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The Dark Side of Taking a Gap Year

Student Life

June 13, 2023

Mom, I have decided to take a gap year!

But why? Don't you know how difficult it would be to sit at home for a year while your peers move on?

I can handle it, Mom.

For most of us, that's how our gap year starts, by asking permission for it! And we think that that's the most challenging part of the year, but only a few of us know the reality of that forbidden fruit. Sure, things could go in your favour. That's what we hope for! But one of the core aspects of adulthood is that not all things go as planned...

Things to look out for during a gap year:

(1) Feeling left out

Yes, it's true that when you take a gap year, you make a conscious, well-thought decision to invest a whole year of your life in something you're passionate about. But it won't be easier when you wave goodbye to your friends when they move to a different state for their college. At that point, most of us will question our decision.

Then, the best thing you can do is talk to your folks! Tell them how you feel and maybe even open up to your friends about how you feel left out, and if they are your true friends, they'll help you realise that it's okay to feel left out. Because taking a gap year is a long and lonely road, but we shouldn't forget what we are sacrificing for and what we hope to achieve. It won't be the only time you'll feel that way in the upcoming year. Still, the important thing is to keep your eye on the ball and focus on what's in your hand right now, which is to work as hard as you can so that at the end of this, when all things are done and dusted, you shouldn't be left with regret that, "oh man, I could have done better"; you should be like "yeah man, I did my best!". As rightfully said by the author of W1NNING & RELENTLESS, Tim S. Grover,

"If you think that the price of winning is too high,

wait until you get the bill of regret

and that bill is going to be generational."

(2) Countless lonely nights

You understand sooner or later that a gap year is dissimilar to a school year. In a school year, you have friends with whom you can complete your assignments, study all night for an upcoming exam, or talk to them when you feel overwhelmed. As mentioned earlier, a gap year is a long and lonely road, but it doesn't mean you can't get the help of your peers or your parents because they will be there for you when you need them the most.

Honestly, you won't have the luxury of "chilling and relaxing" for the entire day because you have to continuously remind yourself why you decided to take a gap year. Was it for fun? Or was it to achieve your goals? Maybe on one of those nights, you might call your friend who you haven't talked to in ages but she might not pick up. Soon you might realise that that friend has moved on with his life and you are just holding onto something that you had with her in your school years. In short, you'll lose many friends during your journey, but you have to accept it and move on... This year you have to do most of the things alone, no one is going to wake you up in the morning to study, and no one's going to ask you to stop binge-watching YouTube or some webseries, because most of the time you are in your room making your parents believe that you are studying. So it's up to us whether we use our phones and waste those lonely nights or work extra hard on those particular nights and do justice to the year that we are sacrificing.

(3) Depression and anxiety

It's not easy dedicating a whole year of your life to a goal you couldn't achieve on the first try for any reason. Maybe you weren't prepared enough. Perhaps you decided to take a year off to prepare for it beforehand.

Some of us give up and choose to go into some other stream; others take a gap year to prove themselves again. It's not easy to watch your friends enjoying their first sem, their fresher's party, their first college trip, and their first fest while you are still doing the same old stuff. It's not easy to see your closest friends move on with their lives and go on vacations when you've been studying the entire day and night for the past year. For most of us, depression kicks in when we are going through a rough week, maybe a bad score in your mock exam or falling behind your schedule, and then one day you open Instagram and see tens of stories about your peer's college, hostel life, late-night parties and whatnot. That's the point for most of us when we feel like the worst and question every aspect of our lives, including the decision to take the gap year in the most pessimistic way possible, which...? You guessed it, anxiety!

In those moments, what helped me was a quote which goes like "Your feelings aren't your choice; your behaviour and thoughts are." This means that it's not wrong to feel depressed or anxious, but what's important is what we do about it. Whether we opt for alcohol to make ourselves feel better or whether we head into the game and keep moving forward.

My Experience

Some backstory - I completed my grade 12th last year around the first week of June. I had my entrance exam for MBBS in about 45 days. In those 45 days, I gave my heart and soul to it, studying 16hrs/day.

But after returning from the examination, I knew that I wouldn't be able to qualify this year... (for anyone interested, the cutoff is ~1%). A week later, I decided that I had to take a gap year and started doing my studies, keeping in mind all the mistakes that I made before. I made a schedule, pasted it on my door so my brother could see it and "taunt" me until I followed it! As an overthinker, I thought that I was prepared for everything. I thought about every possible error I could have made and made a solution for the same, with the help of my father, of course.

So the curriculum started, I picked up the pace and was even a little ahead of my teachers, studying 9-12 hours a day consistently, until... I wasn't.

Why? Well, I got infected with Chickenpox, and to add to that bad luck, it didn't heal for like 20 or so days... and even after that, I took around a month to regain the lost energy.

To put it in perspective, I had my entrance exam in 9 months, and I more or less wasted two months of it on an illness. I was in so much stress that my body started releasing an excessive amount of cortisol (for people who've heard this for the first time, it is released when your body thinks that you are in a life-death kinda situation, it's aka "life-saving hormone") which resulted in me gaining quite a few kilograms of weight, not too good for self-confidence. But still, I focused on my academics, trying to put it back on track.

To top it all off, one of my best friends left, who I thought would support me for the entire year, but on the contrary, made it even harder, so I won't go into the details of that...

After another month or so, my maternal grandfather passed away, which impacted my mother and, in turn, had an impact on me; just two months before the exam, my grandmother passed away. That was hard for me because she's the closest person I have, after my parents. (You'll notice that I have used is/have instead of was/had for a simple reason, because in Hinduism/ Sanatan dharma, we believe that the soul leaves the body but the soul doesn't leave us and always protects us, just not in a physical form.)

I also got infected with two more viruses, namely - Covid-19 and Influenza, but neither of them lasted more than a week, so it wasn't worth going into details about that.

In short, you know when people say, what's the worst that could happen? Well...that was me. That is the worst that could happen, my friends!

This gap year can break you mentally, physically and even emotionally. The only thing that helped me make the toughest year of my life successful was taking help from my loved ones, be it my papa, mummy, brother, cousins, or even my other friends whom I didn't even think of helping me.

Some of you might be eager to know whether or not I cleared the entrance. To be honest, I don't know yet because the results won't be in until late June or early July. But the point is, it doesn't matter! It doesn't matter, cause neither me nor my parents think that I didn't put my 100% into it! There's a beautiful quote in Bhagavat Gita, "कर्म करो, फल की चिंता मत करो" which means "you should do your deed and not worry about the result"

Conclusion

Taking a gap year should be a decision for you, your parents and sometimes your closest friends and relatives for advice. But at the end of the day, what matters is what you do with it, because this year will make you a different person. Now will it be for better or worse? That's up to you, my friend!

In this article, I discussed all the negatives of taking a gap year because when I was making up my mind, I couldn't find any article or any YouTube video that describes all the issues and problems we might face during a gap year. Of course, there are many positives to taking a gap year, but we all know about them because that's why taking this decision even comes to our mind! I hope this article helps you make a sound decision and best of luck!

Himanshu Kumar
1,000+ pageviews

Writer since Feb, 2023 · 3 published articles

Himanshu Kumar is an aspiring young writer who wants to present his views in a simple and surreal manner. He enjoys spending his free time writing poems in Hindi and reading Sci-fi books.

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