This is a blog from a classmate of Trevor’s. She has been accepted to FSU…but has delayed it for a year to take a gap year. She has given me permission to share her blog. This is why we are teachers…and the stress our policy makers put on our students is absolutely wrong. Thank you Emma Jo McAuliffe…for being brave, sharing your story and giving me permission to broadcast it far and wide. You are awesome!
Why I am Taking a Gap Year – by Emma Jo McAuliffe
Eighteen years old and here I am, 9,467 miles from the only town I have ever lived in. I am volunteering in Phnom Penh Cambodia, living long sultry days free of air conditioning. It’s the end of my beginning; I’ve been here for 7 weeks now, but it’s just the first leg of my year long journey. Every day I wake up, put on a conservative, floor length dress, and take a bumpy 45 minute drive in a tuk tuk to the orphanage. Every day I bath, feed, hug and play with 19 kids who have been beaten and abused. Some days make me want to stay in bed all day, but I get up, drink my room temperature coffee, and find joy in short but precious moments.
Yesterday one of the older boys, age four, hit me as hard as could, right on my cheek, with his powerful, little fist and as he went to strike me again, I grabbed his arm and said firmly, “No” in his language, Khmer. He screamed an all consuming and unbridled scream until all the other kids joined in, violently screeching and throwing toys. But I take a deep breath, blink away any oncoming tears, and return again to just show them love.
Days like yesterday still make me so thankful that I have found my creativity, my confidence, even my self-value. That’s why I am taking a gap year, not because I don’t love the common aspects of school like learning and being social, but actually the opposite. I learn so much every day here; I learn about myself, about the world, about poverty, disease, and abuse. I am learning how to not just do without but how I can be so happy without what I previously thought I needed. I have made beautiful friendships with inspiring people that I could have never met in another way.
Last year at this time, I woke up every day with this heavy hole in my chest and a constant fear of messing one little thing up. I felt like my every move was under a microscope and there was always a reason to be jumpy or nervous. I was active in my school; I had run cross country and track, I was a cheer leader, I was even senior class president, I was also suffering from anxiety. The pressure that I put on myself- that so many American high schoolers put on themselves — is enough to make anyone suffer. I was constantly afraid, of certain people, of my own choices, of what lay ahead.
After I graduated I needed a life evaluation. I was done living life on someone else’s terms. I have two quotes that I constantly repeat in my head to help me: “comparison is the thief of all joys” and “C’est la vie.” But nothing helps more, then being surrounded by such amazing like minded people that I have met abroad, far away from the small yet aggressive and frightening river I spent the past four years drowning in.