What It Is Like To Take A Gap Year

Bart Vermeiren/Unsplash

Carlos Pino/Contributing Writer

The emergence of adulthood is here. So many things to decide on, so many things to look forward to as ideas fill one’s head. Before those decisions and ideas are put into practice, should you take a gap year or two? 

As adulthood rears its head, the pressures of decisions come about with anxieties – the impending thoughts of what to do for the rest of your life, how to fulfill the expectations of your peers and family, and if what you decide to do will make you happy. 

Some want to go straight into their work and passions the moment they emerge as a budding adult in the new world of pivotal decisions. But some want to take a few steps to reflect on what they want to do. I was one of those individuals who took a gap year and here are my experiences:

I didn’t want to make a full commitment to college just yet when I was still forming opinions on my own. 

When I was 18 years old, I got a call from my brother living in Los Angeles at the time. My brother asked me  if I wanted to try my hand at making it in the City of Angels. All I needed to do was save some money from working at a minimum wage restaurant job I acquired soon after the phone call with my brother. The prospect of LA was so alluring that I was ready to deal with the scraps of tip money from customers. I saved my money and, eventually, bought my ticket to Los Angeles just after a few months. 

By the time I moved to Los Angeles, several months had passed since my graduation. I was 19 years old, sacrificed my holidays and birthday to finally arrive in Los Angeles. 

It was nerve-racking to say the least. My first few months in LA, I couldn’t find a job, not even one as similar to the petty busboy job I had in Miami. The stress for finances increased and my expectations of myself was becoming overbearing.  I soon found my job at a burger joint called Smashburger in Universal Citywalk – similar to the Universal City in Orlando but this was stationed right in the valley of Los Angeles. I had weeks where I had to live off of twenty dollars for food. 

There at my job, I met someone who became my girlfriend. At first things felt sweet between her and I, but we began to argue, and our mental health from being together took its toll. It wasn’t until 2 months into the relationship before I got engaged (even with all the red flags) to said girlfriend for about four months before we split over our own condensing fears, insecurities and attitudes towards the world. Why did we get engaged? It was the spur of youth, the heat of our moments where our trauma bonded us, and we felt less alone in each others’ company. LA was a place where I discovered more of what I disliked about the life around me, and what I disliked about myself. The dead-end job, the even worse relationships, the countless mental breakdowns and tears shed under the apathetic moon while suicidal thoughts ran through my head increasing this self-abasement. 

I know how it sounds. Pretty bad decision, right? It could’ve all been abated had I just gone straight to college.

Sure, I could’ve studied alongside my high school peers, had that sense of movement along with the masses where conformity could’ve offered its comfort. But that wasn’t the path I took, and it wasn’t one I wanted to take. Instead, I went to Los Angeles to figure out my question: “What did I want to do?” And I received an answer: I wanted to be better than what that city represented to me. 

Nothing could rob me of the personalized experiences I had in an unfamiliar place. Nothing could take away the emotions I felt that reconnected me to my own humanity. I was going to strive for my creativity and not toil for my dehumanization.

I did what anyone in my shoes would’ve done. I went back home. I was 20 years old by the time I reached back to Miami. Still nothing to show for education-wise. Licking my wounds like an injured dog, the pandemic struck, and I was now wading in the same isolation I felt in the City of Angels. 

After so much time away from home and family, I was reminded how much my family annoyed me before I left Miami. The tension only increased between my family, but then I reconnected with old friends. They alleviated my woes and gave me the escape from the familial problems I faced. There were good times; there were bad times. But I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything because of how much it taught me about the life I can lead for myself.

So, I started off in Miami-Dade College, got a few credits from about two semesters and, in my excitement to start university, I transferred to Florida International University as a Sophomore under the pen name Paprika Poe the Poet – an identity I can call my own, and one I made as a reflection of my growing history as a writer and poet. I’m 21-years-old, met someone new in Miami, married that wonderful person, majoring in English and Psychology and there isn’t a single paper, assignment or project that has ever scared me or humbled me as much as my experiences in LA.

Take the time to discover yourself. Take the time to discover what your name means to you.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community

Photo by Bart Vermeiren on Unsplash

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