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A Gap Year of Progress: Part One

A Foreword:

Gap Years (colloquially known as “Gap Yah’s”) were once exclusively a rite of passage for middle class children from all over the Home Counties. It allowed them to escape the confines of Surrey and to ‘rediscover themselves’, only to be a nuisance in India, terrorising elephants and locals alike at the expense of their parent’s bank account. Gap years belonged to the type of teenager who would join in on the ‘Ohhhhhhh Jeremy Corbynnnn’ chants at Reading, yet would secretly own a copy of Margret Thatcher’s autobiography and rigorously stand by their local Tory MP. But nowadays, gap years more than ever cross over class divides with young people from all backgrounds now opting to take a year out before heading off to university.

“The Horror! The Horror!”

The final words from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness became an accurate depiction of the first few weeks of my gap year more than I care to admit. A month into it, I was not only unemployed, but also lacking any direction and rapidly becoming apathetic to the things I once enjoyed. Just as Marlow found himself sailing down the mysterious Congo River, I found myself voyaging down a stream of uncertainty, being whisked along by an undercurrent of ‘I’ve royally fucked it’ that had emerged from my absence of planning for life after results day. Due to the fact my life was becoming a tragic piece of performance art that had more in common with Teresa May’s negotiating skills in Brussels than anything else, I realised a brand new approach was needed if I was indeed to survive my gap year.

I had originally chosen to pursue a gap year in order to give me time to regain the headspace that was lost to the stress of A-Levels and to generally just cool off. Yet the age old proverb that ‘too much of a good thing can become a bad thing’ became prophetically true. As the days began to blur into a cluster of nothingness, I realised that the strict regimen of school that cattle’s you about from period to period like educational livestock had its purpose, (to the dismay of edgy ‘non conformists’ everywhere) as without it I was severely handicapped with 24 hours at my disposal every day for the next 365 days and no idea what to do with it all.

However, out of my clouds of boredom a silver lining emerged in the form of a job opening at a local restaurant which required no experience prior; I arrived prim and proper with my CV in hand on a Tuesday afternoon, and I was working by that Friday. Low and behold I had secured my first job and was finally back on track with my gap year. The first thing that surprised me whilst working as a waiter was how much money I made in tips alone, as prior to this I believed that tipping was almost exclusively an American phenomenon, (like still using the Imperial system) yet now I was almost earning two separate wages whilst at work.

As the weeks passed and I left each evening with a comfy amount of tips and an apron dirtier than Damien Green’s hard drive, I was finally able to watch my gap year fall into place, as I could now fund my long awaited plans of exploring Europe whilst also preparing for my first year of university. Things were now finally looking up for me and my gap year.

Overall, the first few months of my gap year started shakily, yet everything was eventually smoothened out as I found employment and began planning my travels for 2018, which I will cover more in depth for my next instalment of my gap year series. I hope you enjoyed reading this and you stick around for what 2018 has in store.

-Owen Hanley