What I Learned During My Semester Off

For six months whenever someone asked me what I was up to I would feel my cheeks flush red. What WAS I up to? I wasn’t in school, I was working a mundane job, living at my parent’s house with a recently ended relationship, and a lot of self doubt. And I was ashamed of this. I had broken out of the mold. I’d taken time off school, and it wasn't what people are “supposed” to do. But the truth is I was working on something. I was working on myself. I was taking time to learn who I was, and what I wanted, which is far more valuable than any lesson I could have learned in school. 

After high school, I immediately jumped into college. I declared a major. I moved out. I took on a full course load, I began writing for Her Campus, and working, and volunteering and… I totally burned out. By the end of my freshman year I was completely jaded. Mentally, and emotionally exhausted. The major I had been so passionately sure of, not at all what I expected. Living on my own required an emotional sufficiency I had yet to develop, and loneliness crept in. Despite the external appearance that I had figured things out, I felt lost. 

The entire summer whenever I considered school anxiety and dread consumed me. I procrastinated registering for classes. When, I finally did they were courses I had little interest in. How could I go back? How could I leave the safety of my parent’s home and reenter an environment which felt so hostile to me? So I didn't hesitate the day before class began, when my dad asked if I wanted to take a semester off, to answer yes. As soon as I heard his question I realized, with a flood of relief, that I had been dying for someone to give me permission to do just that. 

And although on paper I accomplished nothing significant in the time off, the internal transformation I experienced left me more focused, determined, and grateful. I spoke to a therapist. I devoured self-help books. I meditated, journaled, slept, wrote, grew, grew, grew. This semester feels ions away from the first year filled with fears, doubts and tears. I am taking classes which fascinate me. I’m living in a home I love. I prioritize my time in a manner which maximizes my peace, and minimizes my stress. It took time away from school to learn the skills and gather the conviction to pursue the life I want. 

Taking time off, whether for mental health, or money, or any other reason, is nothing to be ashamed of. As the sticky note which gladly stuck to my mirror for months read: Just breathe. You’re on your journey. 

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