Unfortunately, this article will not be about how I took two years off before college to travel the world and, in return, found myself and came back ready to head up my university’s French Culture Club. It’s a little more complicated than that, as life always seems to be.
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When I was a senior in high school, we had “The Daisy Board,” where all seniors would find the daisy with their soon-to-be college written on it and then write their name on the petal. It was an adorable and celebratory way to see what other girls would be attending the same school as you, as well as a place to see where everyone would start their next adventure. I, out of 100 other girls in my class, was the only one who did not have her name up that board.
I was not going to any of the schools I’d gotten into. Instead, I would soon be packing my whole life up to move to Louisville, Kentucky to start my first year as a professional ballet dancer. Trust me, a big part of me now wishes that I really had been skipping through Europe practicing French and picking up waitressing jobs; my first two years out of high school, thrown into the very real, cut-throat world of ballet were two of the hardest years of my life. But in hindsight, which is always somehow magically more clear that a Coachella Instagram sky, I wouldn’t change my decision for anything. Taking those two years off made my college experience so much more fulfilling, happy, and whole. So, let’s jump right in. Here are 4 reasons why taking time off before college was the best decision I ever made.
1. I actually got to apply for the right major
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It took two slow years to understand that my career as a ballet dancer was making me very unhappy. Throughout those years, however, I was able to see what I was genuinely drawn to; where I ran when I was down. I’d always been a writer, but it was over these years that I learned just how important storytelling was to me. Any moment I wasn’t in the studio, you could find me weaving my way through Blockbuster (yes, there were actual Blockbusters back then). I fell in love with film those years, which is why I decided to apply to universities’ film schools when I decided it was time to head to college. Best decision ever. The next three years would be packed to the brim with things I was insanely passionate about, and I’m very glad I didn’t waste my tuition on dance.
2. I’ll have zero regrets about not getting to chase my dream
Oh, regret. What a big scary word. If I had gone to college straight after high school, I would always regret not taking the chance to become a professional dancer. If you’re chasing a dream that can’t be studied in college, I suggest you think about going for it (with a well devised backup plan in place, of course). This way, you’ll never look back and think, “What if?”
3. I was more mature
This is a big one. While my college experience was literally the greatest thing ever, there are still a few terrifying aspects. 1. I’m still horrified by drinking cultures on campus. Being a little bit older when I entered college really helped with this. I was placed on a transfer floor, so everyone seemed to get the “OMG, I’M IN COLLEGE. LET’S MAKE REALLY BAD DECISIONS. THIS WILL BE SO FUN” out of their systems a few years earlier. Thank god. 2. Having to present creative work every day to your classmates can be a heartbreaking experience. I was glad to have a few years of maturing and thick skin practice so I could fully embrace notes while not taking it as personally as I would have at 18.
4. I valued the experience more
As Hannah from Girls says, college is basically four years of running around getting praised for being yourself. And holy hell, was she right. It’s glorious. GLORIOUS. After two years of having to please a male ballet director who liked my face but not my body (his words, not mine), I valued the hell out of that college experience. It truly is a magical, selfish time of self-discovery. Enjoy it. Soak up every minute of it.
So here’s the thing, once you graduate college, you realize there’s no one path to take. Which, in truth, means there’s no one path before college either. If you’re trusting your gut and chasing the things that set your soul on fire, I think you’ll be just fine. I sure am.
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