Coming out of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Coming out of university, I still don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life. I assumed after four years, I’d have a better idea. Everyone else seemed to be on the right path to their chosen profession, why shouldn’t I? But then I realized the reason I didn’t have any clue at all is because I spent my entire life worrying about school and the next stage of my life.
I didn’t stop to get to know myself well enough to answer such a question.
And so, I decided to take a year off. A year off from responsibility, school, adulthood; I’m taking the year to experience life, learn more about who I am and what I’m capable of, and slowly eliminate the countless options that determine what career path I’ll take in life. I decided to take a year off to focus solely and completely on me, and what I’ve learned is that everyone should be doing the exact same thing. It should be as much of a requirement as writing and arithmetic (plus, you’ll get more use out of it).
At the end of July, I packed my bags and made the decision to become an Au Pair in Ireland. My thought process was not furthered beyond thinking I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland and I like working with kids. So, I did it.
By doing so, I gave myself the chance to see the world, and with this job, I also have the time to do other things that further my self-discovery. There’s something about traveling, especially alone, where you really connect to a place and to yourself that is unlike any other. To stretch your legs, get away from everything you already know, and discover what’s out there waiting for you. I chose to walk the path less traveled on, but traveling is only one part of the journey.
What I didn’t realize before I came here was how much I wasn’t doing as a student that I’m glad I have the chance to do now. Being a student is extremely difficult and time-consuming, and taking care of your mind and your body gets pushed so far back on the priorities list that it gets lost in the shuffle. Students constantly burn themselves out to get a paper finished and cram for exams on a weekly basis. So why put in extra work anywhere else when you’re already wrecked by the end of it all?
Out here, I finally have the time to put in that work. I’m finally taking care of myself, and it’s the most beneficial and eye-opening experience I’ve ever had. Even through the simplest of tasks like reading more books, exercising more, and taking an online course, I’m learning more about the things that interest me and how to be the best me I possibly can be, all because it’s what I want to do. It’s to further my own curiosity, and serves no other purpose. What I didn’t realize at the time is how important such a purpose was. This kind of education is valuable because it has nothing to do with striving to get a 4.0 GPA and killing myself to be judged and graded upon; instead it has everything to do with me.
As a result, this discovery has helped me decide what I’d like to do after this year is over. No, I don’t know exactly which career path I’ll take, but I have a better idea now than I did when I graduated university. In fact, this experience has taught me that I’ll probably take multiple career paths in my life, because I’m in charge. It’s my life. I can do many things with it if I so choose, and besides, why not try a little bit of everything? It turns out, this type of living is what’s right for me – something I might not have figured out if I didn’t have this time to myself.
Why You Should Do It, Too!
Look, I know this all sounds like a luxury. I know that life is difficult and this all seems like a far-fetched idea, but you don’t need to hop on a plane to a far away land in order to get to know yourself better. There are many ways to spend your year off, and that all depends on you and what’s right for you. Whether you do it after high school or after university, now is the time to get it done, because you won’t have such an opportunity later in life once faced with real responsibilities. Whether you think you have it all figured out or not, chances are, you don’t. This kind of connection is one we should all find, and that’s what’s important here: taking the time to learn who you are.
We live in a society with so many rules and expectations, which is actually the reason I didn’t take a year off after high school. In this world, taking a year off seems to correlate with “unintelligence,” “recklessness,” and “laziness,” but in reality, it’s the absolute best thing you can do for yourself and for your own sanity. We spend 12-16 years trying to live up to other people’s ideas of success, and often leave ourselves behind in the process. But by catching up with myself, in four months time, I now know more about myself and what I want in life because I actually took the time to figure it out. It’s so hard not to get sucked into the conveyer-belt lifestyle, and many of us forget to question whether it is, in fact, what we want. But I’m here to tell you to question everything, challenge everyone, and figure things out on your own terms.
Contrary to academic belief, there are SO MANY things that can be learned, and should be learned, outside of the classroom or the office, and what better time to do it than here and now? You’ll be surprised what you’ll find within you if you just give yourself the chance to take a peak.