Larissa Diaz is a Global Citizen Year fellow. Here, she shares her bridge year story.
Yes it is true, the road less traveled is hard to walk. So often the unpaved roads are the paths that we may not want, but certainly become the ones we need, and because of that the experience is not only worth it, but becomes a road you would choose to take all over again.
My senior year of high school, I was involved in so many different local organizations, projects and was doing many presentations on local issues. I was on top of my classes and made sure I did all my work and all my projects on time.
In the beginning of my senior year of high school, I thought I was supposed to know what I wanted to study, who I wanted to be and I thought I was supposed to have it all together after I turned 18 years old.
The truth is, I did not feel that way at all. I felt scared and nervous that perhaps I had done something wrong and maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough. I began to take on more work and volunteering at more places thinking perhaps all I had to do was work harder and try harder. It felt like it was really working at first, but soon the lack of rest caused to me to get really sick.
Juggling everything from school to extracurricular activities and family responsibilities made it impossible for me to stop and focus on my well being and myself. I began to feel very overwhelmed and began to dislike the work I was involved in. I lost my love for learning and was really concerned about feeling so lost and exhausted with no clue of what I wanted to do in my future.
One day, I was having such a rough time. It had been raining all day and the wind that was blowing was freezing. As I sat at the bus stop waiting to go home, I looked down at my clothes and noticed how damp they were and how cold my feet were in my wet shoes and socks. I was thinking about how I would have to rush home and quickly change in order to make it to a meeting I had shortly after school, but for some reason in that moment of feeling so cold and tired, I finally admitted that my method of “trying to get my life together” was really making me fall apart.
I didn’t go to the meeting that day and instead really sat with myself and thought about what I could be doing wrong.
As I was contemplating this question I noticed that it was not just me who was exhausted and over working herself. My other classmates were doing the same, thinking that it was normal to overwork yourself so much that most mornings we depended on highly caffeinated drinks just to stay alert in classes. We were made to believe that this was normal, and that this was the way you get into your dream college and go on to pursue your dream job.
Honestly, the whole method was a nightmare. And dream college? How could I think of a dream college when I was too exhausted to even think of the next day, let alone my future, and also still did not know what I wanted to do.
Shortly thereafter, I was on field trip with my principal and other students. While my principal went around asking everyone what they wanted to do after college, I dreaded the moment I would have to answer and admit “I don’t know”. When the question eventually came to me, I stayed quiet for a bit not wanting to be labeled that student who was “lost."
Surprisingly, when I said I was not sure of what I wanted to do my principal understood and encouraged me not to rush into a career or study in college. He gave me multiple ideas of what I could possibly do instead of heading straight into college feeling overwhelmed and unsure. He mentioned the daring idea of taking a gap year and going abroad. Hearing how it would open my mind, give me a whole new perspective on life and myself, and give me time to focus on myself, made me fall in love with the idea of taking a gap year.
After that conversation, I was very grateful that he had shared this idea and recommended Global Citizen Year to me. I knew it was not something students normally do after graduating high school, but then again I had never been very normal. When I spoke of the idea with my parents I was so happy and grateful that they supported my idea and, if anything, thought it would be a wonderful experience for me.
This idea of taking a gap year finally felt right and I was relieved to have found this amazing opportunity. I know what it is like to be exhausted and unsure of your future, and sadly that is many high school students today, but luckily there are amazing programs such as Global Citizen Year that is breaking that linear chain and helping students find their passions and also find their love for learning again.
As I type this I am heading to Quito, Ecuador to start my gap year journey, and I could not be more excited and more eager to face the unknown of my year to come. I know this is where I need to be, and I feel so blessed to have this opportunity and to also have all the amazing support from friends and family back home.
It is time to break the linear path to college and our futures and embrace the reality of the messy ups and downs life has to offer that create the most beautiful experiences and memories. I know there will be good and bad days, but I know that without the bad I could not appreciate the good and without the good I could not learn from the bad. This is why I deferred from college.