It’s easy in this day and age to compare your life with those that you see on social media. I am in my mid twenties and many of the people I went to school with now have bachelor degrees and their dream jobs. I tend to dwell on this subject as though I have become a slacker. Newsflash, I am not the only person my age without a four-year degree. I decided to take a couple “gap years” between high school and college and I am so grateful that I did.
A gap year is time between high school and college that a person uses to develop maturity, passions, skills, experiences, and knowledge that will help them to decide a career path and be successful in the future.
I was seventeen when I graduated high school and I wasn’t ready to make a decision that would alter the path of my life so drastically. I went to school at a private university that was $47,000 per year before scholarships and financial aid. I lasted one week. I went home for the weekend and found out that the allergic reaction I was having from my new body wash and shampoo was actually head lice and scabies. I was mortified. I returned to my dorm to pack up, treated my stuff, and then left for good.
I spent the next few years developing skills and learning things that would be vital for years to come. I built my photography business for the first few months. Then my mom started leaving the local newspaper on my bed with a job listing for housekeeper at the local hospital circled every week. Eventually, I applied, interviewed, and accepted the position. I learned so much about myself and about working in general during that job. This was my introduction to the medical field. The two years that I spent at that job taught me about teamwork, training new employees, managing aggressive behaviors from others, prioritizing responsibilities, patient centered care, leadership, among other things.
From there, I worked as a nurse’s aide at the hospital for a year. This is when I decided that I wanted to become a nurse. I loved my job as a nurse aide and I loved getting to interact with the patients. Financially, it was going to be difficult to go back to school. It didn’t seem like it was in the cards for me, but I got lucky. One of my patients contacted administration and said they would like to pay for the rest of my schooling. After all financial aide, I was short about $5,000 and I was so grateful that a stranger was willing to help me. So I went on to LPN school in Pennsylvania. It was the cheapest and quickest option at the time.
My mother is an LPN and my grandmother recently retired from being an LPN. I spent my whole life fighting against being a nurse. It’s something that I never even considered for the future and taking those gap years helped me to realize what I actually was interested in. I was much more mature than when I graduated from high school and when I did go back to school, I was ready. I worked hard and already had some experience under my belt that helped me throughout my schooling.
Now it’s my husband’s turn. He is currently going back to school for his RN and once he is a nurse, I will go back for my RN. We both took time off between high school and college, but I am so glad we did. I would have a degree in photojournalism and struggling for employment right now while buried in debt.
A gap year isn’t for everyone, but there is nothing wrong with taking time to figure out what you want in life and who you are. Your whole life is ahead of you and you are never too old to learn. Sure, I may not have a bachelors degree yet or my dream job, but I am working toward that goal. And I have a lot of real-life experiences that other people my age wouldn’t understand.
Listen to your gut and follow your heart. Life is about balance.