There’s a certain pressure, especially in American society, to grow up fast. From the moment you receive your high school diploma, you are immediately expected to start figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life. The moment you become a post-college graduate, you are expected to find a job, start a career, and start climbing the corporate ladder. There’s very little grace period to find yourself in all of that. That’s the society we are building in modern day America and even in the modern day Western world.
I moved to the tiny Mediterranean island country of Malta three weeks after receiving my Bachelor’s degree. When I started breaking the news to everyone midway through the semester that I was taking my life to Europe after getting a degree, everyone’s first question was always, “What are you going to do over there?” They wanted to know if a career over there was a part of my plan or not.
That is when it occurred to me that taking a “gap year” after college isn’t necessarily common. Nor is it near as acceptable as it should be within society’s norms.
I had no intentions of starting a career as soon as I got over here; however, that was a confusing answer to people. I would tell them that I would probably find several odd jobs such as teaching English, bartending, and waiting tables in restaurants (I actually found a job as a scuba diving instructor), but they didn’t understand why I didn’t have a sense of urgency to jump into a career.
The reason why finding a long-term job wasn’t even in my plans may seem lazy to some; it’s because I wanted to finally take some time to enjoy myself. I wanted freedom and time to figure out what it was that I actually wanted.
Yes, sure, it’s true that it is possible to love your long-term career – and maybe I will someday. But a large majority of postgraduates find themselves in stressful, long-hour days in the prime years of their life. They spend too much time climbing the corporate ladder and not enough time LIVING. I could not stand the thought of me spending those years trapped behind a desk that I wasn’t even sure I loved.
I witnessed one too many of my friends in the same post-graduate situation as I was in making the move to conformity. Deep down inside, they knew they weren’t ready for it. I didn’t want that to be me. I knew I had to choose something different.
Ignoring the corporate ladder
Before returning to the U.S. for my final semester in college, I had been in Malta for nine months. For those nine months, it seemed as if I could put my career on hold and everything would be OK. There was no rush to find job interviews, there was no need to improve on my resume, and there certainly wasn’t any pressure from my peers to jump into a career. I wanted to try to recapture that exact feeling, but this time hold on to it as long as I could. So the only reasonable move to make for myself after I graduated was to return to the tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean.
I tried to explain this to confused friends and family, and they acted like they understood. But truthfully, they didn’t want to understand. It was the wrong move in their eyes because of the pattern that society has built for us to follow our entire lives.
I even got the feeling that some people started looking down on me. As if they had become better than me because they made the “right” move after college and started a career.
Moving to Europe to a home that could slow life down was the right move for me. It was something I chose to do for myself. I am growing; I’m growing up as a person, as a creative mind, and hopefully as an example of escaping conformity to others. I’m learning more about myself making choices for myself than I ever could following the directions of others. In essence, it is what this movement represents; making life choices for yourself and not listening to the norm. And I was proud to do it for myself. And I enjoyed the hell out of it.
When I started Wanderway one and a half years ago it was all about making your own life decisions that allowed yourself to grow into the person you wanted to be. There shouldn’t be anything wrong with doing what you want with your life. So to those that say I’m scared of growing up, I disagree strongly. Maybe they’re the ones who are scared to be different.
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