"This wisdom you can not buy at a department store, nor acquire at Princeton or Harvard. This comes from deep within. Be a child all your life and question all things,” he told me as he pointed to his heart. “Be naked from here.”
Yesterday, we spoke to Marichelle about how she came to take a gap year, and how she prepared. Today, we dive into what's surprised her about her journey, how she nurtured a love of art therapy during her time "on," and her advice to others considering a gap year.
What’s been the biggest surprise for you so far?
It sounds very strange but I think the biggest surprise I have encountered is the freedom that comes with admitting I don’t know. I feel so often there is a pressure to know everything and have every detail of our lives planned out. Especially at a very young age, which I find is ironic because most of our brains are still at the critical time of development. Yet, we are all expected to know.
When someone first meets you, they ask for your name and "what do you do?" I used to really not know what to say back and it bothered me immensely. I would get so frustrated with this question. I would answer "I'm a student." Then they would ask me what I'm studying and the conversation would drawl out and maybe, if we had time, we could talk about things that really mattered and what we were passionate about.
It seemed like every conversation I had with a stranger would take this familiar route. But it always just seemed so narrow, so limiting. I knew I was much more than just a student. And I had something I could give to the world.
In the duration of my gap year, I had to admit a lot of times "I don’t know," and trust that was okay. It was so wonderful to acknowledge that I didn't know. It opened the door for me to not be critical of myself and instead be curious.
"I don’t know, could you teach me? Could you show me?"
So many times I was able to connect or make a friend by asking these questions. I guess to admit you don't know can make you feel vulnerable at times and that can be hard, but it is also a way to make a connection. It made me a better person to understand that I don't have to have it all figured out.
I can just breath, trust in the universe and take life as it comes.
You heavily focused on how to use art in the healing process during your gap year. What did you learn?
I love art because it has this amazing ability to bring people together, and this love has only been reinforced by my experiences around the world. I have seen first hand the impact art has in these communities that have accepted me. It gives so many people in the world a way to express themselves openly and overcome sometimes a very harsh reality.
In these communities, my friend and mentors take time to teach me about their different art forms and share a little piece of their world with me. Even if I can’t speak their language I can still understand them. You can learn so much about a culture, about a person, when you learn about the things they create.
The words of a man who inspired me in India come to mind: “We need to experiment, when you use art as a tool, you walk on the inside of your introspect. You become like a speck of dust within yourself. If you take that journey, then the whole of the arrogance of power and wealth shrinks. It is here that Muhammad, Buddha, and Jesus began. This wisdom you can not buy at a department store, nor acquire at Princeton or Harvard. This comes from deep within. Be a child all your life and question all things,” he told me as he pointed to his heart. “Be naked from here.”
I love this description of the creative process. His words have never left me and I often reflect on the meaning art has had in my life. My ability to create has led me to be able to manifest my dreams and overcome obstacles in my life.
I believe art is a vital tool that we can use to overcome obstacles and create a more diverse and understanding world for our children to inherent. When it comes to my own healing experience through the Arts I have carried a journal with me I call it my Wisdom Journal and I fill it full of sketches and moments in time that I am trying to capture. I release a feeling that's been on my mind and let it go through my drawings.
I then try to put words and go deeper into my artwork with interpretations that I write in my journal. This has been very therapeutic for me, and has given me great insight into my field of interest at the moment: Art Therapy.
What advice do you have for people considering taking a gap year?
The best advice I can give to someone who is considering to take a gap year is to give yourself permission to follow what you're curious about. So, what are you curious about ? Write it down: all the questions you have, all the things you want to do, and then make it your intention to go out in the world and make it happen.
I think it's important to realize that when you're considering a gap year, you are already taking the first step to making it a reality. It is clearly already something that is on your mind; it's just waiting for you to make the decision. So just do it and see what happens. What do you have to lose?
To let yourself be free, to explore these curiosities, will take you farther than you can ever imagine. I feel very validated in my decisions and when I look back, all those setbacks and times people said no to me, I can’t help but feel grateful to them because it led me where I am now.
The best thing you can do is make connections with people who have already experienced it. Do not be afraid to ask questions and try to enter into any conversation with the willingness to learn something.
These people are full of wisdom. They have been there and they truly want to help you get out there and see the crazy world we all inhabit. And if you're traveling, the next best thing is a good book to take you there.
Considering a gap year, or have you taken one yourself? Connect with Marichelle and other gap year students on our closed Facebook group, Gap to Great.