June 18, 2003, I graduated from high school. It was a typical lower-class suburban high school, despite being a brick's throw from the Mount Vernon plantation. This was Good Morning, Vietnam, not the Exploratorium. The psuedo-philosophy of TOK was lost on most people. The draftees wanted out, and after four years, we could takeoff, landing our asses somewhere better.
My classmates had their acceptance letters. A few self proclaimed geeks ended up at RIT to learn the joys of containerization and stowage factors or Embry-Riddle to wade through the Federal Aviation Regulations. Most ended up at state colleges. The class valedictorian wanted to follow in the footsteps of Chien-Shiung Wu...Feminists...Though she did play the flute quite well. I was free. No gating this graduate. No college for me. I had decided to take a year off. I was offered an internship/apprentanceship at a sound studio. By January 2004, it had turned into a full time job. Viva las Vegas. I had arrived.
This year has been the most enriching of my life
It is a primarily British phenomenon, this gap year concept. They understand that an institutionalizaed education isn't everything. It drives people nuts after a while. Americans need that lesson too. Forget about stun guns, our insane teens pack radio scanners and Mac-10s to school. They need a break. Often kids are encouraged to go join the peace corps (Saudi Arabia would be fascinating to see), volunteer at some place like the Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center or to 'get a job'. Toss on them Carhartts and go! I have only one bit of advice, upon a year of reflection:
No knocking back gummy worm chasers or touring the Full Sail Brewery for free mugs. No sleeping until noon...unless you worked until 4 AM. Studying Caloric Theory and Sex is not working. No afternoons in the Uptown Theater pretending to research The History of Film in Hungary. No pulling out your model Lehmann-Gross-Bahn trains and re-living your childhood. The purpose of a gap year is to educate, and have fun doing it. Don't waste your time, you will regret it.
Choices.I looked at a few options for my gap year. If you are considering taking one, make it interesting. Working fast food is only worth it if you want to tour the world's McDonalds from the back of train cars].
I love flying, it is as good as getting drenched on a hobie cat. My dad got me into soaring and recently purchased a Sparrowhawk. I was tempted to go work a season in Nevada as a line boy at an airport. I would have gotten some flight time and been in the heartland of Cross-country soaring. The occasional Eta, with its crazy flexed wings on takeoff might have ended up under my care. I would have worked hard.
I looked at a volunteer position. I cracked that The Merck Manual of Geriatrics, and decided that a nursing home would not be a good fit. The old farts would have to die another day. Volunteer firefighters often have to be over 19, especially in urban areas. That was out. The Fermilab only takes PhD candidates. I could have cracked The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy and volunteered at a clinic, but I was itching for action. Billy Fiske was an ispiration. That man knew how to work.
I decided on the internship at the sound studio. My love of music determined my choice. The studio does more original composition then recording. I could learn from the best. Though not quite an Adrian Willaert or Orlando di Lasso, my boss is still damn good. Luckly, they were past the days of Ampex and into the realm of digital recording. They got a laugh out of line printer music. It has worked well. I have worked hard.