At home, I’ve taken to driving around. There’s not much else to do and it’s nice to have some space for myself. I’ve discovered new nooks of neighborhoods I thought I knew and mentally bookmarked interesting houses on street corners.
I’ve noticed big changes in myself after my gap year that show in small ways. It’s in the way I drive around town, the way I shop for groceries, the way I listen to podcasts while brushing my teeth.
A year ago, I would tell you that I am directionally and spatially challenged, and completely reliant on google maps to get from point A to B (even though I’ve lived in the same place my entire life). I drove in a frenzy most of the time because I was always running late. As I drove last night, I realized I didn’t have my GPS up. I was conscious of what highway I was on (I-85), and I knew that I was headed south. This may be an irrelevant revelation to most people, but for me, who never knew the names of highways, who never could point north or south, I was surprised at how much I had learned just from paying a little more attention.
On I-85 I knew my life had come into slightly clearer focus. Not just because I was more aware of my surroundings and my physical place in them, but because I had become a more intentional person. I was less concerned with where I was headed, and more interested in how I got there.
My gap year gave me the time to think about where I’m going, but more importantly, to reflect on how I would get there. I noticed small things about my everyday routine, like relying on my GPS, and had the time to pause and think about them. My time in Paris taught me to think about the foods I buy from the grocery store–I learned more about seasonal and sustainable eating habits from my host mom. I’ve learned to prioritize my interests and dedicate my time to doing things I love, every. single. day. That’s the magic of a gap year; you take a beat from the frantic high school highway, step outside your life a little bit, and shift your focus to things that actually matter to you.
This year, I committed to reading fifty books, listening to podcasts while I get ready for bed, paying attention to road signs while I drive, and above all, making sure I am actively engaged with my life. This year has restored my sense of autonomy in some ways–I no longer feel like a passenger being swept along a predetermined path. I try not to do things that feel passive, or uninteresting, or serve no purpose.
I’m so grateful for all the experiences I was able to have this year. I know it deeply changed me as a person, and I’m eager to keep thinking about my life within the framework I built during my gap. I can’t wait to get to Duke and think about my everyday choices with intention, as I am doing today.