference and being further behind compared to others. Most of them felt nervous or had mixed feelings about going back to school. Part of this I think aligns with the fear of the unknown, failure, and change. With things like school there’s always a chance you’ll fail a class, or something will go wrong. Maybe you’ll even find out you hate your intended major and will have to make a big path change.
Gap years can be good, and sometimes necessary, but they can also be really hard. A lot can happen in a year, and it can make you stronger or isolated. Giving yourself time to adjust is important, and sometimes that can take a while. It’s been a month already and I still haven’t fully adjusted, but just like the routine you made during your gap year, one can be made here too.

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