I’m heading to college in a month, and I am ready.
(or, as ready as I can be!)
My time management skills are on point, my confidence is running high. I am less adverse to risks, more open to unpredictability.
And for all of this, I thank my gap year.
The past few months have been far from easy and predictable. I have trained relentlessly on the track only to end up with a metatarsal stress fracture, moved houses, messed up sight-reading at church, logged sketchily few practice hours for violin, and had some overdue library books.
But I wasn’t always very confident, particularly in high school. Or, at least if I was in the teeniest bit, I didn’t like to be.
I loved to hide out in my room and never say anything in class and let people tell me that I could never run fast, that I could never succeed in taking a heavy course load because (apparently) I am on the autism spectrum and would be overwhelmed. I let the haters hate and the blabbermouths blabber. And I let this negative tape play in my mind day after day when I couldn’t concentrate or think and felt like an air-breathing fish stuck in the water, over, and over, and over, in my head. I tried to justify my hiding.
I told myself that I was different, I told myself that I could not do anything I put my mind to, I told myself that the untruthful, dishonest words were right.
Each day became a battle for air in an ocean ten miles high with fish and more fish with too many mouths. Too many mouths, too many words, I let the words anchor me down in my place as different. I was different; I was incorrigible; I was wrong; all the words they told me were right.
a⋅self-ful⋅fill⋅ing⋅proph⋅e⋅cy (n)– a fish with air gills is submerged in an ocean of water ten miles high and ten miles deep. exasperated, it tries to reach for air, only to be told that, “well, you’re a fish, you don’t need air,” and that if the fish did, then they weren’t going to get any of it. because the others reason from their own experiences, that a fish has to stay in the sea and live life at whatever depth they belong. “fish belong in water and nowhere else,” they trumpet. so the fish stays in the water, and is unhappy, and cannot swim very far until they are deemed asthmatic and dysfunctional.
For a long while the self-fulfilling prophecy held true- I was an unhappy, air-breathing fish stuck in an ocean of all the swim swam swum people who loved the water. I stayed quiet and kept to myself and stopped being fantabulously floppy and air-breathing.
This was, until, the tree of wishes appeared one very fine day at the great big swim swam swum fishes celebration. And one of the blabbermouths asked me, “say, have you written your wish yet for the tree?”
Weary of the water, I wrote my wish:
I wished that it was okay to be different, I wished that I could be different, I wished that I could be all of myself, and that in being all of myself, I would be accepted, and I would be able to change how the world saw all fish- air-breathing, water-breathing, rainbow-scaled, gray-scaled, all fish the same. I wished to tell the world that a⋅self-ful⋅fill⋅ing⋅proph⋅e⋅cy (n) could be erased from the great big ocean’s lexicon all together.
wish (n)– something fish want to change or do, but don’t know how to go about changing or doing it.
I had a wish, and I had no idea how to grant it and make it true.
Until I did.
On a horrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, I granted it.
I spoke to some swim swam swum keeper fish of the great ocean.
I told them that I would no longer stand for my quiet, and that I would no longer breathe in the water that hurt my lungs and left me more and more hungry for acceptance (and air).
I decided that I would prove them wrong.
And for once, in their gibberish, they were quiet. And they left in a great wave of frustration and intolerance for air-breathing fish.
I was left standing. I was left breathing, gulping in air.
The noise in my head was gone, the negative tape was frayed and irreparable.
I was free to be a land fish. I was free to be all of myself.
I had dared to be me: I told the blabbermouths that my words, though different, were honest and truthful and right. I had stood up to the mumbled jumbled jargon and spoken for myself.
And I thought I had no idea how to speak like me, I thought that it was impossible for me to find a place to belong as this air-breathing fish that is me.
Until tonight, until I sat down to write in this great big world full of water and air, I did not realize that I was truly different simply because I had dared to seek my wish; I had dared to fight all the noise and the static still heaviness of the ocean; I had dared myself to be cool and confident in a way that I could only be for myself, and that the swum swam swimmers told me I could never be.
It was the end of July, and I was apprehensive about leaving for college. Between fretting over my schedule, fumbling through the audition excerpts for the symphony orchestra, and figuring out how I would balance my focus between running and academics, I felt completely overwhelmed.
I wasn’t sure I would be able to have a successful freshman year of college. For one thing, I had so far managed to avoid practicing the violin audition excerpts (and most practicing in general). And that definitely meant that my seat in the orchestra and any chance I had of getting a slot for lessons each week was null. Coupled with my shoddy time management skills (not much improved since senior year), and ambitious running goals, I felt like I was already ruining the beautiful, most perfect piñata (full of goals met and good grades and… candy) that I envisioned to be my freshman year.
I was in panic mode.
There was no way my freshman year of college was going to come anywhere close to a wonderful learning party (with streamers and good music and ice cream). And that was kind of sad. I was really looking forward to tasty sandwiches, and I didn’t know if I was ready for another pb and jam situation (that I had already created for myself this time around).
And unfortunately, since I was the creator of this ultimate party plan, I could not escape its sub-optimal-ness. I could not escape the impending piñata nightmare (that I was definitely not ready to take down with a convincing whack). So I decided to ditch the piñata and the original party plan.
I was going to find a new way to make sure that my freshman year was an awesome learning party.
So I went back to the drawing board.
I decided to take a gap year
for the reason that it would give me time, and that time would allow me to get the time management skills and confidence that I needed in order to enjoy the awesomeness of my college learning party. And most importantly, I could re-discover my passion for nonsensical questions and all things academic that I had lost in high school.
Gap years are their own learning parties. Taking a gap year meant that I could get some practice at planning and managing my time, AND still get to rock out to the learning song. EXCEPT, I wouldn’t have to risk ruining my freshman year party piñata. In fact, I would be more ready to whack it and meet my goals (woot! woot!).
And just like my freshman year learning party required some planning and goal setting, my gap year would too. I needed to figure out what was going to make my gap year totally rad and give me opportunities to re-discover my confidence and inquisitiveness.
Unconventionally, it would not include any sort of travel (at least, not for now, and not as a focus). Instead, I came up with a short list of goals and decided to structure my year around meeting those goals in three phases.
The goals are my recipes for having fun and make sure that my gap year is an epic learning party 100% of the time. The phases are the actual fun part- they’re the things that I do at different points throughout the year to make sure that I have a fantastic learning party*.
So, the gap year party found me in a spontaneous, sudden sort of way. And I’m glad. I get to learn new things about myself and revive the parts of me that I hid in high school. And I know that I’ll definitely be ready to take a good, confident whack at the piñata of met goals and good grades my freshman year.