Today, I have a really insightful guest post to share with you written by Mia. Here, Mia is telling us all about her decision to take a gap year, and advice on how to spend your gap year if you cannot afford to go travelling. I hope you enjoy this post, and remember to go and visit Mia’s lovely blog here!
I am currently on a hiatus from life. I don’t know what to do, I don’t know where to go, I don’t know where I want to end up, and I’m not really quite sure who I want to be yet either. So, because of my habitual indecisiveness, I decided to take a Gap Year, and let me tell you, it’s not all saving orphaned elephants in the rainforest.
Had I known that I would spend two years of my life feeling the most stressed that I have ever been, I would have told myself resolutely, that I would take a Gap Year at the end of sixth form. But no. I was not aware of the blood, sweat and tears (SO many tears) that would have to go into gaining three A-levels. I worked bloody hard for my grades, but I paid for it too. I got unbelievably stressed, which therefore made me ill, which therefore made me miss lessons, which therefore made me stressed again. I was not a pleasant person to be around. My friends still like to remind me that I favoured grunting to actual speech when I was in a spiral of stress.
Not that sixth form wasn’t worth it. I made some amazing friends and memories, I learned a lot, and I discovered things. We laughed a lot, because if you didn’t laugh, you’d probably cry. A-levels are hard, man, I don’t care what anyone says.
I learned how to be myself, and how to do my own thing. Sixth form gave me the confidence to branch out and do things that I wouldn’t normally do. I went to Auschwitz in Poland as part of a history trip, I started my blog, I got slightly less shy (but only slightly, that still remains an issue) and I even started going to parties. It was good. I even loved my subjects, but they were difficult and required a lot of brain power; brain power that started to dwindle by the end of the two years at sixth form. Not only this, but I had the pressure of University applications to think about too. I didn’t even consider a Gap Year as an option- I would go to Uni, just like everyone else.
But I still wasn’t sure. There was always something niggling at me; when my friends started getting excited about Uni, I was just anxious. When they started buying pots and pans and duvet covers, I just ignored the situation and wished it would go away.
I got offered a place at Brighton University to study Media & English Literature, so I had done what I set out to do. That was Stage One complete. Now I just had to get there. But the closer September got, the more I started to think. Do I really want to go? Am I ready for something like this, really? And the answer was no. Truly, I am not.
And it’s okay to say that.
There is too much emphasis put on going to University straight away, too much pressure.
It is not the be all and end all if you don’t go. You can go next year, or in a few years or whenever. I think I will go eventually, but there are other options out there, and they were just never made available to me. Or rather, I never thought to look.
So about a month before I was due to move down to Brighton, I deferred my place, and I am now here, sat on my bed, in my house, feeling good. Not worried. Not AS anxious. I still feel anxious most of the time, but it’s not half as bad as it was when I had the prospect of going to University ahead of me. I used to cry myself to sleep every night- my brain’s way of subconsciously saying, ‘Mia. You do not have to do this yet. You are not ready’.
I didn’t even know how to use the washing machine for crying out loud. I could barely make beans on toast. Sure, I was academically ready to move on to the next step, but socially and practically, I was not ready.
So I have babbled on a little, but I just want to set the scene. I am a worrier and a home girl with a substantial amount of pressure on me to do well all the time because I have fortunately done well at school- just the writing and the creative things though. Never maths. Never science. And NEVER P.E.
And now I have gone against everything everyone has ever told me, and done something different. I have deferred my place for two years (so far), to just pursue things that I enjoy, and to do things other than exams and revision. To learn about life outside of school.
But because my decision was quite delayed, and I hadn’t spent years saving for the ‘ultimate Gap Year’, things to do were a little limited to begin with. So I have put together a few pieces of advice that might help if you are not in the position to go gallivanting off to Thailand.
- Keep your brain active. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times my Mum would find me wrapped in a blanket on the sofa watching Disney films, dipping various food items into hummus. I thought I was going crackers. Seriously, when you go from learning stuff for years, to doing literally nothing, it’s tough on the brain. I went cold turkey for education. And it made me upset because I felt like I was stuck in a hole not knowing what to do. So I learned how to cook, how to use the washing machine, how to iron (that is still a work in progress); all the useful stuff that I didn’t have a clue about. And it made me feel better because I now know I can go out into the world and hoover everything. I even started drum lessons to learn something new, and I have completely fallen in love with it. Oops.
- Build your CV. Do everything and anything that might build up your CV- gain experience. Experience is the most useful thing ever. I have volunteer work at my school and at a local theatre, which has subsequently lead to other opportunities that I can bung on my CV to make it look like I am a capable human being. (Lies, all lies). Plus, I actually feel more confident in myself because I know I can do things.
- Don’t listen to anyone else. Apart from your parents. My parents are very wise and supportive so I listen to them BUT. Not. Anyone. Else. The amount of grief I’ve received just for taking a freaking Gap Year is unreal. ‘Why is SHE taking a Gap Year? I think it’s completely pointless’. Yes, thankyou person I do not care about, for your opinion that means nothing, I will bear that in mind. Not. The most important thing that I have learned so far is that no one else matters. Do what makes you happy, and don’t let anyone inconsequential influence your decisions. I live in a place where quite a few people are very narrow-minded, and if you do something out of the norm, then you are basically a black sheep. I have got SO much support, don’t get me wrong. But there are some losers out there who like to rain on my parade sometimes, and that is not cool.
- Earn some money. I am still working on this one, and should probably take my own advice, but I’m a bit scared so I keep putting it off. Although I have bagged an invigilating job at my school for this Summer. I’m still holding out for an opening to come up at Waterstones though *crosses fingers and toes*. I just feel like I should get a job that is going to be worthwhile to me as a person. I don’t really want to work somewhere that makes me hate life, because I think that would be a waste of a Gap Year. I have got plenty of time for that in the future. An unpopular opinion, but my opinion nonetheless.
- Don’t isolate yourself. I accidentally did this, and I cried so much just because I missed my friends and interacting with other human beings. I was lonely, and convinced that I would turn into a parrot, who die when they get lonely. It is horrible, and I now try and make an effort to visit my friends at Uni, and to do things when they come home, and just to talk to people. This is probably a no brainer for most people, but I am not the kind of person to go out and meet people and do things. I am the kind of person who is scared of things, stays at home because it feels safe, watches Disney films and eats cake.
- Try and save for something, or have some sort of goal. My goal keeps changing. First it was a trip round Europe, then it was a cooking course, and now it is a set of drums. There is a goal there, the value just keeps changing. At least with a goal you know you’re going somewhere, and not just stuck in a rut.
I can’t really think of anymore advice, just do what makes you feel good. I hate to think that someone out there is in a similar situation, feeling pressured to do something that they are not altogether convinced about. Just don’t do it. It may not even be University, it may be something else, but take control and do what you want to do, and not what everyone else wants you to do.
So I am using these two years to find out what I like doing, and what I want to be. Will I be a writer? A film maker? A chef? A musician? A radio presenter? A lollypop lady? I have no idea. But hopefully my hiatus from life will help me decide.
I really enjoyed reading this post! Being a university student myself, it was really interesting to read what I could have been doing if I decided not to go to university. University isn’t for everyone, and there are so many different options you can choose from.
Please remember to head over to Mia’s blog afterwards to have a read and follow – http://www.miagetsablog.blogspot.co.uk/
Lastly, I would like to say massive thank you to Mia for writing such a fab post to feature on my blog! Good luck with whatever the future brings! 🙂 xxx