The following post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow Ambar Khawaja.
There is a fine line between fear and excitement. This is something that has stuck with me in the past few months while spending countless hours researching organizations, musing over where I want to travel, and reaching out to my cohort, realizing we are all on the same, overwhelming page together. I find myself drifting between this fine line daily, simultaneously thinking about all the beauty the world has to offer me and wondering if I am capable of such a daunting task. The last time I traveled outside the United States I was 3 years old, and now I will be traveling halfway across the world for 9 months all by myself.
Even the thought of this solo adventure sends a wave of emotions throughout my entire body. A quote by one of my favorite authors, Paulo Coelho, goes, “life has a way of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen at once.” I have lived in my current house for almost my entire life, and now I am watching my once-colorful walls filled with messages from friends and family get painted white like a blank canvas and my childhood toys being given away. My plane ticket is booked and I’m leaving for Morocco in less than a month. When I return from my gap year, I will be coming back to a new home in a new city. My life is nothing short of changing, with everything truly happening at once.
But, with change comes growth. I imagine myself as a bud that needs to endure the discomfort of bursting through its seed in order to blossom. I recently stumbled upon a “15-year plan” I created during my freshman year of high school. Nowhere in my plan did I mention taking a gap year. Flipping through it, I laugh and think about how the best moments in life are unplanned, and that the world has so much more to offer me than what I already know. Why should I limit myself? This is a constant reminder for myself during my gap year. In this next phase of my life, I have the capacity to decide my next move and continue the discovery of myself as an individual away from the scrutiny of the world. This year is my catalyst for growth. While I am in Morocco, Nepal, and a yet-to-be known third location working with different organizations and teaching in schools, I am bound to learn not only a thing or two about the rest of the world but also about myself in different scenarios. As a person who is very goal-oriented when it comes to tasks, I am setting a goal for myself to focus on building relationships and developing connections with those who surround me while I am abroad.
I am watching my friends leave one-by-one for college, and I know they are experiencing change and growth in a different way. I realize I do not have the words to describe to them what I’m experiencing and feeling, and that is completely understandable. The Global Gap Year Fellowship summer orientation provided me with the sense of community and deep understanding I initially felt I was lacking. It was a place where past and present fellows came together with a collective understanding of the phase I am at right now. This collaboration offered lessons about the radical acceptance necessary for all that comes our way and endless reassurance we will be okay.
When I feel fear, I need to remember to breathe and cross that thin line into excitement and adventure. I will take with me the spirit of the amazing support network that has helped me along the way and embrace the change I experience with open arms. Without change there would never be growth, and I want to grow and blossom into the best version of myself that I can be. I’m not saying that I will come back from this year knowing all that I possibly can, but I would say that it’s a pretty good start.