The Glorious Gap Year (or why you don’t have to go straight to University!)

The self is not something one finds, it is something one creates. ~Thomas Szasz, “Personal Conduct,” The Second Sin, 1973

Don't get fenced in before you're ready!!

The whole world is a possibility. Don't get fenced in.

Your parents have just received your high school grad portraits and are already starry-eyed at the prospect of your becoming a doctor, a lawyer, a somebody.  As they admire how sharp you look holding a diploma, you say:

“Mom, Dad. I’m don’t want to go to university….”

But before you can say “yet” your parents are already freaking out. Speaking over their objections, you say you might want to work abroad, backpack, volunteer, or sail off into some distant horizon. Your parents hear that you want to run away, go broke, destroy your motivation or otherwise waste your time. I know my parents thought that way at first.

Before I explain how I managed to escape anyway, here’s a little background: Yesterday I woke up to sound of Andy Barrie’s soothing baritone on CBC radio one. Barrie was interviewing a grade 12 student named Ryan Cole who plans to spend his first year after high school trekking around Europe and Asia. Instead of enrolling in courses and purchasing books, Cole is checking flight itineraries and buying a sturdy backpack. You see, Cole is taking a gap year.

Yes, the great gap year! It’s concept that Brits, Aussies and Danes understand but, for some reason, one that Canucks still seem to struggle with. Although gap years can happen after any long pattern of work or study, the years closest to high school tend to make parents sensitive. Real sensitive. Personally, it took me a whole year to muster up the chutzpah to tell mine that I was, err, considering my options.

Continue reading