5 Things I Learned from Taking a Semester Off

At the end of last year's fall semester, I decided to take time off from college. My grades were bad, my mental health was bad, and I just wasn't myself anymore. Making the decision to step back from school, even if only for a few months, was hard, but I learned a lot of things about myself and about my life. 

  1. School isn't everything.  I've always been a good student, and I've always been very proud of that. When I stopped being a full-time student, I realized that I had let school become an integral part of my identity. I learned that school is not the end all, be all, especially in such an important time of my life. I started to focus on other things that I hadn't focused on in a while, like my family and my friends, and I started to become happy again. 
  2. Everyone has their own timeline.  During the first two weeks of my semester off, I had a lot of time during the day to reflect on what I was doing. All of my friends were back in classes while I was at home half the day, and it felt so wrong. I wondered a lot if I was still going to graduate on time. As I got into the habit of just going to work instead of work and class, I realized that everyone has their own timeline. The majority of my friends were in college at the time, but some of them were already entering the workforce. Some of friends were learning a trade, and some of them were just figuring it out, like me.  I stopped worrying about graduating on time, but rather doing things on my time, when I was ready. 
  3. Focusing on yourself is important.  One thing my time off did was force me to actually be with myself. I was so used to going to school, going to work, then going to bed, day in and day out. However, during my semester off, I worked in the evenings, so I was at home alone all day. Instead of being constantly busy, I had time to relax and spend time being myself, which is an opportunity I hadn't had in years. I got to know myself again. I felt that I had lost the person I was under all of my jobs, obligations, and schoolwork. During my semester off, I was so happy to find myself again.
  4. I'm going to be okay.  Losing such a huge part of my daily life was so weird, and I wasn't really okay with it for a while. I felt like I was floundering and didn't know what I was doing anymore. As the semester progressed, I realized that my life was just as good-- better, actually-- than when I was in school. I began to see a future for myself that didn't involve school. Although that's not the path I'm taking, I know that I would be okay if that's what I decided to do, because I can do anything.
  5. Take some time.  At the time that I decided I needed to take time off from college, I had been in school for the past three years with no breaks, always taking classes in the summer and winter. I was worn out. When I stepped away, I felt like I could finally rest. It's important to take some time-- maybe not a whole semester, but maybe a day or two where you're not working or doing school stuff, so you can actually breathe. Life can be short, and we need to make sure we take time to enjoy it before it flies by.