Trading My Safety Net for a Mosquito Net

Natalie Davidson - Senegal

July 6, 2011

In January of 2011 my mom suggested out of the blue that I consider applying to a gap year program. With college applications so recently finished and my second semester starting out as lazy and carefree as I was always promised, I had no desire to start filling out yet another application, especially for a program I had no intention of considering. She asked me to at least attend an after-school informational meeting for Global Citizen Year. I probably rolled my eyes and said something snappy, but I went to the meeting nonetheless. Taking a gap year before college was never in my Life Plan. I have always had a succinct outline of how my life is going to line up: attend a good college on a coast, discover an unknown passion for a major that would filter me into a highly demanded line of work, and be happily on my way to a very fulfilling and comfortable life. This outline pleased me – I would always be near my friends, a phone call from home, and sailing as often as possible.

This first Global Citizen Year meeting caused me some stress – I drove home that evening with the realization that my Life Plan wasn’t so cemented after all. I realized then that I would forever regret not applying to this program that offered incredible opportunities that I wouldn’t find elsewhere. I began reading the 2010-2011 Fellow’s blogs, fell in love with their experiences and started my application immediately. By the time I submitted my application I had accepted that my Life Plan was being peeled away layer by layer – revealing what I truly need to do versus what I simply feel comfortable doing. I need to step out of my comfort zone of home and friends and safety and give myself the opportunity to overcome actual challenges. I need to do this alone – without the loving net of warmth and stability my parents will always provide. I clicked “Submit Application” while sitting on the couch with my mom, feeling utterly baffled by my actions.

When I was accepted as a Global Citizen Year Fellow I was certain that I absolutely had to take this leap. My previous Life Plan had shattered and is now a very large blank slate, ready to be written as I go. I haven’t even begun packing for Senegal yet, but I’ve already learned that life cannot be lived with succinct outlines and rigid opinions – you must be open to discomfort and the inevitability of changing plans. I am currently sitting in my room, still surrounded by this loving net of warmth and stability, but I have already started changing. I am ready to leave the net behind and write my own story without the influence of my society, in my own language without an outline or a rulebook. I am ready to postpone college and leave my family to tackle this challenge and hopefully give back to Senegal at least a fraction of what it has already begun to give to me.

Natalie Davidson