Daniel Baum, Special to The CJN
Who are you? People are afraid to find themselves. The results of their search might change them (as if that’s a bad thing). But the discovery of the “real you” is what makes you, well, you. This could be a never-ending journey. And maybe that’s the best part.
Taking a gap year is a daunting thought. It is a promise to yourself to take the search for inner self to the next level. The obvious comforts – friends, family, home – spring to mind first. Are you pre-pared to leave all of these behind, for a short while at least? Then the secondary doubts – school, travel partner, what to do – emerge. These levels of worry build barriers. To find oneself, one must be willing not to worry; one must be willing to try; one must be willing to say not why, but why not. As Nestea says, “Take the plunge.” Plunge into this opportunity of a lifetime.
There can be a number of barriers from stopping you to doing a gap year. Let’s call the first barrier the “comforts.” The comforts are the little things we take for granted. It’s your family, your friends, your home. These things make your day-to-day life bearable. These things aren’t going away just because you are. These things will wait for you. Of course, death is lurking at every corner; such is life. Pre-vail and continue on. You will make new friends. You will create new bonds with different family. Materialism will fade away. Do not get stuck looking at your past comforts. Get ready to find new ones.
The second barrier deals with the technicalities: travel partner, schooling, gap-year program, etc. Less is more in this category.
The fewer friends you travel with, the fewer difficulties you will run into. As well, you will get to know more about yourself and your friend of choice than with a big group. Meeting new friends might seem hard, but within no time you will meet people from around the world – and they won’t be exactly like you. That’s the best part. They will bring with them new life experiences and a new way of thinking. Discreetly, this will squeeze your bubble until it’s gone.
In terms of school, just simply ask for a deferral from your post-secondary educa-tion. If your program won’t grant you one, take a leap of faith and re-apply next year. If you got accepted this year, why not next?
Finally, which program best fits your needs? There are tons of gap-year pro-grams, and they can be great. Research them. If you find one you think you’ll like, go for it. The real “problem” pops up when you don’t fall in love with a pro-gram. This is a blessing in disguise.
Want to become more independent and answer to only yourself? Then this is for you – Grab a calendar and plan your trip using pieces of programs. For in-stance, try Marva or Magen David Adom. These programs are for two months each and will provide unparallelled experienc-es. Being part of a big program has no correlation with these – just apply and be willing to pay the going rate. Not joining a yearlong program provides freedom that ensures true growth. It can also have the bonus of being cheaper.
Parents, let your kids do a gap year. Let them find themselves. Let them find out what life is all about. Let the bubble burst. Let life happen. You watched them hatch and slowly grow in your nest. You pro-tected them always. Nothing was, is, and will ever be more important to you. But now it’s time for them to fly.
Students, you can afford a year off. Life isn’t running from you; you’re running with life. Time ticks the same everywhere. What’s the difference between getting married at 28 or 29? Making your first million at 31 or 32? School will wait; good friends will wait; family will wait. A gap year might not. Not many times in life can you pause everything and go. No one can predict when an opportunity like this will come again. Don’t take it for granted.
And lastly, don’t be afraid to be differ-ent, to engage change. Don’t be ordinary, average or mundane. Be special. As a friend of mine used to say, “You can’t live with the chickens if you want to fly with the eagles.” Just go and do it. You won’t regret it.
Daniel Baum is a recent graduate of Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto and is cur-rently in Israel completing an independent year abroad.