We go through almost two decades of schooling. Even after spending all this time in school, many people still look down on those brave ones who take a few months off or who stop schooling altogether to pursue their dreams. But, what we weren’t taught in school is that taking time off can be a great experience.
Josh Bierne Golden decided to take two years off before attending college. In his own words:
In the Beginning
There were numerous reasons I took the semester off. I had been accepted to NYU Tisch for drama and was planning on attending right after high school. I was not really sure that I wanted to try to make a life for myself as an actor and at the last minute I decided to go to Brown as a creative writing major. It was probably the rashest decision I have ever made.
My parents were really worried that I had rushed into a choice I might not have been ready for. They had encouraged me all along not go to college right after high school. At this point, though, I was adamant that I would go to Brown and all my problems would be solved. I am really grateful that they finally convinced me to start there in the summer instead of the fall.
When I got to Brown it was nothing like I expected and I was miserable. I finally realized what my parents had known all along: that I was not ready for college and that I did not have to go if I was not ready.
Pressure to go to college
I had a great deal of both internal and external pressure to go to college right away. There is a section in the documentary “Bowling For Columbine” that sums up the way I felt perfectly. In the film, Matt Stone, who is one of the creators of the TV show South Park, talks about his high school experience. He explains that from the time we are in sixth grade, give or take a few years, we are taught that if you do not follow the traditional path outlined by society you are bound to fail and essentially are doomed to a life of poverty and loneliness.
Myth of the Status-quo
Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, it is clear that it is people who create their own unique path who are most often successful. At the age of 17, while everyone you know is following this one way of doing things, it is almost impossible not to believe that it is the only way to be successful.
Essentially, you are scared into believing it. In addition, I went to a high school in which the majority of my graduating class went on to junior college or simply found a job. As a result, having someone on their way to NYU or Brown was a great source of pride for my school, so I felt a good deal of external pressure as well.
Overcoming the Pressure of the Status-quo
How I was able to overcome it? I was lucky to have parents who were not only accepting of my
wish to take time off, they actively encouraged it. Furthermore, I allowed myself room to make mistakes. I am a great believer in the fact that there are no right or wrong choices, you simply have to choose one path and, if you are unhappy on it, be unafraid to find a new one.
At first, taking time off was a lot of fun, maybe for a month or so. It was a bit of a novelty I
would say. For the first time I could remember, it was September and then October, and I was not in school. When Thanksgiving and Christmas started rolling around, though, and I saw my friends from high school coming home from college and asking me when I was going to get on with my life, I started to feel really depressed, as though I was never going to do anything. It was tough going for a while.
I initially worked at my mom’s office during the day and tried to keep up with tennis (at the time, it was tennis that I thought would be paying for college). I made a big push to rededicate myself to tennis and started playing more national tournaments. However, when college application deadlines were coming closer, I was still unsure of what I wanted to do, so I decided to take another year off.
It was around this time that I found I was becoming more and more passionate about writing and I would come home every night and just write for hours, on and on, which is what eventually led me to pursue writing my play.
The play took me and a year and half to write.
Once I was done, I literally went from theatre to theatre in San Francisco dropping off copies with my name, address and phone number on it, hoping someone would buy it.
I was very naive and someone easily could have stolen it.
Within the first few days, one of the first theatres I went to called me and told me they were interested in buying it. I went in and spoke with them and a few weeks later I had a contract signed with one of the largest theaters in San Francisco, that had won a Tony for best regional theatre.
I would say almost everything that happened during the two years I took off was a positive. I helped my grandparents, gained work experience, really began to feel as though I was fulfilling my potential in tennis, and discovered how passionate I was about writing.
The most important lesson learned
The most important lesson I learned though was that not everyone has to take the same path through life. In fact, for some people, me for instance, following the path that everyone else did would have been catastrophic.
The only negative was feeling depressed and directionless for a while but, in the long run, that only made it clearer what I was passionate about.
As was mentioned earlier, not everyone has the same path through life, and you must find your own path as soon as possible and don’t be afraid to go all in.
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