We're a society that likes to jump in head first and go through life at full speed without taking a break. At least, that's the mentality I had my entire life. I had my entire life mapped out by the time that I was 14: I was going to graduate high school with honors, go to a top-notch journalism school, graduate summa cum laude and then land a job at Buzzfeed or Seventeen Magazine. This was an extremely lofty set of goals; I realize that now, but at the time I was extremely determined.
I started getting depressed during my sophomore year of high school, I was coping just fine for the time being, but it eventually got to the point where I was still in high school, and I couldn't cope very well with my mental illness. I pushed myself extremely hard and was still able to graduate with honors. Even though I was emotionally drained, I was still pushing myself extremely hard so I could continue with my life plan.
I ended up deciding that I wanted to transfer to a more prominent university after attending community college for a year. It was a slight speedbump in my life plan, but I was able to make it work. I ended up taking a managing editor job at my college's newspaper so I could keep my writing skills fresh. During that year though, my mental health plummeted. I could only focus on one thing at the time, so I decided to put all of my eggs in one basket, as a result though, I had no energy to get out of bed, I was barely doing my assignments, I was working 24/7, and my hygiene was starting to become questionable. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that things weren't okay with me.
I started seeing a therapist halfway through my spring semester of college, while I was talking with her I made an extremely hard choice that ultimately helped me in the long run, I left school. I was able to make a hardship withdrawal from almost all of the classes that I had taken while I was in school so this wouldn't impact me negatively when and if I decided to return.
I ended up taking a two and a half year gap period where I was able to learn how to cope with my mental illness and evaluate the way I want my life to turn out. While I was on my gap period, I worked two different jobs, volunteered with my community, went to therapy, and tried to become healthy again. I also saw all of my friends from high school living the life of a normal college student, it was hard to see, but I knew that I wasn't ready to return to school yet.
Gap periods shouldn't be frowned upon in society; in fact, they should be more encouraged for students. I understand that it's important for young people to be in school, but it's also extremely important for students to be able to know what they want in life. I learned so much about myself while during my gap period, I was able to use my volunteer and real-world experience to realize what I was passionate about in life.
I'm a natural writer; I knew that in high school, but I realized that I also want to use my writing to impact the lives of others, and I found that the best way for me to do that is to create stories that mean something to me. I got the opportunity to volunteer at a film festival for an entire weekend, and I was able to meet so many talented creators. I knew after that weekend I want to be a queer storyteller in film, but I also don't want to limit my abilities to just that. I have unique stories to tell, and my gap period allowed me to realize that.