Many Roads To Success


Photo by Violet Wang

Natasha Thomas, Reporter

Since deciding to take a gap year to travel South America, I have received a variety of different feedback: some people are supportive and excited to see where my travel will take me, but many others approach the idea with disappointment and dismay. When I told my uncle and grandparents, they questioned why I was going to “waste a year of my life,” when I broke the news to my boyfriends family, his grandma told me that vacations are supposed to come after school and my career. The root of this lack of support and understanding really comes back to how America boxes in the paths to success. It seems that for a long time everyone has been expected to follow the same series of events: go to high school, go to college, get a job, have a family, but in this there is so much potential for a misuse of life. I have been plagued by stress, depression, exhaustion, and anxiety all throughout high school as I navigated entering into adulthood, and all that has been echoed to me is how important school is, but rarely how important the self is.

My choice was a result of knowing that in order for me to be successful in school, I needed the time to understand more about our world- not the limited, American version- and I need to know more about me.”

Traveling is, for this reason and many more, something I believe should be the new norm. Spending time learning about and living within another culture is something that cannot be fabricated within a classroom; it is a gift of circumstance to be a citizen of the world and to have the capacity to understand that our way of life here, in a privileged, wealthy country, is not the only way to live. That is the fundamental thing that many high school graduates miss out on when going straight to college: they suspend the opportunity to change their perspective. For some reason, having a fuller vision of the world is not valued, despite being determinant of the way you approach everything in your day to day life. Without giving ourselves the chance to see the world through a different lens- whether its a linguistic, cultural, economic, environmental, or anything else- we cannot be as grateful for the many things we take for granted and we can not be as open and responsive to ideas that we have never encountered. We can train ourselves to be more receptive to what we don’t understand and we can condition our minds to be less terrified of taking risks just by taking the time to interact with different people.

Too many adults are concerned with ensuring their kids follow all the “right” steps in the “right” order under the preconception that they will be heading the right direction, but it’s wildly unrealistic to assume that everything in life will go as planned on paper. So why do countless parents push us into adulthood believing that we should follow one path instead of presenting us with choices? Having the freedom and strength to choose our own way to our goals ensures that we each can choose the path that represents who we are instead of who they want us to be. Although my family is fearful of my choice because it maneuvers outside the box they crafted, there is no reason to believe that waiting one year or multiple inhibits my potential for success; for me, one year abroad is the key to my future.