Moving Forward: Gap Year Week 12

I found myself falling into something of a schedule the past week. It was a little terrifying in its comfort. The thing about schedules is that they outline space for you to do things and the open flexibility of hours where there is nothing planned and your mind can wander from one activity to another without guilt disappears, constrained instead by another commitment ticking closer. I am remembering the worst parts of high school time management, which is why this week’s blog post is a little late.

I got used to having open space to luxuriate and plan in, knowing nothing urgent is required and a world of possibilities is open. What happened, however, with opening that world of possibilities, is that I began to select ones to take advantage of and the open space shrunk bit by bit. Now I have things to do and deadlines to meet and projects to complete and standards to uphold. Some of these—like the Rail Corridor project—I expected, others I didn’t. All are a little scary and a little overwhelming and together are forever rolling slowly back to me, Sisyphus-style.

And I would be lying if I said that doesn’t exhilarate me, too—dancing on the edge of things, always something to move onto next—but everything is also very real now in a way it wasn’t before. Not just the shape of it but the thing itself. If I give advice on something it might stick. If I teach something people could remember it. (This is unlikely, however.) My choices matter, and the thing about leading projects means that I have to make them now.

The thought of making a decision and realizing later that I went down the wrong path terrifies me. My mother had to remind me the other day graduating high school means I’m not being graded on what I do any more. If I make a choice, large or small, I’m not judged on it by a rubric, but instead I live with it. I must believe in it and my ability to make something good.

And so I approach some approximation of experience of that much-vaunted entity—real life. It has customer complaints and mistakes, apologies and emails, long hours doing nothing and short hours doing too much and reconnections and consequences. The seismic events are only understandable after the fact and all is still balanced on the precipice. Still the flight to come, whether next month or next year. I’m in a place where everything is just about to happen and thus the quiet incremental ways the happening occurs can be lost, like conversations strung out over days and oceans.

As college begins for many of my former (and future!) classmates many people have asked me whether it’s weird to be on a gap year now. Do I regret it? I haven’t yet, and I don’t think I will either. While it’s exciting to see what’s coming at me in the future—dorm rooms and orientation and classes—it lies, literally, in a foreign land. For now I want to learn and do as much as I can. University will be fun when it arrives, but till then the excitement of things growing slowly into reality around me, because of me, will have to do. It’s not luxurious or glamorous or inspiring but this, too, is beautiful.

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