I have never been the type of person to have my life planned out, I can be quite laid back when it comes to choices and I typically just wait and see what happens next; with the idea that everything will work out in the end. However, I also seem to have a skill in not being prepared for the things that do inevitably happen in my life and university was no exception.
I never thought that I would go to university; I hated school and then hated college even more, so I concluded that I would hate university as well. When everyone else was filling out their UCAS forms, researching and visiting universities and then finally applying to study at them, I was busy catching up on college work and thinking about what I would eat for lunch that day. After putting it off for a month or two I finally decided to apply to the University of Manchester, I realised that I didn’t want to rob myself of an opportunity as it can never hurt to have more options.
I didn’t give it much thought after that, at least until results day and I somehow managed to get accepted into the University of Manchester. Once I knew I was in, I didn’t even consider not going, my plan was to stay at home and commute to Manchester everyday but because I like to make my life more complicated, I decided to apply for accommodation on the last day that you could. Next thing I knew I was packing my bags to go. In the two weeks that I spent at university my mental health was in a very bad place and it quickly became evident that it wasn’t my time. After many panic attacks and depressive episodes, I was, yet again, packing my bags and moving back home.
My Gap Year:
I had a tough two weeks but don’t feel bad for me, I finally had my dream: a year with no education, no deadlines and no drama (sort of). When it comes to gap years, I feel like there is an unspoken pressure to have the best year of your life, to travel the world and transform into a new and better person but my plans were a lot less spectacular.
Through my failed attempt at starting university I learnt that my state of mind is always going to be an important factor when it comes to starting something new. I decided that during my time off I was going to sort myself out and really try to prepare for university.
My first plan of action was to get a job and be able to provide for myself, so I ended up working at Tesco as a personal shopper (which was definitely not the highlight of my year) and I managed to save up some money to spend on myself. Working there was a very mixed experience, on one hand I felt like and adult working full time, on the other hand I felt really bored but at least the pay was decent.
Once I had a job, my next plan was to focus on my mental health, so I went to my GP and ended up starting Sertraline for the second time in my life. However, for the sake of my mental health I realised that I needed to spend more time on myself, to do some self-care and figure out my identity. I finally took the time to realise that I had been in full time education for the last 7 years (not including primary school) so it was no surprise that my brain was so cluttered that I couldn’t focus on university at all. College had completely drained me, so it was time for me to relax while I had the chance.
I spent time watching the shows that I’d been putting off and classic movies everyone raves about, I saw three of my favourite bands live, I bought new clothes that actually made me happy, I finally started my Youtube channel which was something I’d been wanting to do for years, I put a lot more energy into my art and I finally learnt to drive and passed my test. Honestly, it ended up being a good year for productivity in that sense. No, I wasn’t travelling the world or making unforgettable memories, I didn’t pass any major exams or party every night. What I did do was build a foundation for my future and learn a lot more about myself, who I’d honestly been neglecting.
Something that I will always be grateful for is the fact that my gap year allowed me to rekindle some friendships that I had lost over the years and now I’m closer to them than I ever have been. It wasn’t a perfect year, I had ups and downs and it certainly wasn’t glamorous but overall, I have never regretted taking my gap year, it was just something that I had to do (even if that’s not what my parents believe).
I wrote this blog because some of you might be considering taking a gap year after you graduate. Some of you might be planning to travel the world while some might just want to spend a year at home relaxing before they head out into the world. Whatever kind of gap year you want to experience is valid, but you must make sure that you are doing what you want to do, not what you think you should be doing.