Hitting The Pause Button

As many of you know, I decided to hit the pause button on my fourth semester at George Washington University in order to take a step back from my current situation, reevaluate my decisions, and make a pivot in regards to what I wanted to get out of college.  While many of my friends and family members initially saw the idea as being “taboo,” they quickly realized that a gap semester wasn’t as irrational as they believed it to be.  In order to save you from reading a novel, I’m going to break down my decision into three main “points.”

Stress – Though I’m not going to use this space as a personal soap box, I will admit that balancing the world of PKP and the world of Dean was difficult.  However, most of the difficulty was completely attributed to me.  I was so adamant about keeping the two parts of my life separate that I ended up putting myself through a lot of needless, and stupid, anxiety.  I saw cutting back as failure; refused to ask anyone for help; and thought coffee was the answer to the problem.  The lesson that was learned?  Stress is healthy, but only in moderation.  If you’ve never felt stressed in life, well, then you probably have too much spare time on your hands.  Stress motivates us to finish things because we know that there are negative repercussions that could result out of our failure.  However, too much stress has the opposite affect.  We end up failing to perform at our optimal level, we forget responsibilities, and try to complete assignments as quickly as possible when we know we can be doing better.  While we all admire people who lead those busy “stressful” lives, there’s only a matter of time when reality eventually takes its course.  In short, I was one of those admirers who was blinded by the glamorization of the “stressful life” that ultimately prompted me to set aside some time to unplug, reboot, and refresh.

Investment – Whether you attend an Ivy League School or a local community institution, college in an investment. Period.  It is a time in our lives when we build a foundation for our future with the sole focus of finding what we are passionate about.  While I had a relatively good idea of what I was passionate about, I wasn’t getting the best – or any – return on my investment at GWU.  I wasn’t focused on school and felt that I was only going through the motions within the classroom.  More importantly, I couldn’t justify why so much money was being spent on me to go to college in DC when I wasn’t taking advantage of the school or city.  In short, I wasn’t appreciative of the opportunities that were in front of me and that seemed to startle me.  While no one is “passionate” about their 8:00AM lecture on Intro to American Politics (at least I wasn’t), being engaged and committed to one’s education seems pretty important to me (and my parents).  The point is, college is all what we make of it.  We can passively sit by in the back of the lecture hall religiously checking Instagram (#guilty) or we can sit in the front of the room, dedicate an hour of our “precious” time to the professor, and walk away with something valuable.  Though I wasn’t sitting in row 35, I wasn’t engaged as I should have been and knew that I needed a break in order to restructure my priorities list.

Reevaluation – While I have enjoyed my time at GWU, I always had a feeling in the back of my mind that it may not be the best fit for me.  I’ve passively thrown around the idea of transferring, however, I never aggressively pursued anything.  The fact is, there’s always a difference between our expectations and reality in regards to what we want to “get” out of college.  Whatever my reason is for feeling this way, I think it’s important to address it, fix it, and move on without looking back.  With the purpose of this gap semester being to simplify and recommit myself to my studies, I want to make sure that I am also committed to my campus.  Though transferring would be daunting considering it is a bit “late in the game,” I don’t think it’s impossible.  After all, are we really going to reach our full potential if we aren’t happy within the community we live in?  Probably not.

My point in sharing this is that taking a break from college isn’t as dramatic of a decision as many people make it out to be.  Sure it’s a hassle in every sense of the word, however, sometimes we just have to temporarily take something out of the equation in order to get ourselves back on track.  In reality, I’m extending my time in college by a mere four months that has the potential to completely change where I end up in 2016.  While it’s a bit awkward being back home as this new chapter begins, I believe – and hope – that I will return to school – wherever that may be – with a greater appreciation of the time I have left on campus.

So, what exactly will I be doing over the next six months?  Well, with time in abundance, I’m going to devote much – if not all – of my spare energy to PKP.  I really want to build out the website in order for it to be used more as a resource; intend to completely rebrand The Proper Life into something that more accurately reflects the content I focus on via the blog; and pursue a couple of other side projects that I’ve been itching to try out.  Though it’s certainly going to be nice being back home, I’m have every intention to use this time that has been gifted to me to my advantage.  I’m sure I’ll make mistakes and watch ideas go up in flames, however, sometimes that’s the only way to learn.

My point in all this?  It’s ok to occasionally hit the pause button.  Sure it’s not the most ideal option, but it’s better than taking an axe and chopping out parts of our lives that make us happy.  Stress comes with any job or responsibility and cannot be swept under the rug forever.  Taking a gap semester isn’t for everyone, however, it is an option available to those who feel a little lost on their personal path.  Remember, college is an investment so live those four years without any regrets.

“Most people are so busy knocking themselves out trying to do everything they think they should do, they never get around to what they want to do.”  -Kathleen Winsor

-Dean

Comments

  1. I’ll be very frank with you: I think this is a horrible idea. I am from DC and I go to the University of Virginia. I absolutely hated it through my 2nd Year. However, I recognize that I go to a great school and leaving the University would lead to the likely end result of me not finishing college.

    (If that was exclusive to me, I’d say whatever, but ‘gap years’ almost always end in higher non completion rates.)

    As cruel as this sounds, just tough it out, big guy! College only gets better as you mature. I’m a 4th Year now and I’m so excited to graduate! (and I just got an offer from Ralph Lauren’s corporate office, couldn’t be happier now).

    • PKP

      James,

      Thanks for the comment – and congratulations on the job offer from Ralph! As I said in the post, my decision to take the gap semester was mainly driven by the fact that college in an investment regardless of the school’s price tag. In my mind, I couldn’t get over the fact that my parents were cutting a large check every semester for me to go to a school that I wasn’t quite happy at.

      While I’m certainly aware of the statistics that students who take gap semester do not go back (my father sent me dozens of articles about it), my parents made it clear – very clear – that I will be back in the classroom next September. In short, I don’t see what the big deal is with this “stigma” against gap semesters/years. Let’s be real…this is six months out of my entire life. Six months for me to reevaluate, get back on track, and find out what I really want to do with my future. In all honesty, I think the gap has been actually been one of the best decisions thus far that has allowed me to simply hit the pause button and regroup myself.

      I certainly appreciate your comment and agree with all the points you made. A college education is insurance for one’s future and I have every intention in obtaining my intended degree regardless of what institution I decide to attend for the next two and half years. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and best wishes in the corporate world!

      -Dean

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