After receiving this question an uncountable number of times during the summer leading up to my bridge year, I had my response down to practically a science. I plan to study International Development in college. I do not have much prior knowledge or experience, but I do know that I want to learn more. I believe that learning from the perspectives of people outside of my small, limited circle will better inform my own perspective. It is my hope that a Global Citizen Year will help me understand the issues which I would like to dedicate my career working to study and address.
How polished! How professional! All summer, I chose to project myself and my intentions with complete confidence in my decision because it commanded the most positive reactions and support from the people that I care about. However, at Global Launch, I am learning about the ways in which we use masks to disclose vulnerability. On the scale of sharing my most palatable reasons to my most personal ones, I would label this explanation as my level one. Level two is a little more complex.
For a long time, I was sure that I would exclusively be a filmmaker. I was fourteen, a freshman. I had found something that I loved doing and connected with people that I loved doing it with. I fell in love with film festivals and accolades. I was encouraged to go to film school. I kept up great grades that my college applications would be proud of in three years.
I am no longer fourteen. I still make films sometimes, but for a little while I thought I had lost it forever. I hit an all-time low during my junior year. I misplaced my love for making videos and had a falling out with my favorite teacher and mentor. I was uninspired and unhappy in my AP classes, considered alternatives to traditional education, and proposed solo backpacking trips along the coasts to my parents. I almost stepped away, but I made the decision to stay.
Instead, I got back into the habit of reading a book a week. I interned on an independent film set during the summer and worked on a local political campaign in the fall. I took on opportunities that would help me seek clarity and I discovered new interests. I realized that my education is only meaningful to me if I do it with purpose, and that I lost my sense of purpose amidst the rush of high school. I promised myself that I would make an effort to find it again. My bridge year is my effort.
Level three is even more complex, and the honest answer is that I don’t know. I have felt confused and overwhelmed over the past few weeks and my feelings frequently contradict themselves. 72 hours ago, I couldn’t stop bawling at the airport despite blasting Ariana Grande’s “No Tears Left To Cry” repeatedly. I was terrified by the idea of letting go of everything that I have known, even if it is just for a little while. I didn’t want to release my sister from our familiar, loving grasp as we hugged at baggage claim and I couldn’t look back at my mom as she walked away. Now, as I settle into a new space and start to feel more secure than I did at the airport, I am realizing that my answer is still evolving. I do not have all of the answers right now but I believe that’s okay.
I know that I applied to Global Citizen Year because I was desperate to experience purposeful learning again, but pure logic wasn’t enough. Beyond the reasons above, it has been the gut feeling in my head and in my heart that urged me to follow through with this unconventional pathway. I did it because my intuition told me to do so. It has gotten me to California and will soon carry me to Ecuador, and I am learning to trust my initial inclinations. So far, it has worked out in my favor.
I am in California for Global Launch with 147 other Fellows and I have not felt as present or exhausted (the positive kind) as I do now in years. I spent 48 minutes on my phone yesterday, down from my usual average of over four hours. I am engaging in real conversations with so many intelligent, kind people from all corners of the world. I have sat in common halls and dorm rooms, exploring the intersections of my own identity and connecting with people in this regard, more than I ever have in my life. At times I feel uncomfortable or challenged, but I also feel supported by the people around me and I know I’m not alone here. I’ve met new friends and future soul sisters, and one is named Eleanor after my Queen, Eleanor Roosevelt! Two are named Taylor! It’s incredible. I have found people to laugh with, people to talk deeply with, and people to share stories and exchange vulnerability with as we plunge into the depths of a great new life shift. Simply put, I feel alive.
As I reflect and revise my response to your burning question, know that I actually do not yet have all of the answers but instead that I’m doing well right now. I am not worried about not knowing because I believe that the importance of my decision and bridge year will continue to reveal itself as my journey unfolds, and of this, I am sure.