Today I embark on the first leg of my gap year—a 50 day excursion in the Southwest with Outward Bound. I woke up this morning, got a little misty-eyed saying goodbye to my family, pretty much cried saying goodbye to my puppy, and got in the car with my mom.
Our first stop was urgent care. Don’t worry—nothing terrible happened—I just needed to get some stitches removed after a little accident in the kitchen last week. (Very amateur) Chef’s tip: watch where your fingers are when using sharp knives, or maybe any knife.
From there, the trip was a go. My mom and I settled in and began the trip from the San Francisco Bay Area to the middle of Colorado. It’s a lot of miles. We did the first half today, a solid twelve hours on the road.
In my house, road trips mean podcasts and in true fashion, my mom and I began listening to our favorite show—RadioLab. We stumbled upon “Octomom,” detailing an awe-inspiring discovery of maternal love. As I learned today, almost every species of octopus dies shortly after mating and reproducing. Usually, octopus mothers starve themselves to death vigilantly watching over and protecting their eggs until they hatch—a process that usually takes a few months. This particular mother, however, endured far more than the typical months-long process. Almost a mile underwater, the first deep-sea octopus brooding ever recorded was ostensibly the longest brooding period on earth. For four and a half years, this octopus stayed in a state of semi-consciousness as her body decayed, surviving only to protect her unborn young from attack.
Mixed in with the emotions of leaving home for so long and going on an adventure that is still so unknown to me, I became overwhelmed with gratitude. The reminder of the extents that parents will go to for their young undoubtedly reminded me of my own parents, and the sacrifices (though very different from Octomom’s) that they have made for me.
My mother drove next to me while we were listening, graciously driving with me the twelve hundred or so miles across five states to get me to my Outward Bound trip. This week-long trip is the latest of many efforts, and genuinely, I’m not sure I thank them enough. With the complications of planning and executing a gap year plan (especially during COVID), it’s easy to get caught in the small stuff—disagreements, different expectations and ideas—but I recognize that without them, I couldn’t do any of this. Undoubtedly my gap year has been encouraged, enabled, and supported by my parents. Thanks to them, I have enriching things to fill my time, safe places in which to do them, and the guidance to navigate important decisions.