Gap Year: How to Plan Your Life

I’m no stranger to having a plan and setting goals to achieve. While scrolling through journals, speeches, or posts, I noticed that I always select captions geared toward planning your life. I’ve always been curious about how people got to their dream job or found this content/ happy median between work and home life. What I’ve discovered is that the majority of advice for figuring out this world is summed in 4 statements:

  • Audit your life and determine what needs adjustment
  • Find your passion and listen to your heart
  • Rely on Mentors and Network
  • Schedule time to build on your skills or achieve your end goal

However, you have people that will tell you that none of that matters. The truth is that for some of us, if every step is over calculated, we will spend the majority of our lives trying to figure out what we want to do with it, rather than actually living it. Another thing that is tough to accept is that finding some passions and goals are easy for others to decide on, while the rest of us linger in the grey zones. For those of us in the grey zone, we have to remember that the standard advice above may not apply to us. Of course, this isn’t the most comforting advice, but we all have different plans to take us on a unique journey.

I happen to eat, sleep, and breathe in the grey zone. One of my favorite professor’s advice was to find something we’re good at and something we like. Yet even that advice was tough for me.  I like a lot of things and my passions about those things shift with time. I know that I am artistic, creative, humorous, analytical, compulsive, and curious. I like visual and performance art, writing, and creating order to things.  I care about a variety of causes and issues. Overall, I spread messages of feminism and the Golden Rule which means that I believe in equality, humanism, and trying to be a good person. I have tested the waters with a number of fields. I can tell you my experiences working for non-profits, for-profits, film, theatre, pharmaceutical industry, teaching, writing, and more. I also know that I’m good at almost anything. I’m not bragging. I’m just confident in my abilities to complete a variety of tasks and do them well.

So as I read, hear, and watch all of these extraordinary human beings in their successes, I am still curious about how they made their decision. And now I’m starting to think that I’ve figured it out. I restructured the 4 step process for planning your life, even if you’re in the grey zone.

  1. So at the end of the day, you have to set your priorities. Aside from interests and job prospects, what is the most important thing for you to have or do? I need a beach or tropical climate and I want to be able to support myself well enough to live alone. Therefore, I am looking for what industries are most popular in coastal regions and have a decent cost of living. Because being financially comfortable is important me, I know that I will need a boring 9-5 job to get above the poverty line (seeing that I’m single with no children or debts). I will always be creating art, but realistically (based on my priorities) I need something to support myself and those supplies to create my dream pieces. I also know that I don’t have the drive of an entrepreneur to start my own business.
  2. In the spirit of being realistic, you have to do a mini assessment of your life. I am single, childless, and debt/ loan free. I am also mobile with a car that I now own, passport, and no other obligations once August comes. My options are to find a job, another service position, or a graduate program in a coastal city. Of those three, I would have to make sure that I get enough scholarships and would make enough for living off-campus or make sure I’m making at least 35k a year or more with a relocation package. So if I want to pursue either school or a new job, I will have start applying for schools now and wait a couple of months before August to start applying for jobs.
  3. Before making a final decision, do a happy check with yourself. Although I’ve discovered that adulting isn’t really about happiness, the goal is to not be miserable. Therefore, at this point revisit your priorities and skills. As I search for a degree program or job, I will be realistic about my past experiences (rather than trying to follow a passion). Basically, I just want to make decent money to support myself and be able to drive to a beach easily on the weekend. So I’ll apply to a few programs and jobs in good locations that connect to my undergraduate degree. During this time, I can build a portfolio or network for a decent 9-5 job which I’d be skilled at. For me, at this point, it’s not about having a meaningful position or solving the problems of the world. I’m just going to be basic and maybe every now and then I will have the chance to pull out my cape and save the world.
  4. Finally, think of some small goals to get there. You don’t necessarily need a big end goal (unless it’s an easy choice for you). So I’ll give myself two to three weekends to decide on at least 3-5 graduate programs (mostly in coastal cities) to apply to. After that I’ll put application dates on the calendar, call and email department heads with questions and start sending in paper work. If the universe wants me in that program, maybe one of them will say yes. If they say no, I will already be applying to jobs starting in May (maybe earlier but it really depends on when they want the positions filled). Again, if the universe wants me in those job positions, then I might get a call back and a chance to kill that interview. In the meantime, whenever I get stuck, I’ll ask more adulty adults for advice (or ecosia and google).

I originally took this Gap Year, because I had no idea what I was doing, what I wanted, or where I was going. I was also VERY exhausted from my undergraduate program. And now I see myself and what habits I want in the real world. Now I know how well I work with people, commuting to and from work on a daily basis, and how I maintain relationships. I am starting to notice patterns in my free time habits. I noticed that I actually can survive in the real world. Although tough, I have seen quite a bit to be more prepared in the near future. I’m also seeing that to be extraordinary, you do no have to be famous or unique. To be extraordinary you just have to be you and craft your life for you. So just remember, just do you boo.


Cayla Jae