Involuntary Gap Year and The Peril of Uncertainty

If there’s a challenge for any young graduate these days in our privileged 21st century, it’ll be taking a gap year, or rather having one involuntarily because your plans didn’t go through as you thought it would.

Gap years usually

In other countries, gap years are encouraged as a form of taking the focus away from rote learning to learn in the world out there, exploring different interests.

For those who can afford it, a gap year might entail going overseas and taking up a job. I once researched ‘gap year’ on Google and discovered in some countries, there are even voluntary programs for gap year students, whereafter the programs undertaken are valid resume credentials. At the risk of sounding ungratitious, knowing all this made me slightly green with envy as I haven’t heard of such programs being available in my country of birth and current residence, Singapore, Southeast Asia.

The deviation in the perspective of the gap year, as locally looked upon

In this country of Singapore, our societal litmus of success is primarily linked to achievements, our education and later in life, our jobs. Everyone is expected to go straight to tertiary education after graduating from secondary and after our tertiary, to go for further education and if not, straight into jobs, preferably the ones that make lucrative earnings. This industrialist mindset can be clearly seen in the fields Singapore focuses on, such as the science and technology fields

While I did apply for poly placings this year at a poly, the doors for my further education this year remained shut, and I did not get a place in any of my four choices.( To note, this was during the last window period, when I heard through word-of-mouth about courses that I might be interested in. )


And that was how I got my involuntary gap year, in which vast amounts of time greeted me.

Having spent majority of last year not doing anything in the interim between my vocational college graduation and my unsuccessful poly application, I knew by now that just doing leisure activities wouldn’t suit my ambitious personality, so I looked for part time work I could do and supplement my own allowance with, as well as exploring my other interests that have always fallen on the wayside due to the demands of education.

Thanks to my involuntary gap year, I have so far been able to attend a few art events which I love as well as write quite a bit. I quickly found out how much of my default rhythm is etched in busyness as I found myself anxious for nothing over not having assignments to toil over, despite me not having any financial trouble and being able to invest more time in my existing friendships.

In brief, I found it hard to change gears and go from the heartbeat of hustling and bustling to one of tranquility and stillness. It was in the early part of this year that the verse “Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind” came to me. As I reflected, I discovered how true that really was. Even though I was uncertain where I was going to end up eventually, this year I actually had the assurance that my future is in divine hands who knows what’s best for me which I never had before. When I was schooling, I definitely knew I was going somewhere because I was schooling, and I had things to work towards because of my assignments. However that also meant most of my life was caught up in schooling and the agenda of achievement, I was really miserable and hollow inside.

In the big picture, our achievements are pretty much ‘relevant today but gone tomorrow’ as the impact of our lives is tangible by the contribution we give to people around us.

I’m glad I had this involuntary gap year. It helped me uncover how much of myself is caught up in the societal pressure to succeed and achieve which I had never known. In addition to that, I also learnt that I’m pretty bad at taking care of myself physically and emotionally quite recently, which I’m working on turning around. I also learnt that what makes me feel alive is the arts- all along. I’m going to try applying at various polytechnics the coming year, and pray that God would lead me to where he wants me to be. Even though I still have a fair measure of uncertainty within me, which really does something to me when it rises on bad days, I know by now that it is possible for me to achieve a lot, but it does not satisfy and make one less hollow and miserable.

In the interim, I’ll make the most of my available time by being productive as much as I can, and try my best to live with a grateful heart.


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