What I learned and how I changed this gap year is too big in many ways to write about. Big because of all the small little subtle tweaks that affect how I move, how I interact, how I see myself. I do not think I could possibly list them or all, or hope to understand them all. What I can do is break my year down into three different stages, and examine more closely how each thing I did, each person I met, and all the moments I spent alone collectively shaped me.
The first “stage” I went through was traveling through Eastern Europe alone. I left for Rome about a week after graduating high school, and I was overflowing with so much confusion, emotion, and pain from high school. I spent a lot of my time in Europe just processing what happened to me, processing what I really felt about all of those people, their actions, and my actions. I had to wade through all the crap just so I could figure out who I might be, or might become, without what I thought was just a part of me. Because all that stuff that was laid on me (sometimes by myself) in high school is now such a minor part of my current self. Reckoning with what the people around me and myself did to each other was not easy or fun, but bringing it all out into the open of my mind allowed me to let go of it slowly, slowly. A lot of this was simply accomplished by being alone and just thinking. This led to maybe the most wonderful discovery of my year; that being alone is not just good and helpful, it is fun and fulfilling and necessary. At the end of my trip I had begun to sort myself out, but most importantly I processed high school and my prior self, and I could see who I wanted to become in the future.
The second stage was moving to Copper Mountain. It took a little bit of time, but by April when I left I had found so so so many amazing friendships and people. I felt surrounded by love and comradery and I am not sure if I can say that I have lived in a place where good relationships felt so easy and abundant. I learned what normal relationships (platonic, romantic, hooking-up, acquaintances) looked and felt like, and I also learned that love did not have to be hard or painful or even serious. The whole taking things less seriously theme was ever present in Colorado. I became okay with just being. I was still a full, loveable, amazing person without the poetry and the good grades, and even the clothes I wear. I became more okay with sitting, and talking, and doing things for the sole reason of having fun. I became a little bit more okay with the idea of perfection being found in simple happiness and good company rather than titles and accomplishments and accolades. For lack of a better description, I chilled tf out.
The third stage was kind of two – living at home in Alabama for a couple of months, and then traveling in South America – but emotionally it was one because this almost feels like it, the end. I think by this time I had/have figured out a stable way of existing in this world. I feel whole, and settled, and like the inside of me is so solid it is a lot harder to knock me off of the happiness I have built. Still, I have definitely continued to learn in these past four-ish months. A bit surprisingly, but happily, I finally felt like Alabama could be a sort of home. I learned to love it, I learned that there is so much good there, and I learned that friends I thought I would leave behind in high school were so much more than I knew. I also solidified my aesthetic, which is important to me. I feel like this summer I have found a balance in who I want to be, and who I want the world to see me as. I have made myself into a sort of blank slate, a new good happy human who is so ready to be impressed on. This does not mean that my past experiences are not a part of me (they are and more), but, I am now at a place where I feel like new relationships, new passions, new growth can unfold positively, and without hindrance. I am so excited for college to turn me inside out and all around and build me into even more of who I can be.
I am so happy with who I am in this moment. I am so ready to start the next big stage of my life. I feel pretty much ready in every way except academically (lmao) and that is kind of miraculous.