How a Gap Year Changed my Best Friend

How a Gap Year Changed my Best Friend

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When my best friend Kallie graduated from high school last year she didn’t spend the summer picking out bedding or searching for a roommate. Instead, she spent the summer prepping for an incredible year of travel and growth and change. My friend Kallie spent this past year taking a gap year. According to Kallie it was the best decision she has ever made.

Kallie always knew that she wanted to do something different between high school and college. She never knew exactly what that “different” thing would be, but she knew it would be amazing. Kallie spent nearly six months researching and planning the perfect year. Ultimately she decided on an incredible itinerary that started with two months in Cape Eluthera, Bahamas at The Cape Eluthera Institute. After a quick pit stop back in Florida, she made her way to Baja, Mexico where she spent three weeks on NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) sailing program. Finally Kallie ended her year studying in Seville, Spain at Universidad de Pablo Olivide for four months.

Kallie learned a lot over the course of one year. One of the coolest parts of her year was discovering her passion: the environment. Without realizing while she was planning her year, all of Kallie’s programs seemed to somehow connect to the environment or conservation. The Cape Eluthera Institute is a facility that combines research and education to enhance conservation initiatives. While there Kallie was educated on the science behind conservation, the marine biology of the Bahamian ecosystem, and up close and personal with a few sharks. On the NOLS program the biggest struggle (but also the greatest teaching tool) was learning how to survive with minimal comforts. Each week food had to be rationed so that it would last an entire week, but also not be wasted at the end of the week. The program focused on living with the environment not fighting against it. Finally in Spain while studying at Universidad de Pablo Olivide one of the classes Kallie took was environmental science. After her three different trips Kallie really became aware of how much she enjoys learning about and helping the environment.

Besides learning about a field she really enjoys, Kallie learned a lot about herself. One of the greatest lessons she learned was truly relishing every moment of everyday. According to Kallie, that lesson was also one of the hardest. While being so far away from home it was very difficult for her to stay in touch with friends and family. Some parts of her year she was not allowed any contact with anyone and other parts she had to overcome time differences and spotty connections. What she had to do was learn to not stress about not being able to communicate with loved ones. What she realized was everyday is an adventure and to live for those adventures.

Kallie said her third greatest takeaway was enjoying the people you meet in life. This, she says, will be her greatest advantage in going to college next year. Kallie knew no one on her programs. She had to start each program completely alone, but ended each with amazing new friends. Kallie thinks this will help her start college with an open mind to every person she meets. She knows now that she can put herself out there and have an amazing time at college.

Kallie feels that without taking her gap year she would not be the same person she is today. Her year was full of growth and change that will only enhance her life and her college experience.

Note from Kallie: “If you are taking a gap year, you are the smartest person I know. If you are thinking about taking a gap year, do it!”

Cover Image Credit: Kallie Atterbury

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Love Belonged to the Seconds

Sarendipity Under the Gold Statues
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She felt the night was happy under the spell of a rite. The wish of a random fate had gathered them under the gold goddess statues. Listeners, dancers, viewers, lovers, singles, young and old, almost in harmony of sounds. The darkness of the night and the golden light beauty was dominant. She decided to stand on the side of the marble ground that decorated every dancer’s shadow. Each silhouette looked wild dancing freely over the white stones, beautifully shaped by woman's heels. Even the statues, standing still above their heads looked real. Looking almost jealous over the careless dancers undisturbed by each other presence. It was as if the serendipity of a random fait gathered them in that place.

She enjoyed looking at people dancing around her. There was something irresistible to see their body curved in different directions carelessly. They were unknown to each other, strangers connected with the rhythm of music and the rite of their body. Their shadows’ reflection gave a nostalgic look to the old brick walls looking as if they were ready to melt at any moment. The statues above their heads added to the grandiose momentum.


People surrounding her reflected a genuine smile all over her face while repetition of sound seemed to overwhelm the night that almost felt seductive and melancholic. Suddenly she was surrounded by random people, although drunk by the rhythm, she danced with one only. The energy was inevitable to ignore and made her blush of her thoughts. Everything was unruled. The shapes around her distorted light, in harmony. She felt included in something that was randomly and beautiful. Her dance became a prisoner of her feelings, and him, facing her, turned the night into a serendipity. She did not understand what he said to her, but instinctively felt the strange curiosity painted with young men's testosterone that made her even more attractive.


