Friday, January 17, 2014

The Impact of a Gap Year

Hey guys,

Yesterday marked a full circle moment for me. Last year, I was sitting in the seats (front row) at a Los Angeles Gap Year Fair learning about the possibilities a Gap Year can offer regarding educational and intellectual pursuits.

But yesterday, I was the one standing and sharing the impact on what has been the best decision of my life to high school students (and parents). Needless to say, I was 'shaking in my boots' but at the same time excited to share the opportunity of a lifetime for those willing to answer the call.

My mom was so gracious to film the letter I wrote to anyone interested in pursuing Gap Year time. For those that cannot watch the video, just keep reading.

The Impact of a Gap Year (pre-written speech).
I remember when I was sitting in your seat last year. I never would have imagined I would be sharing what I get to share with you today. I’m excited and nervous for you and for myself. I want you to know you're sitting in those seats for a reason. It's no accident.

I was taught an African Proverb. It goes a little something like this:
'Tell me a fact and I'll listen

Tell me a truth and I'll hear

But Tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.'

People do not regret taking Gap Years. People regret choosing NOT taking one. In my personal experience, a Gap Year has been the best decision (to date) I've made. A majority of my classmates and an overwhelming majority of college graduates NOW say they wish they could take one, ask themselves what would've happened if they took a Gap Year, or simply wonder why they didn't consider it a viable option. These are just the facts.

It's not for everybody, but everyone can benefit from taking Gap Time. It's for those who want to shift his or her journey of ambition to a journey of ambitious meaning. 
(ex. For me, I went from having a desire to AVOID gaining the Freshman 15 to Running America's Finest half-marathon in San Diego on August 18 for my 18th birthday.) This is coming from a girl who previously only "ran" the mile in gym class.
Avoiding the Freshman 15=Ambition         
Running America's Finest 1/2 Marathon on a specific date=Ambitious Meaning.

And to be honest, my formal education prepared me for excellence in academics and high performance in whatever I choose to do (:D), but my time there felt like I was running a sprint 24/7. A lot of you can relate to the midnight cramming, sleep--less nights, a jammed-packed test calendar, and everything that comes with TCP (i.e. the college process). All of this on top of balancing extracurriculars, family life, and other commitments! It can become exhausting. It can also lead you to believe you're covering a lot of ground because you're working SO hard! And that's not necessarily the case. I've found that from time to time we think stepping outside our comfort zone is the same thing as living in our stretch zone.

Here's what I mean. High school Spanish. I remember when I thought speaking Spanish in the classroom was stepping outside my comfort zone. I was so focused on getting the assignments done and delivering the perfectly-grammatical correct answer, I never thought to ask if I just wanted to pass the class or if I wanted to have Spanish live with me forever. To be honest, I felt like I only had time to focus on getting a 4 on the AP. (I got a 3) 

Flash forward to my 1st Gap semester where I spent 3 months immersed in Costa Rica. Yea, that wasn't stepping outside my comfort zone. That experience was tapping into my Stretch ZONE. I studied natural medicine and lived with a woman leader of an indigenous people. I tutored kids, served food, and volunteered (ALL in Spanish). I was invited to dance under the moon. I even managed to receive and give directions (in Spanish) even though I'm geographically/directionally challenged. 

These are only some of the things I never would have imagined myself doing just a couple months ago. I was actually considering not continuing Spanish because sometimes AP's can make you feel like doing that. But now I can say, I'm fluent from the outside looking in, and have three families to visit because they consider me their daughter. Oh, and now I'm learning French.

Truth #2 (BONUS): A Gap year allows you to earn some identity capital you have probably never imagined. You can take a 6-week art history study in Florence, Venice, and Rome or learn how to surf in Costa Rica. You can intern at PR agencies in New York City, build trails at our national parks, work at a sloth retreat center, and study yoga in the Bahamas. Or you can follow what I'm doing and earn your certificate in dog sled management because YOU CAN. You have world-class opportunities at your fingertips, just look around (or in your case-just google it). This is a time to test your passions, try something new, and pursue something you find meaningful. But most importantly, this is a season all about EMPOWERING YOU.

So, I've shared a fact and some truths, let's finish with a story...

There's a scene in the Alchemist where a king gives a boy a bowl filled with oil to carry to the top of a tower. The boy receives instructions from the King he is not to spill a drop. The boy climbs up one flight, two flights, 30 flights all while looking at the bowl and whispers to himself- don't spill, don't spill! He finally gets to the top. He didn't spill a drop. He places it carefully on the table and awaits the King's response. The King says: Good job, you didn't spill a drop. Now, tell me boy, what did you see? Boy: (silence)  King: Did you look up to see the crystal chandeliers glitter against the sunlight or look out the window and witness the view. Did you feel the Persian rug and its' beauty? Did you see anything at all?

End: Ask yourself the question- Will this choice matter in 10 years? Answer: For me, it will. Why? Well, because a Gap year taught me how to live without fear. It teaches me to learn and live on purpose and with passion. 

Think of it this way- 
My high school self would ask- how am I going to get it all done today? 
My Gap Year Self would ask-how much CAN I do today to become the person I want to be? 
A Gap year is an approach to life. And for that, I am extremely grateful.

P.S.- (You’re also one of the coolest people at the dinner table.)