One year is 365 days

A gap year sounds sexy, doesn’t it? It’s getting more and more popular, but it’s still unconventional enough to justify the fascination of others when you tell them about it. It’s a badge of honor that you proudly wear on your sleeve to let the world know that you’re not afraid to stop and take the time to think about what you really want to do in life, even if your peers move forward relentlessly in their education and professionalism. lawsuits.

Everyone takes a year off for different reasons. Some do it to travel or recharge after high school, others to gain work experience, learn about aspirations, discover new passions or, in my case, avoid virtual schooling in times of a pandemic. More often than not, a multitude of factors come into play, but we all share a common goal: to feel better prepared for college and life in general.

My gap year certainly boosted my academic preparation for college, but more than that, my sanity benefited in ways I didn’t expect a year ago.

My career aspirations have changed over the past year, largely due to my biotechnology internship and research internship. With extra time, I had the luxury of exploring the plethora of resources available at Duke, talking to seniors, and observing some classes related to my future majors (thanks to the generosity of many professors). Now I have a clearer idea of ​​what classes to take, what programs to attend and which clubs to join.

But the most useful skill I learned was the art of self-care. Outbursts of ill health made me realize how much I had neglected my body and mind over the past few years. They inspired me to re-examine my lifestyle and rearrange my priorities, to stop focusing my life on work and school and to set limits to make sure my physical and mental well-being is not. not compromised.

I probably should have established that work-life balance in high school, but looking back, I don’t blame myself for not doing it. How could I, with my future seemingly at stake? Not to mention that I based my self-esteem largely on my academic and extracurricular accomplishments and felt addicted to the satisfaction of perfecting a test result or winning a competition.

Getting out of the formal school system was necessary for this ingrained mindset to change. Life seemed empty at first without the extrinsic gratification of a good score. But I quickly discovered healthier and longer-lasting sources of happiness. Who knew that taking morning walks in the park, with the sweet scent of dewy grass lingering heavily in the air, could dramatically improve my mood for the rest of the day? Sometimes I would even stop on the beach to bury secret Korean messages in the sand, wondering if anyone would find them out before they were washed away by the lapping waves. Stimulated by a wave of rekindled musical passion and the addictive satisfaction of mastering a difficult song, I resumed playing the piano and developed a new obsession with the ukulele (after numb fingers and painful calluses suspended my history of love with the guitar). Every happy memory I make now is carefully preserved in daily Instagram gratitude stories that remind me to savor all the little pleasures in my life before they are gone without warning.

I still see it as a form of responsibility to do well in tests, exams, and projects, but they no longer dominate me like mammoth specters. Receiving a poor grade won’t make or destroy my college experience, let alone my life, and reducing my existence to a few letters and numbers is depressing to say the least.

Preparing for the AP biology test in May gave me the opportunity to practice this new mindset, like a rehearsal before the actual university stage. While my high school student would have spent every possible minute locked in my study room, with the exception of occasional trips to the bathroom or kitchen, the “new me” interspersed study periods with study sessions. piano practice, k-drama breaks and evening walks, even having the audacity to meet up with my friends for a meal or two. Rather than undermining my test preparation, these healthy distractions actually alleviated my long-standing performance anxiety and kept me from burning out (as I did while preparing for “A” levels. ).

Over the past year, I have definitely grown in a tangible and intangible way. If I could turn back time, I would make absolutely the same decision to defer, even if it meant starting college later than everyone else, because I had to make sure I entered college with the pink of mental health. That being said, taking a year off is far from a panacea; you shouldn’t feel like you have to figure it all out within 365 days. Exploration is, after all, the raison d’être of the university. I have more clarity on my aspirations and passions, but it is with an open mind that I enter college, where new peers, mentors and experiences are constantly shaping me in ways unimaginable until now.

Valerie Tan is a first year of Trinity. His column is broadcast every other Friday.

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