Can someone fall in love simply when stopping the time for a couple of seconds randomly? What made her attractive, so fast with the speed of light? In a split second she observed so much of herself and him in front of her. She designated no name for it. Nothing was equal to the meaning anyway. The dictionary struggled in limitation when describing the being of that momentum. She memorized his eyes, that where big like an avatar and strangely colored. His movements were slow and gentle. Not a good dancer at all. At times would stump over her toes, apologetic not much in words but with a smile. There was something very peaceful in his entire presence, that suddenly relaxed her.


They observed at each other without looking. It was so abstract, but so true. Her perfume made a cocktail with his fresh aroma from the shower, mixed with the body heat. His lips had sculpted a slightly permanent smile, while he barely spoke. His words were very limited, almost not there. She preferred that indeed. Who needed the words. Both had a way of ignoring things, but details never escaped. Only time escaped, so fast, until suddenly the world between them was interrupted with the same casualty. Serendipity was playing a chess game. He was lost within the crowd while she felt she was looking at no direction in love with the hole rite of that night. A stranger became her love. Such love had an endless ending. It was not the eternity that made love but something else, more simple. Maybe, just maybe, love belonged only to the seconds. After all the world was full of serendipity.

Cover Image Credit: Fatjona Lubonja

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The Only Way We Grow Fearless Is By Walking Into Our Fears

Walking away almost feels like a funeral.You die a bit inside, yet you live in the hearts of those you left behind
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I reminisce about walking down that aisle. In my mind, I counted each step, looking down, praying that I had made the right decision.

I have never been this petrified and thrilled at the same time in my entire life. I knew this was it. This was the moment where everything was about to change. Everything I've always been dreaming of right here, right now.

As a little girl, I remember dreaming about this day, and here it finally was...right in front of me.

I recall having two choices: I could turn around and walk away or I could take a leap of faith and follow my heart. Either way, I knew that this could be the worst decision I have ever made or it could be a life-changing experience.

I knew that regardless of the choice I would make, this would change my life forever.

I remember glancing at my father who was walking beside me. In my mind, I knew that this wasn't easy for him either. I knew that he was so terrified. He was terrified of letting his one and only daughter go.

He knew that this was the moment he had to hand me over. This was the moment he had to trust me and trust that I was making a decision based on my happiness.

That day my father did not hand me over to a man. No, he handed me over to a new country, as well as a new beginning. I wasn't getting married, not even close, I was on my way to start a new life, but this time all alone.

For my father, this was the same concept. He would hand me over with the hope that I find true happiness and live a life having no regrets. He had to watch me walk away to start a life with the thought that he would not be the greatest part of it anymore.

I knew that must have hurt because for 18 years he was my best friend, my training partner and my hero. I was heartbroken knowing I'd leave someone behind that is so dear to me.

We all have fears, and as we grow older, these fears can change...just like we do. Most of us don't fear what we feared when we were younger. Many of us fear failure, death and rejection.

But what I fear most is change. I fear change because I fear not having control of my life. I fear being judged and I fear being alone. I dread waking up one day and not having a single soul that I can call a friend.

Nevertheless, moving on to a new phase in my life required change, and I wasn't ready for that. But, much to my surprise, this is exactly what life handed me, this was exactly the fear I was about to face and honestly, I could not be more terrified.

If you have ever walked away from someone you loved, a job or something that did not serve you well anymore I know it must have hurt because I have been there too.

Walking away from something we knew and once loved always reminded me of a funeral. It made a part of you die, yet it meant we got to live in the hearts of the people that we left behind. We always leave something behind when we leave, whether it's good or bad, and sometimes, change means walking away.

To me, the last days were the toughest because I knew this is the life I have chosen for the next four years. The memory that haunted me the most was the look on my mother's face the day I had to leave. It was a look of terror and uncertainty. This made me think even more about a funeral because, to my mother, I'd just be a memory...at least just for a while.

