The following blog post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow, Sitao Lin.

  My life is like a fairy tale, a poorly written one where the plot isn’t clear but at least there are tons of feelings and tension so thick that even Excalibur couldn’t cut through. The main character of my life is supposed to be me but most of the time I feel like the cliche best friend character whose only purpose is to be the shoulder to cry on or to offer somewhat helpful advice. I wasn’t the type of kid to take risks, to go to parties and have fun and make friends with everyone I met. I was the student who followed rules, the teacher’s pet, the try-hard, and the kid that everyone would ask for answers and then turn around and judge. But it wasn’t my desire to try in school, I was told by society at a young age that good grades and hard work meant success, and success meant happiness. I wasn’t smarter than anyone else. I still had to study and work hard but when you’re the stereotypical “smart” Asian kid everyone else assumes school came easy for you.

One of the handfuls of valuable lessons I learned from my high school career came from an email from my English teacher. To paraphrase her message, people will always look back at things and reflect how they could have done better but when you look back at something you have already grown past all attempts look mediocre if not pathetic. That was a concept so foreign to me that I did not accept it for a while and I am still reminding myself every day.

A gap year was part of my plan for later in my academic career, I did not plan to take one right out of high school. But if the COVID-19 pandemic has taught me anything it is that nothing in life is permanent except maybe toilet paper. What is considered normal is subjective and life’s too short to be afraid of change. So when I was accepted into the fellowship program in March I knew that I had to rethink my goals in life. Taking a year off would mean that I would graduate later and get a job later and start earning money later. But while worrying about the future I forgot about the present. In the present, I will be spending my time away from traditional school to focus on my passions and rediscover the person I once wanted to be. I never expected my life to change so much in a matter of months but this is a journey that I can’t wait to embark on.

So while I am not going to be hunting down dragons or overthrowing evil empires I will be heading to California to work on a farm and learn more about sustainable and organic farming and focus on myself and my other interests. It is going to be a new and scary experience, it is going to get messy but also educational and rewarding. So while I may not be the protagonist of my story I will keep writing pages till I get my happily ever after.