When Eldest finished high school he emerged as a mature, responsible, caring person with a strong group of friends and self-confidence I could have only dreamed of having at his age. Overall, he was a pretty awesome human being. Go us! I mean…Go him! The other thing he came out with was an overwhelming desire to take a break from school; he was exhausted. As soon as exams were over he had started talking Gap Year.
To begin with I was unsure of the whole Gap Year thing. The image in my head was him lazing on the couch 24 hours a day, only taking his hands off the Xbox controller to shove more Cheezels into his gob. Gaming was one of his ‘go to’ activities when he wanted to chill-lax (yep, apparently that is a thing), so of course I jumped to worse case scenario and figured a Gap Year would be 365 days of slobbery. The objective, mature argument I was met with was “No I will get a job. Plus, I have to get into uni before I can actually have a Gap Year.” Fair point.
Going to university was not an expectation we placed upon our children. To be honest I know so many people with uni degrees (and the HECS debt that goes with it) who are now in a completely different field. What else can you expect when you demand a 17-year-old decide what they want to be when they grow up? We encourage all of our children to pursue what genuinely interests them. For Eldest, it was a career option that does benefit from a degree, so getting into university was step one. As soon as exams were over he announced he would work as much as he could, also mumbling about a website called “thisiswhyimbroke.com”? So that is what he did.
There was an image of him as a 35-year-old burger flipper haunting my brain! Would the allure of money be too great to stop him from pursuing his life goal?
As fate would have it, December and January dealt him two cards that he was not anticipating. First, he did not get the scores he desired for his chosen course. Not the end of the world. It simply meant a divergence from one pathway to another. Until he worked out how exactly, he decided to keep working. There goes the need for discussing the Gap Year! Then a few weeks later, when sorting through his spam folder, he found an email from the university of his choice. He had actually got in! Yay! But, what now?
The Gap Year chat rose from the ashes and demanded our attention again. To be honest, I was nervous in one way, as he was working full time in an eatery in a position as supervisor. He was earning decent money for an 18-year-old, and was coping very well with real grown up working ‘stuff’ like responsibility, managing staff and accountability. All great things, but there was an image of him as a 35-year-old burger flipper haunting my brain! Would the allure of money be too great to stop him from pursuing his life goal?
You know that bit at the start when I described Eldest as mature, self-confident and all that jazz? Yeah well all that came shining through again when he made his decision to continue with his inadvertent Gap Year, working with the goal to travel at the end of the year. Travelling overseas expands minds and enriches lives, so it goes without saying it is the highest on his to-do list. To confirm the point, he has a world map with blue pins of where he has been and yellow pins of where he wants to go (yeah I don’t care if Star Wars was filmed in Tunisia – Mummy says no, not going to happen!). Am I utterly green with envy and bursting with pride? You bet!
The overall consensus is that the Gap Year is a hugely beneficial concept for many. It has allowed many young people a respite from years of study (is it just me or is the pressure so much greater than back in my day?). It has also enabled people to re-assess their careers and choices in uni or to question the need for uni altogether. A Gap Year allows opportunity to explore their world with a sense of freedom many of us grown-ups could only dream of. The world really is open to them. For some however, to plough on through does have benefits as well.
It really is up to the individual, and by individual I mean the young adult, not us parents. It is possibly one of their first really adult decisions they will be able to make. Empower them, support them and know that what ever they choose to do, they will be fine. (Who’s to say a 35-year-old burger flipper isn’t the happiest soul on earth?)
My advice to parents: Don’t mind the gap.