I knew she feared going back to an empty house with my room left untouched until I return home once again. I knew she'd be lonely, as we did everything together. She was the person I'd go to when I needed someone to listen, a shoulder to cry on and she used to be my biggest supporter.

I didn't know who I was going to talk to anymore or who I'd go to when I need support.

For the first time in my life, I felt completely alone.

This must be a parent's greatest fear, yet they let me go.They had no choice but to face their fears, and I was about to do the same.

I knew that I was going to fight my fears the moment I stepped on that plane. As I looked out the window where I was seated, I saw my reflection, and the first thought that came to mind was that the person staring back at me would be my only friend for a while.

This thought of being alone terrified me.

I liked who I was and what I was doing, but I knew this was going to change. I kept telling myself: "In order to make friends and fit in I had no choice but to adapt to whatever the world I was entering wanted me to be."

It wasn't long before I made my first "friends." They wanted me to change for them, to be like them, to do what they did even if it meant sacrificing everything I believed in. I feared judgment, but I didn't want to lose myself either and going against these friends meant I'd be alone and that's exactly what I did.

This made me change the way I saw myself. From being someone who was so loved I went to feeling so alone and unwanted. I never enjoyed parties, I was always the girl who'd show up for 15 minutes with a Pepsi and leave. I never enjoyed staying out late, and I always felt awkward in these situations. What seemed to be normal for so many people just never really appealed to me.

I felt like I'd never fit in anywhere.

After a few months, I did not like who I was any more I hated my body and every piece of confidence I had just seemed to disappear. It started small with little lies that you tell yourself until it becomes your truth, something you start to believe.

I never felt pretty enough or skinny enough. I was too focused on how people perceived and judged me. I wanted people to love me. I wanted to be the best, but most of all, I wanted to be perfect.

The only problem was that perfect wasn't me, but that's what they wanted me to be.

I remember coming home from track training one day, and an acquaintance came knocking on my door. Apparently, she just needed to tell me something. As she continued to speak, my heart sank as she was telling me some offensive comments she heard the people I called friends said about me.

It wasn't the fact that they were speaking behind my back, it was the words they have said. Despite what I was feeling, I tried to stay strong and to pretend that it did not even bother me when it actually left a scar that I can still recall.

When she left, I started crying. I just could not understand why they would not accept me. I have been trying so hard. For the first time in my life, all my fears became reality. I was judged, I had no control over anything or anyone's opinions about me and I was alone.

For a while, I distanced myself from many things, places and people. I realized for me to be happy once again I had to walk straight into my fears. I had to accept changes in my life, but I didn't have to change who I was for anyone. The only thing I had to change was the people I surrounded myself with because I was made perfect by a perfect God and he loves me despite my flaws.

I had to remove myself from people who did not support or love me for the person that I was. I had to accept that what happens in my life is out of my control, and I had to accept the fact that putting my faith in God was the only way I could find peace.

I had to trust that whatever was happening in my life was His greater plan. Lastly, I had to be alone for a while to appreciate how blessed I actually am.

Despite the fears, I had to overcome I don't regret anything. I thank every person who had something to say, this taught me so much about myself and that in the end, your words do not mean anything.

In fact they actually never did. The way you treat people around you define you as a human being, not me.

I have grown to love myself in every way, and I'm sad that I wasted time caring about what you thought. You have made me face my fears. I don't want to change for you, and I honestly never will.

I could not be more satisfied with the choices I made.

I will continue to love people I will continue living every day as my last because, in the end, it doesn't matter how many friends you have or what you look like.

In the end, your happiness matters, how much you loved matters and how fearlessly you lived matters. Never facing your fears also means not truly being alive.

I have changed for the better. I no longer find the need to fit in because honestly, I never did. I didn't lose myself through anything I experienced, in fact, I got to know myself better.

I don't waste my time on people who don't deserve it anymore. I don't fear change anymore, in fact, I encourage it. I encourage getting on that plane, starting that new job or relationship.

Doing what makes you happy. I encourage doing the thing you fear the most if it means living your dreams.

I encourage embracing change because fear isn't real, but regret is.

Cover Image Credit: Cindy von Ahlefeldt

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