Why Are Malayalis Yet To Accept The Concept Of ‘Gap Year’?

Ask movie buffs how important the intervals between a movie is, and backbenchers why they wait for the recess all day long. It’s simple; it’s a break. Like someone famous once said, “Life is too short not to take breaks. When you do take breaks, be sure to enjoy it and find a part of yourself”. Then why do we look down upon ‘Gap Year’ and misinterpret it? Read on to find out as we deconstruct the notions of Gap Year.

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What is a gap year?

By definition, a gap year can mean time taken out, particularly after your 12th standard or post your graduation. It is a form of sabbatical that is a year-long before a teen joins a university. Our culture pushes us to enter university right after school. It leaves us no time to understand our passions or interest in the subject.

The Indian system technically identifies just a select few courses as routes to ‘accepted and most prestigious’ careers and professions. Therefore, the dreams and interests of many students have been washed down the drain as they’re forced to pick a job that will pay the bills. Here’s what we forget when we become a part of this rat race. For the next 40 years of our life or so, we will be working in a well-paid job that won’t bring us happiness. Our interest remains as hobbies that are eventually worn off.

But gap years do exist in India and especially Kerala, but it’s a modified version. There is this skewed concept of a gap year in Kerala – “repeat”. You repeat the engineering/medical entrance exam after your 12th. Interesting right? Not only are you forced into a field that might mean nothing to you, but you spend a year to ‘crack the entrance’. And what happens if you’re unable to crack? You are faced with guilt and shame and the typical, “naattukaar enthu parayum?!”.

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We acknowledge the efforts of the students who have a genuine interest in becoming future doctors and engineers. But, we are not in support of those who lose their dreams to fulfil the ones of their families. A gap year will help you figure out your life and gives you the power to decide YOUR future. Ah! The irony.

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Why is a gap year important?

The transition from teenager to adult can be stressful mentally and emotionally.

Most students who pass their matriculation and choose the streams in 11th, which are mainly Science, Commerce and Arts, do so for various reasons. Family pressure, peer pressure or simply because you don’t know what to do. Should this stream choice you make govern the rest of the decisions of your life?

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Confusion, unrest and even panic about your future are absolutely normal. When we try to figure out things all at once, we realise that our hands are full. So what do we do? We take a break to clear our minds. A gap year is a reward we give to ourselves in the form of:

A breathing space

After years of toiling in academic life, maybe you want to take some time out just to watch movies and eat home food. Some want to read books, write books, and a few others want to travel. The last years of school can be enduring and toxic and may threaten the very roots of our mental health. Keeping it on track is very important. Taking care of ourselves and making our life choices is the very essence of a gap year. It gives you a breathing space for your mind and soul. This breathing space will help connect us to our creative roots and open a view of avenues. It will help us discover courses and subjects that we identify with.

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Enabling us to follow our passion

If given a choice, probably half of the medical and engineering colleges in Kerala (and India) would be empty. Amongst us are singers, artists, dancers, and even comedians forced into a white coat or building a bridge or filling an Excel sheet. If given a gap year, they might’ve followed their passion. They would have realised their true worth lies in cherishing their dream and honouring their talent.

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Most students graduate school with zero ideas about what to do in their lives. During this period of uncertainty, students are impressionable and take up the easiest option at hand. The previous generation might not understand concepts beyond academics and jobs. But as pioneers of a new era, this gap year will allow us to make a choice that we will be proud of. 

Celebrating your individuality

We are part of the rat race in compromising our individuality and assimilating with society. Should we condition ourselves to sacrifice our dreams for society and carry the burden of broken dreams? If given a choice, most of us would love to go back and take a year out to explore our options and passions and plan our life ahead. After all, we are more than the tag of “Batch of 2018”. It is definitely hard to watch our classmates in universities while we sit at home ‘figuring our life’. But each person’s journey is different. Do not be afraid to be different, display your individuality with pride.

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Does a gap year really help? 

At PinkLungi too, all members had various opinions about the need for a gap year. While many agreed, others opposed because the ‘culture of a gap year’ hasn’t been normalised yet.

People also fear taking a gap year due to the financial burden that will accompany it. Some others think that a gap year means sitting idle and is entirely useless, and yet others foster the thought that a gap year will make one lose momentum in the academic field. 

Malayalis have always been said to be academically bright, and a state with nearly 100% literacy also means that all the students are forced into a rat race early. But ultimately, the race ends with the rat’s death, and the rat realises that they’ve not gained anything after all these years because rolling stones gather no moss. Pursuing your dream is never going to be easy. It may take years before you’ve reached a milestone and show everyone that your decision was correct.

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But once you realise that a gap year is beyond idling time away, you see the opportunities that it brings. If used productively, a gap year can be life-changing, quite literally. And above all, making the decision to take a gap year forces you to take accountability for your life and the consequences of the decisions you make.

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