However, while these last four years have provided opportunities for me to grow and develop as a person, they’ve also been somewhat restrictive. As much as I love all of my friends and family, being around the same people for so long can be limiting at times. This is why during the middle of 12th grade I decided that I wanted to take a gap year. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to meet new people and expand my worldview while also pushing me out of my comfort zone in healthy ways. But, most importantly, it would be a way for me to reinvent myself. I believe that living somewhere completely different and being surrounded by entirely different people forces you to truly be yourself. You can no longer hide behind societal conformity or whatever identity you’ve carved out for yourself at home. You’re forced to figure out just exactly who you are as a person, in an incredibly deep and profound way. Here’s an example from my life: for the last four years, I’ve been able to define myself as a high school student. For the most part, my personal success has been determined by things such as my grades in school, my popularity among other students, and my extracurricular activities. But, in India I won’t have any of these things. I won’t be able to use any of those metrics to gauge whether my life is “good” or “meaningful”. This will require me to do some deep digging and figure out what is truly important to me, and what I need to be happy. I want to understand who I am at my core, once everything normal and familiar has been stripped away. A gap year seemed to be the perfect time for me to do this, as it was right before college, a time when I would actually need to start deciding what direction my life should take. Thus, my goals for this year are to find in India the same sense of love and community I found at home, and to become a stronger and more independent person in the process.