On the 11th week in quarantine I learned to play This Charming Man by the Smiths on the guitar, practiced doing the boxer step with a jump rope, cooked an awesome Thai basil beef dish, and started learning the basics of garment construction on my sewing machine.
If you had asked me in the fall my plans for the spring, I would have outlined three months spent in Rome, working part-time at an art gallery and taking Italian classes the rest of the day. I envisioned myself eating lots of pasta and pizza, taking painting classes, and strolling aimlessly down cobblestone streets. I saved many Italian songs on Spotify (Semmai by Giorgio Poi is a great one!) in the hopes that upon my return in June to the United States, I would be versed enough in the language to decode them on my own.
Although these plans fell apart with astounding speed (the first case of COVID-19 was announced while I was in Buenos Aires), and I had to cancel flights and permanently unpack back home, this life-on-pause has not been altogether worthless.
I am lucky enough to take this time to continue exploring my interests and take full advantage of my gap year, even within the confines of my own home. The podcast “Stuff You Should Know” taught me about the size of our galaxy and red shifting, and how it allows us to chart the universe’s expansion. I finally cracked open the pages of Paradise Lost by John Milton and created a brief timeline of Christianity to help me contextualize his writing. I took a virtual voice lesson on Skillshare with a Broadway singer. I’ve watched movies I’ve always meant to watch, like Rebel Without a Cause, and watched movies I’m not sure how I ended up bingeing, but did (in my case, it was the Twilight saga). I also made a bucket list for my time in quarantine, which includes learning to record music, taking virtual painting classes, practicing my french, learning to shuffle cards, dyeing my hair blue, getting better at yoga, and learning to do the splits.
I want to quickly note that I am fortunate enough to be able to take this time for myself–I know that is not the case for many Americans. Everyone has made sacrifices, and as my plans disintegrated, I reminded myself of the much greater sacrifices those working in food service or health care have made and continue to make. We have collectively lived through a daunting few months, and peer into the face of uncertainty itself. I hope everyone is staying healthy and taking care of themselves.
If you’re thinking about taking a gap year, but are uncertain what you can do in these times, I still encourage you to take time off traditional school. I’ve learned so much in these few months at home, from space to guitar to cooking to yoga, that I wouldn’t have time to prioritize if I were also attempting to balance a full course load. It’s been refreshing to plan my weeks at home, filling the hours with activities I’ve always been interested in, but pushed off until now. There are plenty of worthwhile online options to look into, like virtual internships and online classes. A gap year is simply a year to grow, regardless of circumstance, and I’ve found that I’ve been able to do so while confined in surprising ways.
I am excited to see what Duke will look like this coming fall. I know it will be different than what I imagined my freshman year would look like, but I think it will be an amazing experience regardless (or at least a unique one!).