One Sheep, Two Sheep, White Sheep, Black Sheep

Ben Deckhut, Guest contributor

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Editor’s note: Ben Deckhut is an LJHS graduate who is currently on a gap year. For more information on his travels visit gingerandthejew.com or @gingerandthejew on instagram.

In the fleeting hours of youth, our time is lost on the sharpening of pencils and the stress of life. As you slug through high school, you might dream about a future with classes you want to take and the freedom you want to have. College comes to mind. It’s a place we’re told to go after high school, the next step in a series of steps which propel us towards a happier life.

But the world is a big place; there is a lot to see and little time to see it. We commit ourselves to constantly moving on to the next stage in life. We spend the best parts of our lives working so that we can spend the worst part of it bored. Philosopher, Henry David Thoreau asks, “Why should we live with such a hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry.” Go out into the world and live in it. Feel the bad and feel the good, but see it all.

In other words, take a gap year. I did, and it has changed my life. Don’t go to college right away. It’s a bad idea — a terrible one. When I was where most of you are now, I decided I needed something new. Something had to change. I had spent the past four years decently miserable, and I knew that although college would be different, it wouldn’t be different enough. Around this time there was the Parkland Shooting, and I saw kids my age dying. I thought about how unpredictable life is. Would I be satisfied with my life today, if I didn’t wake up tomorrow? So I pulled out a map and started planning a trip.

The thought of straying from the pack and taking a year off to do whatever you want is daunting. It was incredibly hard to watch my peers go off and do something we were all trained to go and do. I didn’t know if a gap year was the right thing to do, I didn’t know what it would be like to travel around the world for a year by myself. Fortunately, it worked out. You might think that it is impossible, that it’s too expensive, or too hard. It has been proven that it is not. When I was planning my gap year, I researched the specifics of taking a year off. I knew that I wanted to get an education after a year, so I knew I had to still apply to colleges. I applied to schools which allowed a year-long deferral. Private schools will almost always let you defer a year.

On the other hand public schools, especially California schools generally don’t allow deferral. It is still possible to take a gap year if your college doesn’t allow deferral. Jordan, another LJHS graduate who took a gap year, applied to the UC’s while traveling. He found himself explaining what makes him stand out as a student while helping refugees in Myanmar.

Money can be an issue if you want to travel. For some, your parents might pay for everything, for some you have to work and save. I had to work and save. I spent three months working at a surf school on Law Street and saved enough for ten months on the road. It doesn’t take a millionaire to travel, just a budgeter. If a broke, dumb high schooler can do it, anyone can.   

And so, looking back at the next generation of graduates, I urge you to take a gap year. Spend a summer saving your money and then buy a plane ticket. Go out into the world and break down the essentials of living. Drink snake blood, climb a mountain, sleep on the floor, burn your money and hitchhike across a country, meet new people, and explore new cultures. Sleep all day and get lost at night. Fall in love, fall out of love. Meditate in silence for ten days and then shave your head. Do all of these things now, while you have time and energy. Anthony Bourdain once said, “If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river.”

College will always be there, a job will always be there, but time is not guaranteed.