Mind the Gap

There’s this thing that people refer to as a “gap year.” It’s a year between high school and college when newly-titled adults take some time to earn money, explore their options, and find themselves… or more realistically, find a major they will probably end up changing four times. I think this term applies just as much to the year following college graduation. For some people, maybe it only takes the summer to find the job of their dreams or the grad school best for them. For others, it might take two years, five years, or more to figure out where their passion lies. I’ve always kind of been stuck on the year thing though. I figured, if something hadn’t happened within a year from graduation, well then, I’d just be awfully disappointed in myself, now wouldn’t I?

So I applied for jobs like it was my job. I have so many different resumes now that I had to start labeling them by the job type and month they were created. Yet nothing came through, because I still had no idea what I actually wanted to do.

When people asked me about it – and of course, everyone asks about it – my best answer was always, “I want to do everything.” This is highly evidenced by the list of applications on my Disney Dashboard. Every job you’ve ever applied for with the Disney Company stays on your profile. It’s like a graveyard of your dead dreams. How morose. Honestly, it’s sort of an interesting walk through my own desperation. The jobs I applied for range from wedding planner to character performer. Not great for showing a strong interest in one career path. I guess, “Hey, I think I could work this job for a year or two without hating myself!” isn’t a strong cover letter. In the end, I’m glad none of these jobs worked out, because like I said in my last post, it’s pretty obvious when something is the right fit… and perhaps even more obvious when it’s not.

It bothers me that people expect you to know what you want to do for the rest of your life when you are twenty-two, or even worse – eighteen! There are so many incredible jobs and careers out there in so many varied fields. Why are we expected to so quickly narrow down our options to one and then just pursue that? I wish there was a system where you could work a job for five years, or maybe even just one year, and then move on to another one, thereby getting to experience many different fields in your lifetime. Of course, that could never really work for everyone; of course, it takes more than five years to truly become experienced in a field and climb the ladder to expertise. But I think if you asked any person who had been in the same field since college, they would probably tell you there were other things they were interested in and wanted to try. Things that simply had to be put aside in the face of their life-supporting, family-supporting career. It’s a shame that there’s not more room for exploration.

Or maybe there is room for exploration, and it’s just not advertised. It’s frowned upon by society. It’s drowned under the weight of student loans or hidden under mounds of your kids’ laundry. Maybe a gap year can happen anytime in your life, whether you are eighteen or fifty-eight. Everyone deserves to explore every part of their capabilities and passions, no matter where they are in life or how difficult it may be. It’s terrifying, but if it’s truly worth it, you’ll make it happen.

Let’s take back the gap.


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