The following post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow Alyson Cabeza.
Throughout the past eighteen years, I’ve been fascinated with the future in different ways. There wasn’t much I could control at a young age, so my future was special to me: I thought I could control it. Therefore, I planned everything. I planned the classes I would take in high school, and the clubs I would join. I planned the university I’d go to, and what I would do after graduating. I planned when I would fall in love, and where I would raise my children. For a while, it relaxed me. I was perfectly happy planning my every single move. Then one day, I wasn’t happy – I was exhausted.
Planning everything eventually took a part of me. No longer did I want to be the girl who freaked if something was behind or ahead of schedule, but I still craved some kind of structure. My utter realization of “the best things in life happen unexpectedly,” occurred through my life experiences. Luckily, it allowed me to admit to myself that I don’t know what I want and I don’t know what to expect out of my life. My need for structure evolved into the freer mentality that the future is vague, and whatever happens, happens.
Three years ago, I bought a journal. I’ve only written in it once because I wanted to leave the pages open for potential adventures and travels worth remembering. I’ve always been open to the idea of traveling the world, but taking an entire year out of the standard educational system was never something I planned. At the end of my junior year of high school, I found UNC’s GGYF website, and I thought to myself, “Taking a gap year to volunteer through UNC is too good to be true.” It wasn’t.
The GGYF Summer Institute in July was the perfect combination of nerve-wracking and relaxing. It made me realize the reality of my gap year. Whether I am ready or not for it to happen, it’s going to happen. I took away a lot of lessons from those 10 days, like seeing the value in building a trusting relationship with my cohort; understanding that “privileged” is something I can label myself, whether or not I have before; and recognizing that taking time to reflect and slow things down is never a bad thing.
While applying for the GGYF, I asked others about their thoughts on my possible gap year. It took me the entire month to understand that if accepted, this would need to be my gap year, and no one else’s. I never planned to take a year off of school to volunteer and travel. Years ago, it was not something I wanted. But now, all I can say is “Alexa, play ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want.’” And just like the lyrics of the song promise, I hope that “I just might find, I get what I need.”