Towards the end of my undergraduate career, I heard a lot of talk from my friends and classmates saying how they were going to take “a year off” or a “gap year.” I also took a year “off,” but contrary to connotations associated with that word, there was a lot of work involved. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I didn’t get accepted into optometry school right out of undergrad. Luckily for me, I was accepted into ICO last year; I’d be heading to the Midwest in no time.
Now, what was I going to do until then?
I want to stress how important it is to take advantage of the time you have off from school. If you’ve already been accepted into optometry school, my advice is to simply spend more time on other things you find enjoyable. There will be plenty of time for academics once you get here. Until then, give yourself a pat on the back and take a breather. There’s nothing wrong with staying involved in optometry by continuing to shadow, work, volunteer, etc., but make sure you’re having fun. Some of the greatest lessons I learned during my year back at home didn’t involve optometry at all.
For example, one thing I learned was how precious time is with the people you care about. I lost two important family members this past year. In retrospect, it gives me some solace knowing I was at home and got to make more memories with them before their passing.
I also didn’t get to see my immediate family a whole lot during undergrad. It felt different being back at home with my parents, but it was amazing being around my family for longer than a few weeks at a time. I forgot how much I missed the little things, like just walking my dogs, or more involved undertakings like heading out to Ocean City, New Jersey for our family vacation.
I also got to do quite a few cool activities with my friends like attending concerts, spending a weekend at Cedar Point, witnessing our city win back-to-back Stanley Cups, and just general hanging out. Fortunately, the whole “gap year” thing was more popular than I thought. If you’re lucky enough to have all your close friends still living in your area, hang out with them as much as you can. You’re going to miss them once school starts!
In addition to spending time with your loved ones, make some time for yourself too. During undergrad, some of my favorite hobbies got put on the back burner for longer than I would have wanted; in optometry school, it’s even easier to let that happen. Try to rekindle your love for old pastimes or explore some new ones. I utilized my down time at home catching up reading and playing guitar, primarily, and I’m so glad I did. It was so easy to forget how enjoyable those activities are for me without a test or assignment looming over my head.
So, whether you have one, two, or ten years in between undergrad and optometry school, make sure you make time for play in between all the work. I treasured all the moments I spent with the people I care about and the experiences I had with them. I refrain from calling it my “gap year” because the term superficially implies it’s an uneventful period- just a gap. I also don’t like calling it a year “off” because I was plenty busy. Frankly, I’d just call it another year of my life. I can’t wait to see what the next four hold.