This week I’ve seen a major uptick in emails from young people feeling the itch and fighting the doldrums. I call it SAD, Semesteral Affective Disorder.
The semester draws to a close and it dawns on you that it was really boring and you are not a better person now than when you excitedly entered the venerated institution of higher education. In fact, you may feel a bit flabbier, mentally and physically, and even less sure about your future. The prospect of returning to the cinder block cells early in the new year to repeat the routine is depressing.
You’re not alone.
Over the last several years I’ve spoken to a lot of entrepreneurial, ambitious young high school seniors. They love the idea of engaging the real world and learning through trial and error. They want out of the childish school environment so they can really sink their teeth in and discover their passion. They can’t wait for college. They imagine it will be everything high school wasn’t. But, like you, they feel that first semester leaves something to be desired. Besides football games and parties, neither of which require debt to enjoy, there’s not a lot of there there.
You haven’t done much more than read textbooks and sit through lectures. You haven’t been around many entrepreneurs, innovators, or creators. You begin to suspect that your grades aren’t a reflection of your value-creating potential in the market. You begin to wonder why they matter at all. Same goes for your second major…and your first. You ask yourself what your plan was coming here in the first place and realize you didn’t really have one. It just sort of seemed like the next stage on the conveyor belt moving you along to an undefined “normal” life.
Here’s the good news. You can get off the conveyor belt.
Take a break.
Don’t go back next semester, or over the summer, or the semester after that. Give yourself a year to see what you’re made of, what you can become, and what you can create.
It will be hard. Much harder than just following the rules and plodding along the well-worn path. You’ll have to create your own structure. You’ll have to create your own goals. You’ll get no points or back-pats for hoop jumping or test taking. All that will matter are outcomes.
If your plan is to opt out for a few semesters just so you can do nothing you’ll probably end up even less happy. Instead, make a list of all the things you can do, the places you can go, the people you can meet, the things you can learn in a single year on a mission. Read a book a week and finish 52 books in a year. Read five in any one area and you’ll have more knowledge than 95% of the world on that topic. Learn a coding language. Learn a foreign language. Sell something online. Start a blog. Work for a great company. Start a great company.
With genuine interest and focus you can become excellent at a huge number of things in just a year. More important than any skill, however, is self-knowledge. Discover what you hate and eliminate it from your life. Discover what makes you come alive and do more of it. You can’t do that by scrolling through course catalogs and picking majors. You need to engage the world.
You are free. Nothing anyone else tells you compares to what you know in your gut. Don’t be afraid. If the last semester was not your ideal way to spend three months don’t go right back and spend three or six or 20 more doing the same thing.
Take a gap year to really step up your game and take the reins. It’s just a year. If after taking on the world for a year you decide the classroom is the best way for you to get where you want to go, fine. You can go back to it. But don’t defer the life you want until after you graduate. Try it now and see how it fits. Don’t wait for permission, give it to yourself.
If you want, we can help you build an amazing year. Praxis participants work with entrepreneurs and build a portfolio of skills and projects. They work with coaches to craft personal goals and challenges each month. They become their own credential, better than anything any external authority could bestow. Let us know if you want to talk about whether you could be a fit for Praxis.
Whatever you do, don’t be bored or you’ll become boring.