Here, in the United States, and in The Netherlands, a new school year is about to start, for some that means going to university for the first time. Most of my classmates from high school are going to college in the next few weeks. Obviously I am not one of them. I have decided to wait a year to continue my education, I am taking a so-called gap year. Partly because I wanted to see the world and partly because I was and am still not ready to go to university.
Taking a break from school
One of the reasons why I am taking a gap year is that I needed a break from school. The past few year were very hard for me. Not necessarily because the classes were too difficult, but mainly because I have had my fair share of social problems. In The Netherlands you have six years of high school and some of you might know that I went to three different ones. Not because my family and I moved, but because I did not fit in. It had a great influence on my school work and on my mental health.
I always get ready angry when people do not take mental problems as serious as physical problems. They might not be as visible as physical problems, but that does not mean that they are less serious. I believe that a healthy mind is a healthy body and if your mental state is weak, then your body will never be as strong as it can be when you have a healthy mind. Some people disregard mental problems by saying it is all in our head and they are thus not real. I know from my own experiences that my mind is as sensitive as my body.
Now let’s get back to what I was saying about taking a gap year. I can remember I was really excited to go to high school, because I had been bullied in elementary school, which is eight years in The Netherlands. So I choose a high school were none of my classmates would go to. I wanted a fresh start, but I did not fit in at all. All everybody seemed to care about was how many items of designer clothing you had in your closet. An if you wanted a new phone, you would just break your phone on purpose. If you know me, then you know that I am not like that at all.
The second year I knew the classes would change and I would have different classmates, but that did not help. I dragged myself from one class to another. I had completely turned off any emotion I had, because they were unbearable. After a few weeks, my parents decided that things could not go on like that and I changed schools. It was a relief to say the least. I liked my classmates and they were nice to me. It took me a few months to make actual friends, because I was afraid that history would repeat itself. I found a great group of friends and we did almost everything together. They did not judge me when I would tell them about my first year of high school and they accepted me for who I was. Soon everybody had forgotten that I came from another school.
Those were some of the best years of my life. Until everything changed in the end the fourth year of high school. One of my friends got really upset with me and I am still not sure about what exactly. To make a long story short, she turn my other friends against me and by the beginning of summer I was alone once again. The next year I tried making new friends, but it was hard because everyone already had their group of friends. Seeing my old friends in the hallways did not make things easier either.
At the beginning of my senior year things got really bad. I got depressed and I was only able to go to school for three hours every day, because going to school took all the energy I had. I could no longer put on a brave face and pretend everything was fine. In November I changed schools again, this time I went to a private school to make sure that despite everything I would still graduate at the end of the year. And I did! My high school diploma does not only mean that I was able to go through high school with good grades and without having to redo a year, but I was able to do that even though I went through some very rough times.
Going out of the country
Another reason for not going to college this year is that I have had enough of The Netherlands. I have always felt like the odd one, because I did not fit into a certain group. Both times I have been to the United States with my family for vacation, I felt like coming home. I wanted to experience what it was like to live without the pressure of having to fit in. After those years in high school, I was not sure who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. Moving to another country by myself seemed like a good way to get to know the real me. I know that I change every day and that who I am when I get back to The Netherlands is not the same person I am in five years, but I am excited to meet them.
Call me crazy, but one of the things I was looking forward to the most was walking into uncertainty. When I went to New York I did not expect to become as home sick as I did, but while I was feeling like that, I realized that was what I had come here for. I believe that you truly get to know yourself in moments like that, when things are hard and you have to get through them yourself. Here in New York I can find out who I am without the influence of peers and family. I need to rely on myself.
After having a difficult time in high school I am not ready to go to university. Some people go to college to find out who they are, but I want to know who I am before I am going. I want to get to know who I am when there is no one else to depend on. I do not have the illusion that I will know everything about myself at the end of my stay in New York, but at least I will be closer to who I am than I was when I finished high school. I am taking this time to process everything that has happened and writing this blog really helps with that.