"You HAVE to go to university," they said.
"You MUST be done your undergrad studies in four years' time", they say.
"You SHOULD know what direction you want to take your life", they tell you.
These are probably a few things you've heard one time or another growing up as a student. And yes, I get it; people want the best for you and think that shoving you into an institution will answer all of life's questions and instantly set your life. But what if I told you that they're not always right? What if I told you that you're not crazy for being confused and not knowing what exactly comes next? What if I told you that not everything has to be planned and scheduled?
I took a year of from school two years ago during my freshman year of university. But it didn't always start out that way. I was the type of student who was told everything above - "this is what you're supposed to be doing right now" and "this is the only way you're going to be successful." With that being said, I was enrolled into a journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa and this was for sure my dream school - at least, that's what I thought. During the dreadful application season of Grade 12, I'd check and check my admission status constantly, and when I finally got in it I was so fxcking excited that I accepted it right away. But when I got there the experience was far different from what I thought it would be.
Don't get me wrong, CarletonU's a great school but a week into the term I just didn't feel that excited to go to my classes. I learned that I really didn't give a shit about politics. Plus, the supplementary classes I had to take alongside my main classes were really stressing me out (I mean, if I'm in a journalism program, why tf do I have to take a history class???). To be honest, I was hella homesick, which was probably the last straw to what sent me packing.
So I dropped out a month after and my whole world fell apart for what seemed like forever. When I got back home I honestly didn't know what to do with myself. I grew up under the impression that if you were not at school or working in your dream field, you were a failure. And that's exactly what I thought I was - a failure. And it didn't help that my parents were super disappointed, but eventually they understood and let me figure things out. It came to a point where I just wanted to endure the incredibly useless and boring classes and go back just so I could be put back into an institution and not feel so invalid. But obviously, that didn't change the fact that I was just so unhappy and uncomfortable with where I was. So to help pass the time until I took my job back that I had to leave for school and worked my ass for to save up cash for next year especially since I didn't have anything better to do.
So now I had something to do with my time, but it took a really long time for me sort out all my shit, get it all together, and just accept that this isn't as bad of a thing as I thought it was-- that I wasn't as bad of a person as I thought I was. Through the help of a few incredibly supportive friends, and my own self recovery, I found myself finding a few things about myself and made the most of the time I had.
Here are just a few things I learned during my time off:
1. You have time.
You're fresh out of high school, and aren't obligated to go to school right after. Take advantage of that time! You can travel, do some volunteer work, or pursue a passion of yours within this time. You're still young and if you decide to ditch the books, it'll be there waiting for you when you come back.
2. Don't compare yourself to others.
It's said so many times but it's so so sooo true. Sure your BFF is studying to become the next top doctor in the country, and that's great. But your goals and aspirations are different. That being said, don't be self conscious with what you're doing and focus on you.
3. You learn a lot about yourself during this really confusing period of your life.
As previously mentioned, I thought I knew a lot of things about myself. I thought that I wanted to be a journalist and write about politics. As I look at myself from two years ago, I can say that I could give two shits about politics and being a CBC journalist doesn't really interest me now that I think about it. I'm still not sure as to what I want to do, but right now I've taken an interest in PR and so far no regrets!
4. You make a shit load of money working full time for a year.
I worked your average 5-8 hours a day, 5 days a week job at my local movie theatre and I made a lot of money. Don't get me wrong, almost all of it went towards my tuition for next year's classes BUTTT I made a lot of side cash to help with going out and supporting myself without bothering my parents. It doesn't hurt to make some cash on the side for the present and future.
5. You could use a break from all the academia.
You've had your head in the books for 14 years in the school system, so sometimes it's okay to take a breather and clear your headspace for the next year. Post secondary can be a very savage period in anyone's life so use this time to relax and prepare for the extra stress coming your way next year.
6. You'll learn to appreciate the education system that we often take for granted.
Complain all you want, but people around the world are literally fighting to go to the 8 AM class you bitch about every morning. Malala Yousafzai literally got shot so that she could go to school while all through high school all we did was skip classes because we didn't feel like going. We've all been assholes but when you decide that it's time to go back to school, you'll just be grateful that you can.
I'm not here to advise everyone to drop out of school and go do their own thing. I just want to put it out there that there's no need to feel stuck in an institution that you don't feel comfortable in. Whether it's college or university, this is a period of your life where you're learning to adult and grow into the person you want to become. And if you're not comfortable to grow at the moment, it's completely understandable to hold off a year until you're ready.
Yes, I went back to school the year for a media studies program at the University of Guelph-Humber and through the span of my first year I've made very special friendships that I know will last for quite awhile, and I found a calling that I'm comfortable in and see myself pursuing in the future.
It's not quite a happily ever after story, but I can finally say with confidence that I'm pretty happy. And you should be too.
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