How a gap year helped me decide what to do with my life

There's a massive amount of pressure on young people to know what they want to do with their life by the time they graduate from school. This one young person took their time, using their gap year to grow up a bit more first.

This can help if:

  • you don’t know what you want to do with your life

  • you’ve just finished school

  • you’re about to finish school.

Boy working in a bakery

I didn’t know what I wanted to do

It wasn't about what my parents or my partner wanted; it was about what I wanted and needed.

When I finished high school, I felt like the only one of my friends who didn't know what they wanted. At the year 12 leaving event, we all sat around talking about where we would be in a few years. Most talked about being a year into a maths, psychology, horticulture or education degree. Some talked about their hairdressing apprenticeships and others about working in their parents’ business. Me? Well, I just smiled and said, 'I'm not really sure. We'll see what happens when my marks arrive.'

When I got my results, it was 25 marks better than I’d expected, and I was offered a scholarship to study at one of the best universities around. My friends and family were thrilled for me, and to be honest I was pretty chuffed, too. However, when it came to crunch time, my signature never ended up on the acceptance form. No one could understand why I didn't take up this 'amazing offer'. But it wasn't about what my parents or my partner wanted; it was about what I wanted and needed. I needed to get out into the real world for a while and take time out to do things on my own terms and find out what I really wanted out of life.

Trying different careers

I spent the next year doing a whole range of things, from set building and dramaturgy, to working in a shop, to writing articles and reviews for a local industry newspaper. I found that I really enjoyed doing some of those things and hated others. But the year was passing and I still didn't really have any idea what to do with my life.

In a rather drastic attempt to throw myself head-first into a reality check, I boarded a plane to the UK and then headed to the village where I was born. It took me a few months of further drifting, but I finally found which direction to take. I've rolled all my skills and interests together and now use the performing arts to help young people cope with their problems.

But I feel there is only so far I can go with my career, having only a year 12 certificate. So, finally, after two years of intense soul searching, I’m ready to use my school marks and start uni. I'm glad I didn't give into the pressure to dive straight into uni, though. Taking a gap year (or two) was the right thing for me to do. It’s put things into focus for me and given me the time to do the growing up I needed to do. Most importantly, it allowed me to learn a few things along the way.

What can I do now?

  • Read about dealing with change.

  • Talk to a school counsellor about options other than uni.

  • Connect with other young people on the ReachOut Forums.