I’ve said before that I signed up for my Outward Bound course looking for adventure—for something to do. Thankfully, I got more than I expected out of it. My greatest takeaways were a sense of perspective and an understanding of what I can endure, what I can overcome.
Stripped of almost every comfort I’ve relied on in my lifetime—a hot shower after a freezing day, a plush bed to snuggle into, a familiar support system, a stocked pantry—I came to realize the aspects, and people, I found essential in my life. The things I don’t want to live without. I came away with a greater confidence in the relationships I value most, and a desire to express to those people how much they have impacted me. Other comforts, even ones I once deemed absolutely essential, faded into irrelevance.
It was difficult to discern what aspects of my daily routine bring meaning to my life and which detract from my ability to live thoughtfully and purposefully. These realizations center me. My intention now is to act upon these conclusions—to express more honestly and frequently my appreciation for others and to require myself to give up some unproductive comforts.
Having left the desert, I’m trying to remind myself of the healthy habits I began on course. I’m far from perfect, but I’m already seeing the benefits of this conscious effort. I’m being more conscientious about prioritizing the relationships I value (including my relationships with the amazing people I met on course) and I’m so far managing to stray from old bad habits (like scrolling endlessly through social media explore pages).
I’d love to sit here and tell you that I’m 100% zen and productive all the time, but that’d be a lie. I purposefully allowed a “break” in my gap year activities between Outward Bound and whatever lies in my future so that I could relax for the holidays and prioritize family time. Much to my chagrin, this break clashes with my newly invigorated desire for a purpose (see my last blog post) and I’m looking for something to do. I don’t have the slightest idea of what that could be, but if COVID has taught me anything, it’s to be flexible and seek alternatives.
How I’m spending some of my free time now:
- Reading a lot (and actually finishing books)! I used to have a very bad problem of reading 95% of a book and accidentally starting my next great read before finishing the one before—oops.
- Cooking, of course. I’ve turned to the science of pie-making in preparation for Thanksgiving, so far I’m about two hours into a series on the theory of crust making. Plus, it’s an excuse to invite my best friends over for (socially distanced) taste tests!
- Practicing my language skills. I’ve started taking online classes in French, desperately hoping that my gap year will still end up taking me there. Also, I’ve started learning Portuguese on Duolingo simply for the added fun of being able to read a language but not understand a single spoken word—the complications of knowing a romance language and a half?
- Shamelessly fueling my coffee addiction with my old barista skills.
With all that said, the question that I’m struggling with is one that every gap year student has to answer: how busy is too busy? Whether you’re on one, planning one, or reading this blog for fun, my advice is to be ready to admit when things aren’t going as expected. For me, I didn’t plan enough things to do—well, COVID made them not pan out—so here I am, adapting.