Sunday, April 15, 2018

My Gap Year

Gap year. This is a phrase most people don’t want to hear. Most will not even want to consider taking one as a possibility. I know I didn’t. So how did I end up taking a gap year after finding out I was accepted into two physical therapy schools? How did it end up changing my life and being one of the best things to ever happen to me? Let’s go back to the end of my senior year of college.

On a random school day in April, I was at work checking my email when I saw that I was accepted into a school that I had interviewed for in March. It was school for which I had previously been put on the waitlist. About an hour later I refreshed my email again, and what do you know: another email had come in from a different school saying I had been accepted into their program as well. The second acceptance had a bit of a catch: I had been accepted for a different campus than the one for which I had originally applied. It was a lot to process.

After two weeks, a trip home, lots of tears, talking it out with my friends, and definitely a lot of alcohol, I grudgingly decided to take the year off. It’s so hard to talk about it when people are asking you what your plans are after graduation. You have to say that you honestly don’t know what you’ll be doing during your gap year, and that you will hopefully get into a physical therapy school for the following year. If not physical therapy school, there will be another life-changing choice at the end of this year off.

After living with friends for the past four years, moving back home with little to no close friends left in Shreveport was definitely a struggle. I don’t want to get too revealing, but the only thing that kept my sanity at the beginning was having my friends home for the summer also. The trip we took to California at the end of June helped as well. On that trip, I was able to release stress and relax. It helped me to have the strength needed to continue the brutal task of applying for jobs. I’ve never gone through the job application process before. In the past, I have always happened to know the right people or be in the right place at the right time. Those jobs were blessings. The one thing I knew for sure at the time was that I did not by any means want to work as a server in the restaurant. I had heard too many horror stories from friends who were servers. Having to rely on tips for my income was something I really did not want, especially because a friend and I were considering going to Europe for a month to spend some time just living there before we both (hopefully) started physical therapy school. Where did I end up getting a job, though? At a restaurant. As a server. What I didn’t know at the time was that finally biting the bullet and applying at the restaurant was the best thing that could have happened to me in that year.

I knew this job would work out well for me when I mentioned Harry Potter in the interview and the manager actually thought it was cool (he’d already decided to hire me by that point!). On my first day at my new server job, I got a separate job offer. After having conversations with both the manager and the owner at the restaurant during my training period and first shift, I turned this other job down because I felt this restaurant was the place for me to be.

My new job definitely changed my life, but before that, there was a sermon series at church that changed my life as well. The pastor at my church started a sermon series in June 2016 on the book of Psalms. There are always those sermons (or motivational talks) that speak to you. There was one message in particular that spoke to me during this time. It was about how your plans may not go how you want, but to remember that only God knows the true plans for your life. This sermon series also introduced me to my favorite bible scripture, Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself.” This verse spoke to me in so many ways and whenever I start to feel nervous or anxious about something, I say this verse to myself and it helps to calm me.

Church impacted my life during my gap year in more ways than one. Going back to church regularly once I had moved home also allowed me to make friends. Well, let me be honest: I forced myself to make new friends after my only friends in Shreveport left me to go to Europe for a classical music festival. When I was left alone in the choir, I had to find a new place to sit and this allowed me to make some new friends, including Mary Ellen. Without that forced push, I wouldn’t have gotten out of my comfort zone, made a new friend, and moved to NYC (and this blog wouldn’t have happened!).

I was only two months past graduation at this point and making friends at church while also getting a new job in the same week. It’s truly amazing how God put two things that I really needed in my life at the same time.

Working at this restaurant helped me grow as a person. I now have a Shreveport family away from my actual family where I know that I’m always welcomed back to whether I’m just visiting on break or if I decide to come back home during my summer break and need a short-term job. This place has also allowed me to meet people who I know are cheering for my success in physical therapy school, in NYC, and just in life in general. I know I can talk to them whenever I’m feeling homesick.
After two months of serving (and after circumstances within the restaurant), the owner and manager moved me to work behind the counter doing takeout and catering. This new position helped me grow and become better at interacting with people, which is an important skill for physical therapists. This new position also brought on a lot more responsibility. It allowed me to learn a little bit of the business side of running a restaurant because I was working more with the manager and the owner. Getting moved behind the counter also created my now very close group of friends back home, the “Window Squad” (also referred to as GLAM).

The ladies of Window Squad were the four girls who worked behind the counter throughout the week. We were considered the “swings” in the restaurant, because we knew how to work each position in the front of the house (server, take out, catering, and hosting). These are the people from back home that I talk to the most often. We try to all get together to got out to eat or just to hang out at one of our houses whenever we can. Besides my family, they are the people I miss the most.
I feel like I could go on and on about the stories and the impact of working in this restaurant. All of my experiences during my gap year showed me that God is always working in your life. Even when you think your life is going in a completely different than the one you had planned, God has a reason for changing your plans. I thought that taking a gap year would be the worst thing ever, but when talking to one of my friends about it recently, I told her that my gap year was what I needed most at that point in my life. If you are having to take a gap year against your will and think it’s not the best direction for you, remember that everything happens for a reason. Who knows!? It could end up helping you in the future!

If you want to know more about my gap year or want to tell me your experiences with taking a gap year, leave a comment below. I’d love to talk to y’all!

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