As many of you know by now, I took the Spring 2017 Semester off from school. When I made this decision in December, I proceeded nervously and warily, unsure of how my life would go if I was not in school. I reflected and introspected often: What would my parents think? What would my peers think of me? Could I cope with putting myself at a farther distance from my academic goals? I knew I would face the disapproval of my parents, but needed to suck it up and act for myself. You see, I wasn't taking a break so I could find myself. It wasn't because I was bored, and it wasn't so I could take a trip to Europe to explore.
My gap semester saved my life.
It's important that you know that, last October, I struggled with my mental health on a level that toyed with my life and its value. My depression reached an all-time low, and my ability to academically excel had decreased from my first semester to that very October; my transcript recorded this pitfall very closely. So, there I sat, failing school, with little desire to live on.
I tried alternatives. I changed my major. I reared from extracurricular duties involving student leadership. I started seeing a counselor. I did anything and everything to fix the rut I was in. Everything except facing my own mental health. But after finding myself in the mental crisis unit of Ellis Hospital, there was nowhere to run, and It was time to face the fact that some part of this (failing) equation for success had to give, and my own mind could not be it. After long discussions with my ever-helpful counselor, I made the decision not to return to SCCC in the Spring semester that just ended; I am now reflecting on it in my rear view mirror, six months later
So what did I do with all the time I had on my hands?
Well, I certainly picked up hours at work. I enjoyed smaller moments of life, like nature and car rides. I made time for me. I took care of my mental health. I started two books. I drank a lot of coffee, sometimes alone, and sometimes with company. I learned how to better manage my time, and learned where my true motivation lied. I started to find strength in myself again, rather than grasping on it from other people.
I will tell you now: It is unequivocal that if I had not made the decision to take time for myself, away from college, that I would not be writing for Odyssey. I would not have started my books. I would not have learned to better manage my time. I would not be here to type this article today. Did I think that I would ever be typing this today? Certainly not, I'm still reflecting as I type this. However, I'm happy I'm typing this. Not only because of all the benefits that came with my gap semester, but also because it reminds me that I have autonomy over the direction of my life.
I think it's extremely important to remain overt over the power you have over yourself, and that you are always the sole executor of yourself. It's one thing to say it, and another to take actions that are made with your own interest and needs in mind. We, as people, need to take care of ourselves, even if all we want to do is help other people. When you think of it, taking care of yourself equips you to better help other people, and I know that is a big personal motivation for my own interests.
I believe in doing anything and everything with 100% effort. If I can't put everything into what I do, I will not only perform poorly, but I likely won't enjoy it either, knowing that it's not my best work; I'll ruminate over how much better I know I could do. This concept is no different for higher education. I saw (and still see) no reason to pay thousands of dollars to undergo education that I am not equipped to succeed in. Your head needs to be in it. Your heart needs to be in it. If it's not, save your money until it is. Moving forward without the proper personal preparation (say that three times fast) can take a toll on your heath and everything you both need and hold value for, like your relationship or work life.
If you read this, and found yourself relating to it, then I hope you are finding what you have sought out to find. I hope you are taking care of yourself, and preparing yourself to return to your long-term goals. Don't let anyone tell you you're stupid or you can't do it. You're just making sure your anchors are up before you set your sails.