A Quick Note on Gap Years and College
Several people have recently told me that I should write a book or a series of essays on the concept of the gap year and the growing business of college. I’ve certainly read up on it enough- taken my notes, ranted my rants, and built my arguments, but I can barely write a one paragraph post on the subject. The truth is, I’m tired. The topic wears me out. It has been the center of my world for over three years and suddenly I am realizing that it has been a waste of the enormous focus I have given it. I am sorry that I have allowed the need to justify my intellect and achievements with a piece of paper to swallow my self-confidence. I am sorry that I have discounted any sense of pride for the past two years as false affirmation, because it was not supported by a credit count. I am sorry, terribly sorry, that my generation is emerging, bright and beautiful, into socially approved financial enslavement- that many of their dreams will come second to their bank accounts. I am sorry that college is becoming a case study for the old adage “If you tell a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” I am sorry that people are angry. I am sorry that people are not more angry than they are. I am sorry that young people are feeling cheated by a symbol of hope that should transcend all class barriers, the promise of an education. I am sorry that we have reduced education to the size of a campus. I am sorry that my nation is vomiting out a disturbing number of clones whose brains are wired to mistake identical opinions as the most firm of foundations for unity. I am sorry if you are offended by that assertion. I am sorry that my high-school teachers are disappointed in me, that I have failed a test I did not know I was taking, that I have transgressed against the newest commandment in so horrible a way- Thou Shalt Not Think for Thyself. I am sorry that so many go to college because they are told it is the thing to do, instead of because they feel that they belong there. I am sorry that we have replaced logic with books, instead of using them as tools to complement our own natural abilities to think. I am sorry that when I tell people about the things I have done and seen, traveling the world for two years, their follow-up question is, “Yes, but when are you going to school?” I am most sorry that my answer is inevitably, “I don’t know.” I am sorry to disappoint.
But, you know, I’m getting to a place where I can stop apologizing for the way I have lived my life, where I can applaud and support my peers in their decisions, no matter what academic route they have chosen. If they have made the decision in an informed manner, if it is where their heart is, then it is the right one. I am proud of my friends in school, extremely. My heart is not with university right now and that’s perfectly alright. I am getting to a place where I can appreciate that the prejudices I have formed against institutionalized education should influence my own direction, but should never undermine the faith of my friends in their path. The support they receive on their way, from me or anyone, will be of a value as great as the way itself. I believe that. I am getting to a place where my mind can settle, where I can stop simultaneously approving of/hating myself for not going and disdaining/envying those who do. I am getting to a place where my life belongs to me again and not to an on-going existential debate over the value of my mind and the definition of “qualified”.
I am sorry that college is becoming what it is, but I am glad that every day I see proof of minds that will always seek truth and knowledge and find it, no matter their environment. If some people find this in academia and some people find this on the road and some people find it in their local libraries, then more power to them. I’ve gone to school on this subject for three years and have come out knowing one thing in particular- education is what you make of it. Knowing this, how can I be bitter? The responsibility is on me to become what I become. I cannot blame loans, I cannot blame the pressures of societal expectation, I can blame only myself if I fail to learn. College only becomes a threat when it suggests that it is the only route to improve our minds. I know that it is not and coming to this realization sets me at a new-found ease. I’ll do okay. You’ll do okay. We’ll all do just fine. It’s just a matter of doing at all and never substituting the confidence you have in yourself with a piece of paper or anything else.