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Small But Significant
If you’ve explored any number of posts on this blog, you’ll quickly realize that a gap year is time to dream big: travel the world, learn a new language, get an awesome internship, and try things you never imagined you would do.
But what can go unspoken, is the satisfaction from doing the little things. Those things you always told yourself you would do when you had extra time. Those things you never got around to doing in the shuffle and chaos of school, college applications, extracurriculars, and daily life.
Mine, in particular, was reading. Yes, I read a lot in high school, but I rarely read *just for fun*. My childhood habit of reading entire books in a night was gone. By the time I finished everything I needed to do in a day, I’d be longing to climb into bed, incapable of reading more than a few pages before being swept to sleep.
Since I finished my Outward Bound trip, I’ve been reading at least a book per week—a pace that would have been unfathomable a year ago. I’ve devoured 7 book series, hoards of nonfiction, and lately, I’ve been delving into some classics.
About a year ago, I was given a ton of vintage books by my grandpa. Think William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Emily Bronte type classics. The kind of books that require more interpretation and deciphering than your average modern bestseller, at least for those of us who balk at the formality of 1700s English. The yellowed pages, creased spines, and worn covers made the books all that more attractive, drawing me in. What better way to read some of the most recognized literary works than in true vintage form? But I put them off, waiting out literary burnout from years of forced reading in English classes.
My point is that among the other interesting things I’ve accomplished this year, I’ve had time in my gap year to check some of these off my to-do list. I’m getting the chance to read masterpieces that my classes didn’t cover, and to genuinely enjoy them, instead of working my way through out of sheer obligation.
Managing Time Without School
As a part of the Duke Gap Year Programme, I have learnt an important lesson over the last few months: the freedom that a gap year affords you, while liberating, can also be dangerous if not managed properly.
It started out a few weeks ago, after the initial excitement about the prospect of being enrolled in a gap year programme subsided. I’ve always considered myself a ‘night owl’, achieving peak productivity in the eerie silence of 2 am, devoid of any distractions. For the first few weeks, these nights witnessed a productivity-fueled Sid, rapidly typing away at the keyboard. However, the bubble had to burst sometime, and around 3 weeks ago I started to slip up. Netflix slowly started to replace Coursera. David Dobrik videos began to pervade the YouTube recommendations page. The procrastination that accompanies a lack of a schedule (and a raging global pandemic) had started to set in.
I first noticed the warning signs as I began to fall back on my reading list. The one book per week target I’d set for myself was slipping through my fingers, and if left unattended it was soon going to be out of my reach. I realized that unless I sat down and set a schedule for myself, something for which I had relied upon my school for the most part of my life, these short bursts of productivity followed by days of indolence was going to set in as the theme of my gap year. And so, being the millennial that I am, I turned to YouTube to solve my problem. Ali Abdaal, John Fish, Matt D’Avella, you name the ‘productivity’ channel run by an ambitious and successful college student, and I’ve seen it.
In the end, I settled for a mixture of all of their approaches. The mainstream productivity application ‘Notion’ became the backbone of my recovery to the old productivity-fueled Sid. Slowly, but surely, I have started to make progress in that direction. As I start to get into the rhythm more, I’m finding it increasingly comfortable to settle into a schedule without any college deadlines hanging over my head. While this may not be the last time I fall off the wagon, I am sure that the next time I do, it’s going to be much easier for me to get back up. Setting my own deadlines has in some ways made me much more responsible (and accountable) in terms of how I choose to spend my time to most effectively accomplish my goals. I’m excited to see what else the gap year has in store for me, and to mature further in the coming months.