It is exactly 5 days until my 18th birthday, and 10 days until I embark on my journey to halfway across the world– a fact that has only just crashed upon my unsuspecting psyche. For my first blog, I want to reflect on the things that have led to this upcoming adventure: rejection, an Instagram ad, and daydreaming.
I'm going to be honest, taking a year off from college was not my original post-highschool game plan, as a matter of fact, it was the complete opposite. I had long bought into the idea that I would attend UT Austin right out of high school, and after majoring in environmental science I'd go on to lead a life focused vaguely on environmental activism, and that would be the whole of my story. I was so confident (to a potentially arrogant degree) that this would be the case, that whenever I discovered my letter of rejection, my entire self-concept was challenged.
“Who was I, if not a longhorn?”
This question echoed through my mind, reverberated through my soul, and tore violently through my heart.
Alright, alright, alright, that was dramatic i’ll admit, but being rejected from what you considered your dream school definitely warrants a little bit of teenage melodrama. Truthfully, I felt completely and utterly lost. Then, without seemingly any prompting, the phrase “Gap Year” popped into my mind. It was as if my rejection had been so jarring, that this unwavering desire to travel and see the world had been knocked loose and only in this most trying of times (again with the melodrama, sorry-not-sorry), had it presented itself.
That being said, my original “plan” for my gap year was simultaneously half baked and over done. That is, I wanted to go backpacking across a pretty landscape (talk about cliche) but lacked any knowhow to create even a semblance of a proposition valid enough that could withstand my mom absolutely tearing it to shreds with such draconian argumentation tools such as “logic” and “common sense”.
Paranoia or not, Instagram’s way of providing ads for things I talk about solely in person is pretty freaky. However, it was one of these famous, and potentially infamous, ads that led to my discovery of the Global Citizen Year program– yeah, you read that right, an Instagram ad led me to undertake one of the most incredible and future altering decisions of my life…. Welcome to 2019, I guess 🙂
Allow me to set the scene: It was a balmy summer afternoon and I am meandering to my car after my English class and, like many of my peers, I was partaking in the potentially dangerous past time of mindlessly scrolling through social media as I wove my way through the parking lot. Then, as if by divine intervention, I accidentally clicked on a sponsored ad– the likes of which I nearly always detested. However, the first line of unwelcome text that so rudely overtook my phone, was not informing me of some clothing deal or “must-have” product, but was actually the very thing I was looking for: a meaningful, transformative, “bridge year” experience. There was just one issue– the deadline to apply was in 3 days.
Those next 3 days, and the many weeks following, were an absolute whirlwind of nervousness, excitement, and exhilaration. Today, August 15th, 2019, I just finished up a meeting with Dr. Erin Johnston, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Stanford University. She is conducting a study involving gap years and today, during a wonderful “rabbit hole” of our initial conversation, I was reminded of what initially sparked my passion for global discovery: daydreaming.
Growing up I read voraciously, everything from picture books to The Hardy Boys, and I remember always being irked that I would never be able to experience growing up in a small farming town in the US, or travelling through Himalayan hills on my way to school, or any of the other things the characters in my books could do. I always felt that there would be aspects of life that I would simply only experience in written form. Not wanting to accept this as true, I did what any bored kid would do– I imagined it. I would read one book over and over again just so that I could memorize every detail well enough to weave myself into the story, and simultaneously, weave the story into my own existence. This was a habit that extended well into my middle and high school years, and as I began to understand concepts such as Economics and Socio-cultural norms, the narratives I would create would become increasingly more in-depth. This allowed me to live a thousand lives, all without moving an inch. More profoundly, however, this little idiosyncrasy became the foundation of my desire to question, discover, appreciate, and experience the world, not just the one that I knew.
As I embark on my first “real” journey across the world, I am experiencing the excitement and passion for discovery that first led me to dream up worlds and create alternate lives for myself. I may still be the same wide-eyed kid that I always have been, but thanks to GCY I now have the resources and company to not only undergo unprecedented personal growth, but take with me the tools for creating global change into every step of my future journeys– something that I could not be more electrified about.
To everyone who has supported me along this process, thank you. You all have shaped who I am today and who I will become in the future, which is something I could not be more grateful for and I wish you all the best.
I’d like to end this blog with a little bit of personal pontification:
Rejection doesn’t always mean the end of the world, it could even be the beginning of a new one.
Don’t be afraid to click on some Instagram ads, you’ll never know where it could lead you.
Daydreaming could be the greatest thing that has ever happened to you, regardless of what your teachers might say.
Good luck and bon voyage, my friends 🙂