Explaining a Gap Year is very often like speaking in code.
Every word punctuated with a deliberately awkward pause. “So, you’ll… just… do nothing?…”
The world can be an intimidating space. Even while reading the experiences of others who seem to be on a similar “Gap Year”, what each of us are, or seem to be doing, vary vastly from subject to objectives with varying degrees of “success”. I suppose the one thing that connects us is a stereotype and our desire to break away from it. Yes, institutions can be great. I had a wonderful college experience which helped me learn a lot about myself and my surroundings. It gave me an opportunity to live away from home and live in a new city.
To try and articulate, I’ll backtrack a little. In school I always wanted (one could say, dreamt) to go to Delhi (University) and vocalized it very often in the 12th standard when asked. I was always met with, what I can now in retrospect, affirm to be a look of sympathy (more often than not) for my high reaching desires for someone who comes from Chandannagar, a city with a population of about 166,867 at the 2011 Census. (Good ‘ol Wikipedia). I admit, in their place, I would have been skeptical as well. I wasn’t academically excellent, I spent a fair amount of time playing sports, singing, organizing events in school and artwork. So, when I had a score not worthy of someone who was “President” of the school in my boards, things seemed a bit bleak…
My parents are, to say the least, very interesting people. My father is Bengali and my mother, Japanese. They work in the field of Sustainable Agriculture and Education which is roughly classified under “Social Work”. Since my elder brother had decided to join a Japanese agricultural high school (10th-12th), which was already very unorthodox (you are giving up a bright future for pigs and crops?) I was their only chance at getting a true new generation Indian College experience, but they let me do all the applications and running around by myself (haha, fun times). Thankfully there was an entrance exam (CATE, which was discontinued right after our year) for English Hons. at DU and doing well in that got me into college.
So there I was, extremely lucky to be in the non-FYUP, non-FYUP to TYUP converts, non-CBCS, CATE giving Semester batch with seniors who also had the same syllabus! (ah, the relatively non-turbulent times) Over the course of three years, I met interesting people, became friends with many and shared a new bond with teachers which I never had at school (barring exceptions). I like doing various things so I remained extremely busy. I hit a mental wall in third year, because I realized, despite having thought long ago in my head that I would make it to a PhD, I now wanted to move away from academics. The idea now of an MA that was obviously the next step, seemed to be a mistake. I stopped trying to keep up with what my friends in class were doing because I felt like I wasn’t thinking anymore. I was confused and stressed, but most of our teachers encouraged us to take gap years, and as I spoke to my family, their support for my wish to move to more practical based fields and taking a few years off, alleviated that stress and I could see myself becoming happier.
Now with a few gap years in mind, I’m learning to read and write in Japanese from my mother. I feel it may be more mentally difficult for someone to work on pre-existing knowledge (in my case, speaking and hearing Japanese) because the pace does not match up to what you feel you should be naturally able to pick up, as opposed to dealing with a completely new language where you learn all of it together. However, the feeling of being able to read and write a bit more everyday is keeping me going.
I’m learning to question how I think, question whether the ideals we create in our head are truly what we believe are best for us or exactly how much of an influence society has on creating those ideals. I’ve also been reading non-fiction, and fiction, graphic novels (outside the syllabus!), Sketching, YouTubing, gathering random and interesting facts of science and logic, attempting small DIY projects and cooking. I can now easily say fifty words without the letter ‘A’ in 20 seconds, cook brownies and pumpkin cake with arbitrary measurements, solve all the puzzles in the Calcutta Times page. Everyday I’m inspired by new and different things and now look forward to things that are to happen in the near future.
That look of sympathy is now replaced by confusion because I’m supposedly doing “nothing” at home and dreaming, but look how difficult society makes it for people to do nothing!
So, let’s make a deal, society. You do your thing, I’ll do mine.
And maybe, just maybe, if we accord the same respect to everyone else, we just might progress.
As of now, let’s replace lost hopes with new ones and dream.
“People think dreams aren’t real just because they aren’t made of matter, of particles. Dreams are real. But they are made of viewpoints, of images, of memories and puns and lost hopes.”― Neil Gaiman, Sandman.
English Hons. Graduate,