I’m very secure in my decision to take a gap year, and have been for about a year and a half. Even if I wasn’t, I know my friends and parents would be on hand to gently remind me how badly I needed a break back during the thick of it from Christmas until exams. It was a pretty relaxed time, to be fair, if you consider crippling stress, constant anxiety and frequent tearful episodes to be relaxing. For some reason, I don’t, and therefore didn’t particularly enjoy that time.
That, as well as the fact that I love my job and I’m so excited to continue, and also to travel as much as possible in the coming year, is the reason why I’m sure that a gap year is what I need. I’m still deciding whether university is the right path for me, and this is the space I need to decide that.
So let it be known that I am 100% excited to be embarking on my gap year when I say that watching all of my friends leave for university fills me with a certain sense of something. I’m not sure what. Sadness? Feeling left out? Premature anxiety about my own freshers week in a year’s time?
Social media is really living up to its negative stereotypes in this time. It’s not actually getting me down, but it sounds so silly to write, and I know exactly what my mum would say and think! Watching my friends post photos and stories of their new flatmates, cities, favourite freshers haunts and lectures, especially those friends that typically don’t often post to social media, is bizarre. Speaking to my closest friends about the trials of starting university makes me wonder if all of those people are truly as excited as they make out online. I’m sat here feeling left out because I’m only seeing the best bits, the most exciting selections of photos that they choose to share with everyone to prove that they’re having a great time. In reality we all know that everyone’s experience is filled with different ups and downs.
But beneath these feelings is a bubbling, fluttering, beaming happiness. Excitement. I’m so proud of my friends for what they’ve achieved. We sat in the sixth form study centre, cafe, library, classroom, and saw each other through countless breakdowns and frustrated episodes and after it all…here they are. Doing exactly that which they’ve striven towards for the last two years. They’re living the life, making new friends, looking after themselves and discovering that they don’t need their parents as much as they used to (or, in some cases, discovering that they still very much do need them!)
It’s really cool when someone asks to call me, sends a video of their new room or introduces me to their new flatmates. I’ve already dealt with new crush drama from 250 miles away, and although it seems a big deal to her now, I know we’ll look back on this and laugh.
So where does that leave me? Tucked up in bed with blankets and fluffy socks, mostly. I’ve discovered that, while the “big things” are all in place – I have a job so I’m putting away savings, I know some great people both at work and also in the other activities I do, I’m able to sit down like I am now and reflect on life, and I’m constantly gaining new skills and experiences – I’ve found that I miss the “small” things. Two people very close to me also stayed home this year, and between the three of us we’re working like mad to save up and plan for the future. I love being able to spend time with them without the pressure of revision, but I miss meals out with the whole group. All of us converging en masse on McDonald’s or the cinema were great times. Because there are less people around, it becomes harder to find days when we’re free for long enough to make going out worthwhile. And, weirdest of all, most of my local friends are in the year below and not 18 yet. I call this weird because I never thought this would be something to hold me back, as someone who doesn’t drink much. But just the other day I found out about an event in town that looked like great fun, and just as I was about to invite two of my mates, I realised they wouldn’t be able to take part!
Like most things, it’s bittersweet. The absence of old friends means I can spend more time with the people I love but don’t know as well, and I’m looking forward to being able to develop relationships with new people. Making new friends has always been something I love, even as a shy, anxious, quiet child! It also means that the moments I do get to spend with those who have flown the nest become more precious. I simply can’t wait to go and visit them and have them show me around their new towns. The fact is that most of them were genuinely ready to go, and I know they will blossom so much in the coming years, as I will too when I eventually follow them!
As often happens, this post is an unorganised, unplanned jumble of feelings. Sorry if it doesn’t make much sense or read well, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!