July 29, 2020
It was March 2007. I was fresh out of high school. Medical Technology awaited me at the University of Santo Tomas.
I had it all planned out! I would apply for a scholarship (which I was confident I’d get), live with my friends, and have the most fun in college.
But it didn’t happen.
Imagine the disappointment I felt when my parents told me they could neither afford the downpayment nor loan that money for me. I had to stop my studies for at least one school year.
My experience may not be exactly the same as what you’re going through right now, but I’m sure a lot of you can relate with the disappointment of having no choice but to stop, surrender a plan, or be unable to do what you wanted to do.
Now it’s 2020.
We had high hopes at the start of the year, but many of our plans went down the drain because of this pandemic.
As the new school year approaches, we hear of more and more students choosing to take a gap year because of the many challenges and uncertainties that come with the new mode of education.
So, if you’re one of those students who decided to take a break from school, what do you plan to do during your gap year?
If I were to go back in time, here are a few things I would have done during my gap year:
Taking a gap year is a major disruption to your life as a student. Your usual schedules, routines, and activities will be so different from being busy with schoolwork and classes.
Make room for adjustments. Slowly regain a rhythm, then start plotting out your plans.
If you’re among those who were forced to stop for valid reasons, it might be good to process your thoughts and emotions about it. You may have to acknowledge what you feel—the disappointment, the frustration, or the feeling of helplessness. I wish I did.
Take your time as you heal from all of that.
But don’t rob yourself of the opportunity to discover new things about yourself, others, life, and the world. Education isn’t limited to the four corners of the classroom.
Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
“To number our days” means to consider the shortness of this life. Whatever life throws at you, make the most of it.
I have learned that when I don’t have much to do, I can easily be swayed by the loudest voice around me or within me. The voices we listen to dictate how we live our lives.
Sometimes the loudest voice we hear is not necessarily the voice that matters the most.
In 1 Kings 19:11–13, the Bible says the prophet Elijah heard God through a quiet whisper, not through the loud sounds of strong winds, a great earthquake, or a huge fire.
Sometimes we’re guilty of listening to the grandest or the loudest voices, but miss out on the most important voice of all: the still, small voice of God.
Listen first to the voice of God because His voice will comfort you, even on days when things don’t seem to go well.
One of the things you will definitely miss about school is the constant presence of your friends and classmates. But taking a gap year need not be a season of isolation.
In times of anxiety, loneliness, or stress, it helps a lot when we have people who will encourage us, help us, and mentor us.
Make an effort to connect to people whom you believe can help you grow. Allow them to speak to your life. Update them with what’s happening to you, even if they don’t ask.
And don’t connect with just your friends. Reach out and build relationships with the people you’re with at home as well.
Awkwardness and overfamiliarity usually stop us from reaching out to our family members. I encourage you to bridge that awkwardness by serving them, playing games with them, or even praying with them.
I want to be careful in talking about this, because this topic may cause unnecessary pressure on some of us.
The gap year doesn’t make you less of a student or less of a learner. Now, with more time available, you can pursue learning about your interests, passions, and useful skills.
But instead of just trying out some random hobby or activity for the sake of being productive, or going with what’s trending on the internet, choose to zero in on your God-given purpose.
Direct your energy and effort toward the things that will help you pursue that purpose. If your passion is to sing, scour for singing lessons and learning opportunities. If you’re passionate about arts, look for resources that can help you grow in your craft.
If you don’t know what that purpose is, now would be a good time to learn about it. Pray about it. Speak to mentors or trusted people. And then find out the next steps.
You don’t have to do them for the sake of just being able to do something. Take this gap year as an opportunity to develop your skills and to nurture your God-given calling.
Looking back, I can see clearly now why God allowed my gap year to happen. It was a long year filled with tears and desperation, but all those seasons led me to knowing Him more.
I know now that God’s plans had to prevail because God wants what’s best for me . . . even if it didn’t feel like it at that moment.
You may have so many things planned out, and that’s not a bad thing. But there will be times when our plans don’t push through, and we might feel inadequate or helpless as a result.
But if you know who to trust in this season, it gives you comfort and a confidence that everything will eventually be okay.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
This season has a purpose. I am certain that at the end of this, we will all be able to say, “Ah! Kaya pala!”
God knows what He is doing. He is faithful.
Be reminded of who He is and of His promises through reading the Bible and through the godly people you surround yourself with.
May His still, small voice be the loudest affirmation, the biggest assurance, and the most empowering motivation you’ll have during your gap year.
Gap year or not, your destiny and identity in God are firm and secure.