First Blog

Jack Swartzentruber - India


August 25, 2018

As the last one of my graduating friends to leave this summer, I’ve had the pleasure (or burden) of saying good-bye to all of them individually. While painful, going through so many farewells has given me the opportunity to reflect on the changes occuring in my life. Primarily, it has forced me to realize just how much my personal identity is shaped by the people and places around me. One thing that I love about the friends I’ve made in high school is that we’re all very different people; we possess an eclectic mix of hobbies and passions that range from engineering and swimming to painting and knitting. None of us are ashamed to be who we are, and we’re all equally excited to be around each other and share our personalities. So, after spending probably the greater part of these last four years with them, I can confidently say that I am not the same person I would have been without them. They are not only the people I go to for learning about art, music and philosophy, they are also the people I go to for expressing myself and my insights on the world. As a consequence, their beliefs and opinions have deeply shaped my own.

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.


I attached a photo at the bottom of the email. It can just be put at the beginning of the blog.

Jack Swartzentruber