As it’s almost coming up to starting my studies in the Netherlands(!), I wanted to reflect a bit on the things that have occurred in the last year and I wanted to share my wisdom with you, maybe for people who have experienced similar things to me and are looking for support knowing that there are others out there, or maybe for people who are about to start a gap year and embark on a new journey. Whether it’s just the latter, or both, there are definitely things to be learned about yourself and others in this seemingly short, but often long, time period. So here we go, the 7 lessons that I learned this year:
1. People aren’t always going to be there for you
In fact, the people you thought were really good friends, probably won’t be there for you. And who can blame them? They have just started a whole new chapter in their lives, new friends, a new place and of course, they’re probably really happy with their new start at university. I don’t mean to sound too bitter about this, it’s just over the course of the year, I was quite sad to see the rift widen between old friends and I, and it can be painful to realise that you’re not going to start the university chapter for a whole year. It’s like watching the elevator doors close and you have wait for it to come back from the 13th floor to your floor again. That was probably the worst analogy I have ever come up with on the spot, please forgive me 😂 but you know what I mean. Don’t feel too discouraged and don’t take it personally, just accept that this is the way it’s supposed to go, and you have to lose some people in order to find new, amazing people to share your new journey with.
2. Travelling, especially solo travel, is an absolute blessing and should definitely be taken advantage of if possible
As one of my favourite comedians once said, travelling really does broaden the mind, and scientists have proven that travelling decreases brain activity in the areas where mental illnesses can be active. It’s a really eye-opening period in life, where you get to go out in to the world and really explore places you would probably never go once you’re settled in life with a steady job. Maybe the uncertainty of the way your life will pan out in the future makes it even more thrilling and exciting. Going to Thailand was a huge step for me and filled me with the confidence that I really can get out there and do what I want if I put my mind to it. Apart from flights, you can live relatively cheaply and not have to spend a lot of money. These experiences also taught me how to budget and that it is super important.
3. You’re probably going to be single for a year, and you decide whether to see that as a good thing or a bad thing
Personally, I chose to see this transitional (and more importantly, temporary) period as a good thing. I’ll admit, it is hard to see people in relationships because that is the one thing most people (emphasis on most) want out of life because we’re only human. I’ve enjoyed being kind and considerate to myself, which I’m getting a lot better at, and loving yourself first is the first step to loving others (I’m not just talking romantically here).
4. Self-confidence is key
Self-love is definitely an important element of enjoying a gap year. I definitely feel I have been too hard on myself these past 6 months, and I don’t really know why as I have had a lot to deal with emotionally. Right now, I’m learning to appreciate myself and praise myself for the little things and the bigger things that have gone right and to enjoy my own company for sure. Self-love is such an important topic that is never discussed in today’s world where you are supposed to be a born leader right from the start to get ahead in the world, and some people just aren’t like that. Some people need nurturing, but more importantly, need to learn this lesson gradually for themselves.
5. You’re going to have some great stories to tell one day
I have some great stories to tell, from volunteering as a teacher in Rabat to spending time with Valerio the goat in the mountains in Switzerland, stories that maybe I would not have told otherwise. This year, for me, has also been as what I like to call, a redirection, as I’ve chosen a different path and it might even lead me to better places! Everything fell in to place somehow, even my travelling experiences, and I never felt completely overwhelmed travelling on my own to places. Even choosing to study in the Netherlands is a story itself! You learn different lessons in new environments, and I think that’s pretty awesome. There is more to life than working all the time, and I’m glad I came to that realisation at an early age. Money isn’t the most important thing in life (still pretty important), giving of yourself and loving others should be prioritised more than it is.
6. It’s a great time to experiment and try new things, without worrying about responsibilities
This year, I really delved in to spiritual experiences which I wouldn’t have had time for had I been at university already instead. I also created an art instagram page and I experimented with my looks, piercing my ears for the first time at the ripe old age of 19. There are many experiences you can choose to have, and I also enjoyed the lack of judgement about my experiences too. I think the pressure at university forces you to conform, in a way, to be socially acceptable and make friends with others.
7. You see a lot of people in a different light
I definitely see a lot of old friends differently, and I really dislike the way they have treated me, as if they don’t have any time to talk to me and they are too busy with their lives. People being “too busy” is definitely a rather touchy subject for me, as it usually means they’re not interested in being your friend and they use this an excuse rather than telling you the truth which l don’t understand. I’ve learned to lose the people who never make an effort and cease contact. I certainly didn’t enjoy cutting people off, but it forced me to confront my feelings and be honest with people. Even though honesty can hurt, I believe it truly benefits everyone.
I also see my family differently, and realise that family is the only thing that matters, because they’ll be there for you through the good times and bad times. Even though they can get on my nerves sometimes, I learned to really appreciate family this year because what else do we really have that we can count on in this life? Almost nothing.
There are always pros and cons to everything, and gap years are one of them, but the experiences you have are directly related to how you choose to perceive them. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, the grass is never usually that much greener on their side, focus your energy on improving and changing your ideas and you will have an amazing time! 😄
Sending positive energy your way 💕