Do you ever feel so caught up in you life trajectory that you can’t take a break and breathe? You need to keep your head down, hustle, achieve. You need to be moving forward always.
I am a junior in college with three majors, two minors, and on track to go to medical school in a few years. I never taken a gap year or semester or studied abroad. I was so afraid of falling behind or missing an opportunity to further my education and make myself a better applicant that I never took a break. I never thought I could.
While I was sitting in the airport on my way back to college over Christmas break, I received the opportunity to visit Europe for the next seven months. I’d be traveling, working, and learning abroad. It took me about three days, but I said yes and took the chance. Now, I am taking a leave of absence from school, putting my jobs here on hold, am backing out of my sorority for a semester, and am leaving my house with a subletter taking my place. For all intents and purposes, I am changing everything about my life. I am leaving. I am just picking up, putting my track on hold, and living until I can’t anymore.
And you know what? It is absolutely freeing. I don’t have a place to stay and I don’t have a lot of money, but I have energy and excitement and a joyful disposition. I have friends and family that are willing to help along the way, and I have no expectations as to what this trip will be. I just know that I need it.
Now, I do understand that it is impulsive and idealistic, but I also know that it may never be an option again. What is graduating a semester late compared to getting to grow in ways college has never asked me to? I can still learn when I am not in class and I can still find stability without an address or plan. I’m tired of feeling confined by the rigid structure of what is expected of me and what I actually want for myself.
So, I am breaking it down. I am saying goodbye to med school track for a little while, to my pretty little plan of being a doctor and getting my Masters in Public Health and Anthropology. Not forever, just for a little while. I am going to take the the non-traditional track and hope it gives me more than what I get from my life now.
If not, that is a lesson I need to learn now so this desire can be silenced. But I think it will teach me that life is the lessons we are trying to learn and there is so much more to absorb than a text book full of chemicals and the structure of an eyeball that beg to be memorized.
So, I am taking a break from writing papers about the HIV epidemic and the American Health Care System to write about the things I see and the things I feel–and I’ll write them anywhere I need to.
About Bethany: Bethany Hallenborg is an undergraduate at Tulane University studying Anthropology and Public Health with hopes of going to med school. Her hobbies include playing the accordion and traveling for the adventure that is experiencing humanity in its purest form. To read more, check out her blog Unfinished Atlas.