My Gap Year Story:
A Tapestry Of Chaos
By Patch Clapp. This article originally appeared in Issue 15 of NomadHead Magazine.
Gap years can be transformative and the choices you make can propel you from the comforts of normality into chaos. Chaos that is not necessarily crowded streets, airports or train stations so busy that they seem artificially sped up, but is instead the vast network of decisions to choose from and the associated freedom of being totally responsible for yourself.
I’d been so caught up in the rush and relatively consuming nature of high school that I hadn’t given much thought to what I would do once I was done with my last exam, let alone in the following year. I didn’t know which university I wanted to attend, so I made an arbitrary preference selection and put off genuine contemplation of my career – a problem for future me.
I’d always had a vague intention of taking the year off, but it took a long time to begin any planning. While I still had the safety net of everything I’d known and with my mother still guiding me through the decision making process, the loose threads eventually came together into the framework for yearlong tapestry.
The initial tapestry looked like cats had been destroying it for years and it had only skeletal elements:
I knew that wanted to return to Papua New Guinea, experience the Northern Lights and rattle across the Trans-Siberian railway.
I wanted to ‘backpack through Europe’ (extremely detailed and original, I know), work at a summer camp and I wanted to test out my language skills in Japan. I had not shortage of desires. I can and do thank my parents for a lot of things but I’m not sure whether I should thank them for the wanderlust that they engendered; it can be totally absorbing… and more than a little expensive.
There were plenty of holes in the material that would be my gap year, but those unknowns… they were the most exciting part!
The part where I could pretend I knew what I was doing. They were the places I would make mistakes but learn how to fix them; the times I would find a problem and only have myself to create a solution; the situations where I would learn how to live, travel and to feel the buzz of discovering something new. Beyond experiencing the freedom of decision-making, travel instilled an acute awareness of cause-and-effect and the need for planning and careful consideration although… I’m still not sure I’ve absorbed the planning part.
In the end, my gap year tapestry is completed with memories, experiences, friendships and photos. There are rips and loose threads of the learning experiences (read: failures) I had, and even a little bit of tie-dye from embracing (temporarily) my inner hippie. Somewhere amongst the mayhem and pretending I knew what I was doing, I learned what I was doing – at least partially. It’s not a tapestry that hangs out of sight, it has shaped who I am and always acts as a reminder of what I have learned.
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