This is something that I have been meaning to write for a while. It is an important post for me, because in a way everything that I’ve been doing for the last 10 months have led up to this post, and I think that it’s about time that I put some of my thoughts into words.
This could also be called Gap Years: An Experience, but I wanted something a little more arty. To start of with, I never wanted to take a gap year. This was mainly because I am the most undedicated person in the entire world. I probably shouldn’t be putting this out there on the internet, but this is in the context of school and studying. At school I never felt like I had the opportunity to express myself, because you are constantly forced to stick to the recommended way (read: the only way that would get you marks) of doing things – from writing an essay to working out a math problem. I have the tiniest problem with things that I don’t really like doing (math), and is to avoid doing it as much as possible. The only place I felt at home at was in art class, which I took after school in a seperate art school (still linked to my school, but a different building in the centre of Stellenbosch) and it was the only place where I felt that I could actually be myself – but even there, if I felt that I was being pushed into creating something that I didn’t like I retreated from it and didn’t want to finish it. At this point I still had no idea what I wanted to do, having grown up in the ‘you’ll never get anywhere doing art because there’s no future in it’ era, and so a gap year was looking like the only option.
Then, in 2012 I went on an art tour with my art class, which took me to Europe. We went to Amsterdam, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Italy and I saw some amazing things. It took us about 3 weeks and I had taken an extra 5 days in England beforehand to see my home country for the first time in years. By the time I had gotten back I was used to the independent lifestyle, and I had quite liked buying my own food and being able to make my own choice and so transitioning back into school life was really difficult for me after that. My marks slipped a bit that term, and it wasn’t a dramatic difference, but I had noticed that I was completely unmotivated to work, because I was still in the mindset of doing my own thing. It took me almost to the end of the year to get back to normal, and that was when I started to think that maybe a gap year wouldn’t be a good idea – because I probably wouldn’t come back.
I also had the notion, which seems ridiculous now, that I didn’t want to take a gap year because I would be a whole year older than everyone else in my class, and despite the fact that everyone told me that it wouldn’t make any difference I was set in the idea that everyone would think that I was a complete loser who was so much older that everyone else. As it turned out, as I said in my birthday post, it doesn’t make any difference whatsoever.
So basically what I mean to say is that I was terrified of taking a gap year, because I didn’t know what it would mean. But then, because of my indecisiveness I missed the university deadlines for applications and suddenly I was taking a gap year whether I liked it or not. Then I got my birthday present of a flight ticket to the UK and I had that to look forward to, and I threw myself into my job and worked myself to exhaustion (not kidding, I actually made mysefl ill after working a stupid amount of double shifts) and suddenly taking a gap year wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Obviously the doubt creeps up on me now and then, when I see pictures of my friends having fun at university, and when I spent nights wishing I could see them but they were busy with exams, or when I actually (shock horror) miss studying for things (that actually happens sometimes), but now I just look back at this blog and see everything that I’ve done. And this only covers the last few months – not even half of the year that I’ve had so far.
I’m glad that I did this, and it hasn’t been the easiest thing ever – what with working to get enough money to survive the Rand/Pound exchange rate, budgeting, leaving my family for five months, having to go it alone a lot and asking for a table for one because I don’t have friends nearby to join me…it’s not easy. But is it worth it? Without even a split second of hesitation, yes. When I look back even a couple of weeks and I think if someone had asked me last year if I would work in a PR office in London and take calls I would have told them to get lost. I’m a different person from the girl who left school this time last year. I have a bit more of voice, and it has a much larger audience: including you, reading this right now.
I’m glad I chose right, and chose adventure.