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As the sun sets on summer and the pace of “normal” life begins to resume, I have found myself constantly in turmoil about the near future, the years of college, and the distant “career” that supposedly comes after all of this. No matter what career my existential daydreaming has chosen, I find my thoughts wrapped in music. My headphones might be playing music from a 15 hour long orchestral playlist, or my hands are laying down my violin in my case before a quick break. No matter the scenario, this truly unique form of art has captured me and will never let go.
Films and music have been areas of study and entertainment and art that have altered the way I approach living. I see this influence, however, as more of a woven fabric rather than an external force. The subtlety of art in my life has evolved into an enhancement of lived experiences rather than a charging bull of change. When I received my diploma from my music school in June, the lack of closure made each goodbye seem superficial and undeserved. Three months later, the fear of losing one of the constants in my life has made its way into my existential daydreams and thoughts. That consistency is one I aim to keep through my gap year in the spring. This summer, I dedicated myself to one piece: the first movement from Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major. Quite literally since I began playing the violin have I listened to this piece. Depending on the interpretation, it can run from 15 to 20 minutes long, and it is truly something to behold. I began in the summer of 2019, but other shorter, more reasonable pieces took its place. Having no commitments this year to present myself in front of my music school’s jury in the winter, I threw myself at the massive 15 page challenge. Not only was this one of the most musically and technically complex pieces I had tackled, but also did I decide to learn it by myself. The precedent I set for myself while learning a piece took control. Memorization would not be forced; rather, I would let daily repetition of complex passages and daily playing of the piece on Spotify or YouTube take control. I have months to go until I see performance even as a possibility, but being able to play the piece through with most of the memorization already having taken place sets me up for a successful polishing.
As my artistic ideas for the spring begin to shape into plans, my fall plans have been cast. I have spent the last month preparing myself for a three month voyage. As part of High Mountain Institute’s Wilderness and Conservation program, I will spend my fall in the vast American West. My trip will take me through Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. I begin in Leadville, CO, and through several excursions over the course of the three months, including backpacking, rock climbing, and rafting, I will finish in Phoenix, AZ. My last month has seen an increase in my physical activity, including biking, taking long walks through my neighborhood, or “hiking” in Central Park and through Midtown. I am thrilled to have a change of scenery and continue to learn about the natural world that surrounds us.
I had been considering a gap year for some time before the end of senior year, but nothing had catalyzed my desire to take the year to focus on myself as the pandemic did. I’m creating and re-imagining ways of bettering myself to become more mentally prepared in the fall of 2021. Every day, it feels as though plans could be drastically altered, for better or for worse. I have always loved spontaneity in my life, and I will try to let each day take its course in creating an incredibly unique year, as well as learning from my successes and shortcomings.
This summer, I have been an intern at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY) in the communications and media department. While VNSNY is not necessarily aligned with my academic interests, I have been able to find a niche and work with people with similar passions as my own. As part of my job, I have assembled and edited videos to be shown to staff and other employees. I have seen firsthand the incredible effort the entire organization put into managing the pandemic in the city. In April, I could not fathom the amount of work being dedicated by all the essential workers around the city to help save lives. Even the simple shared folder with photos to be included in videos gave me an idea of the bravery required to manage such a crisis. Seeing faces and humanizing the effort has been incredibly humbling.
My fall has undergone a change of plans. I applied to one of High Mountain Institute’s semester abroad programs, hoping to push the limits of my desire to explore. Having grown up in one of the world’s largest cities, wilderness and conservation have been relevant yet intangible topics in my life. From September 20th to December 8th, I will be backpacking, camping, and rock climbing in Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. It was a sudden change in my plans, but I am delighted, honored, and extremely excited to be able to travel in the fall.