Recently I’ve been having (or listening in on because I am too lazy to have real conversations) a lot of chats with people about the up/downside about “taking time off”. As someone who is 24 and still without my bachelor’s degree, I obviously have not been spending all of my time working toward my goal of going to grad school and living in a university for the rest of my life. Some might say that this is because I:
a) don’t take my goal seriously
b) am lazy
c) can’t do well on standardized tests
and while all of the above are true, I attribute my apparent lack of accomplishment to my philosophy that, contrary to popular belief, we DO have time and that doing things that are not the standard, well-practiced ways of accomplishing one’s goal can be worthwhile. But I’ve been hearing a lot of “it’s not worth it to take time off” and while I tend to be horribly wrong in all of my views, I am going to defend them here today. So here starts my rant on why it’s ok to take your time.
1) What does taking time off even mean? If you spend a year doing absolutely nothing, then I suppose you are taking a year off from life but that is just sad. Otherwise, you are doing something that you are probably learning from. If it is quasi-related to what you think you might want to do in the long-run, then it is probably not a waste of time. It might not get you closer to where you want to be, but chances are it won’t set you back.
A) A girl I went to high school with spent a couple of years in NYC doing musicals before going into a speech pathology (I think?) program at university. Will she be two years older than most other people in her program when she graduates? Yes. Will her classmates have starred in Cats? No. Has she starred in Cats? I’m not sure, but it makes my argument better to say she has.
B) After high school, I “took a year off” and lived in Mateszalka in northern Hungary. Yes – THAT Mateszalka from my list of the world’s best 10 cities! Crazy coincidences. Anyway, living there did not get me any closer to getting into a university. It also did not clarify my future as I thought it might. If anything it made me more confused about what I wanted to do and when it came time to choose a university, I flipped a coin and wound up in a program I hated. I then switched majors 3 times and transferred schools. BUT the things I learned in Hungary – I never would have learned them anywhere else. Now one might say: “you can live in all of these places ONCE you have secured that job you want”. True. But I would never be able to live and see things the way I did when I was there. Never again will I be able to live with a random family and attend high school in Hungary and see things from that point of view. What’s more is that I’m pretty sure that that experience got me the job I had last summer which got me the job I’ll have next year. So if you REALLY think about it, Hungary is like some sort of god who throws jobs at people who get rejected from 13 grad schools.
C) There are some people from UBC’s track team who are taking a couple of years to see if they can make it to the Olympics. I imagine that they will eventually settle into other careers and maybe they would be able to retire 5 years earlier if they didn’t try to make it to the Olympics, but at least they won’t spend the rest of their lives wondering if they could have made it.
D) Take a look at Stuart McLean, who is my hero but really has nothing to do with this blog entry. I’m hoping, though, that one day he’ll google his own name, find a link to this blog, and give me a call/high five.
ENOUGH EXAMPLES, MORE POINTLESS ARGUMENTS.
2) People often say that life is short. First of all, it’s not really short. Life is quite long. It lasts longer than any other activity you’ll ever do. Also, life expectancy has been on the rise. In 1930, I would have died at the sweet age of 62 – heck, at the rate I’m going now, I would probably just be finishing my master’s degree! But now, I have until I’m 82. And in 5 or so years, life expectancy will be 1062 (trust me, I took a math course once). Now tell me you don’t have time!
But if you insist that life is short then shouldn’t you take advantage of all of the opportunities that come up of things you’d like to do before you bite the dust? I hate to say it, but once you are married with children and have a career to tend to, you can’t really pack up and spend a year doing research in Papua New Guinea. You can’t really go spend 6 months in Brazil learning Portuguese. And you sure as hell can NOT move to Saskatchewan to learn how to harvest wheat. And take it from me; whoever said that the birth of a child is life’s greatest miracle has not operated a thresher.
3) “But Heather, I don’t want to do any of these things that you just listed off.”
What? Not everyone shares my exact views and interests? That’s crazy talk.
4) “Aren’t you unemployed and broke? Is this just an attempt to justify your life?”
Yes I am and yes it is. But it makes me feel better. Also, I’m not saying “don’t have any direction and just aimlessly choose random things to do”. I’m saying that it might be ok to do something that is a bit out of the ordinary while trying to accomplish your life goal. So if your goal is to be a lawyer, spending a year working for the government, or interning in another country, or feeding me, might not get you closer to getting accepted into a great program (assuming that law schools admit people most on marks and LSAT scores), but it will give you a different perspective that will probably make you a better lawyer in the long run.
Most importantly, you’ll probably get some good stories from it and when we’re all 1062 and kickin it the old folks’ home, good stories will be all we have left. Good stories and dentures. And sweater vests.
So here’s to people who are never quite sure where they are going or what they are doing, but are pretty satisfied with what they’ve been doing up til now. And if in 40 years I’m still unemployed and still haven’t gotten into grad school, I will revisit this blog, admit I was wrong, and take my welfare check to go.
Thank you Canadian social security nets.
[Disclaimer: 90% of the people who have views contrary to the above are extremely successful and happy people and I have a lot of respect for them. You should probably listen to their advice over my angry rants. Also, Stuart McLean]