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For those of you that pursued higher education, you can relate to the enormous monthly tuition statements, underpaid part-time jobs, money tossed at expensive textbooks you’ll never use, and sleepless nights.
One minute you’re studying and the next you hear birds chirping outside. You’ve got dark circles under your eyes and your heart is pounding at godspeed from all those Red Bulls you just downed.
College. The milestone expectation set by Generation X.
It can be very stressful and exhausting balancing multiple things at once; on one hand you have a 13-page paper due, a presentation, an exam, and 30 to 40 some pages to read before your next lecture, but on another, you have a part-time shift to relieve your colleague from and an hour-and-a-half commute.
When do you have time to exercise, eat right, and most importantly... sleep? Doctor’s orders are to get at least eight hours a night…
I think professors may have forgotten about that bit.
For the sake of time, I powered through my undergraduate career. It was imperative for me to get ahead of the general courses and jump straight into my major curriculum. I enjoyed my college experience, but distinctly remember how quickly burnt out I was.
My last semester had to be the worst semester in my entire undergraduate career. One I do not wish upon anyone.
I took a full-time sales job in the West Loop of Chicago to keep up with my tuition payments, jumped from one end of the city to another to make it just in time for my night class, and then catch the bus back home. I walked eight blocks from my bus to my mom’s apartment. By the time I got home, I was drained, tired, hungry, and exhausted.
And this routine was relatively consistent every day for six whole months. My sleep schedule was never a full eight hours. I was lucky to get five. It was at that pivotal point in my life that I realized that I would be taking a gap year before pursuing a graduate diploma.
In the end, it was the best decision of my life.
There are tremendous benefits to taking a full gap year off. I happened to take two.
I had many detractors weighing in on my decision providing unsolicited advice, making me feel guilty for living my life while everyone else was taking their GRE and preparing for graduate applications.
But I’m not like the rest of them. I don’t have a trust fund. I stay away from federal and state loans. I don’t want to live with my parents forever.
I wanted to establish myself as an adult. I wanted to live in the city. I wanted to go out. Work and feel what it’s like to spend my own money. Travel. BUT more importantly above anything else, I wanted to SLEEP.
During my gap years, I leased an apartment in the city. I visited many other cities and collected postcards to reminisce my travels. I fell back into a healthy eight-hour-a-night sleep schedule. I learned how to manage my money and save efficiently.
I fell apart after a guy broke my heart in two.
I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
Unlike my fellow counterparts, I didn’t want to avoid entering adulthood. Finally, I found my passion in subjects such as sociology, business, and marketing. Then, through my experience with tutoring students and having multiple opportunities to lead seminars at my alma-mater, I found my calling.
The job that I have isn’t enough. I need more.
I figured out what kind of people I would like to surround myself with in the long run and what kind of imprint I wanted to leave in this world with the legacy I’d like to pass onto my children one day.
Taking a gap year can mold you into the person you’re destined to be, but only if you put it to good use. Don’t worry about what others are saying. Take all the time you need to figure it out because we’re always learning. It’s never too late to get a graduate degree or a certification, go to beauty school, or acquire a trade skill that may set you up for success to combat this unstable economy.