“Not all those who wander are lost.”
J.R.R. Tolkien (the author famously known for writing the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and the fantastical adventures on Middle Earth) made these words famous and for someone on a gap year, I could not have related to any other quote better than this one.
The last year and a half (ish) has probably been the most adventurous and illuminating periods of my life thus far. You see, I’m what most people will call conventional, behaviour wise at least. When it comes to personality and what I believe in, I’m more like the Mad Hatter and prefer to be a little more fun-loving and creative. However, when it comes to how I act I’m much more of a standard, law-abiding citizen who follows the trend. I was never a rebellious teenager (much to some of my friends and family’s dismay), or someone who did wondrously outrageous things (except for maybe reading while walking and occasionally falling down stairs as a result). Sure I wasn’t too normal in that my weekends were more about binge-watching Disney/Harry Potter movies with my besties while eating too much popcorn, or reading a book or two without leaving my room instead of going out partying like most other teenagers. But for me, that was fun and the allure of clubbing or doing a non-introvert activity was ineffective as the thought just had no appeal to me. So, imagine everyone’s surprise when predictable me announced that I wouldn’t be starting university in February 2019 like everyone else. Instead, I would be off to see the world on my gap year.
The reason I took the gap year is not because I had an itch to travel and see new places. I know that sounds dreadfully uncultured of me but I have been so lucky in my life to travel around the globe with my family during holidays so my travel bug was under quite good control. I took a gap year because of a small nervous breakdown I had while trying to decide what to study here in South Africa – when everyone in my year was readying their applications. I had no clue what I wanted to study. I wasn’t someone who excelled in maths and science and knew that engineering was the perfect fit. I hadn’t been dreaming of becoming a doctor or a vet since I was in prep school (both parents being doctors may have been a sufficient tranquiliser to that fantasy) and I didn’t have a vocation for a particular profession. I was stuck – and completely freaking out because not having a plan or something to work towards is not something that I was used to. That is when my parents thought it would be a fantastic idea for me to take a gap year – not to travel, but to try short courses around the world to test out different subjects and career ideas. So, I ended up spending over six months overseas, doing short courses at different universities in English, Creative Writing, Philosophy and Communication. People often asked me why I was trying so many things and if that wouldn’t just make me more confused and lost, but trying out all of those things was exactly the point. That is why I relate so well to Tolkien’s wise words. I wasn’t lost at all – I was wandering. Wandering through the choices so I could make a more informed decision about what I wanted to do in life.
Once my period of short courses was over, that meant it was time to head home and do the next big, scary, terrifying thing. Apply to university. Now let me tell you, it was certainly no picnic. I can entirely understand now why people are under so much stress when applying because I was on the edge of having an anxiety attack, and I wasn’t worrying about passing grade 12. To be fair though, I didn’t exactly make life easy for myself. I’ve always known that I wanted to study overseas, so I decided to throw my net out as wide as I could and applied both to the US and the UK. I still wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to study, so I wanted to make sure that I gave myself plenty of options. A noble thought indeed, but that translated into 13 applications for US colleges, five university choices in the UK and more college essays and questionnaires than I ever thought I could do in a lifetime. Thankfully all of that got wrapped up before Christmas (so at least I could enjoy singing Christmas carols without waiting for the drop of “FINISH YOUR APPLICATION’S”) and since then I’ve essentially been metaphorically twiddling my thumbs while I wait for responses.
And that brings me to my news. It may be obvious, given the blog title, but I received all of my responses and just last week I confirmed my acceptance at a university in the UK. That’s right – the wanderer is finally going to university! Since I responded, I haven’t been able to stop smiling because I am beyond excited to finally go and start this next chapter in my life. While I’ve loved my year, it has been challenging because most of my high school friends are now in a different conceptual space to me – they’re already in second year and have made new friends whereas I haven’t been able to grow my friendship groups that much and haven’t really moved on to the next step. It’s been challenging, and more lonely than you can imagine, but now that I can see the finish line, I’m bubbling with anticipation. So, I just wanted to let all of you know, who’ve been following my gap year adventures over these last 16 months, that this Blondey is gearing up for a whole new mission – university life. I’ll hopefully be starting in September, there is after all a global pandemic), but even that can’t put a damper on my excitement. I’m more than ready to get going and I can’t wait to see what this university chapter has in store for me and I’ll be sure to keep you all updated (with stories, tips and advice) as I finally graduate from this limbo period and move onto the next phase.
Lots of Love
Blondey on a Mission xxx
P.S. Thank you all so much for reading!!! Your support means the world – I’m not only smiling because of this news but also because of you 😊
P.P.S. Now I’m going to be asking you for the advice – as excited as I am for uni, I can’t deny that I’m definitely nervous because I’m not only starting university but also moving to a new country that’s an 11 hour flight from home. So, if any of you have any tips, any advice you can share or bloggers you know that can impart some wisdom, I would really appreciate it! I love you all and thank you!