Changing my mind
Feb 14 2023
I changed my mind recently.
In my previous post, I declared that I would take a year off — live in an ashram in North Virginia, travel Thailand with nothing but a backpack. While I still have these aspirations, I will be postponing them until I graduate from engineering school.
Fig: Not the kind of gap you were expecting, huh?
It’s important to change your mind when faced with new information. I could be strong-headed about having made a “public statement” and feeling the need to stick to it. But this blog has never been about making commitments to the public. If it’s a conversation, the audience is myself. I write so I may think.
A gap year is a reset switch for burnout.
Ever since the pandemic, I have felt incredibly burnt out by school. My problem is not unique — it was an unprecedentedly trying time for most of us.
But it’s still a problem.
Are you also burnt out? Here’s a few telltale syndromes. If you Find it impossible to muster the motivation to do anything beyond the bare minimum required to pass in school, “C’s get degrees” energy Sleep in
For burnout, I think taking actual time off and letting yourself enjoy life is key. So the travel plan is smart if this describes you.
It’s been a month since I began this writing journey. And yet, I have already begun to reap the rewards.
Writing is deeply therapeutic. It gives me resolution and clarity. It’s like a pensieve for my monkey brain.
Not everything that I write is in public. Many of my posts are disconnected islands of Google Docs, transmitted to the people closest to me. Some of it makes its way to the interweb.
But private or public, writing is magical.
I always loved reading.
But over the past few years, I stopped reading as much, thinking it’s not “productive”. When I did read, it was usually non-fiction. Dry tomes that don’t spark much joy.
Now, I read whatever the fuck I want to. It’s great.
Reading is the natural complement of writing. If you don’t read, you won’t have anything to write about. You will feel Writers’ Block.
But crack open a hardcover book, peruse a blog, or indulge in a podcast, and the ideas will flow onto the page.
Reading and writing are a restraining order for burnout.
Our lives are optimization problems.
Values define the metrics that we minimize, and those we maximize.
There’s a difference between Risk and Regret.
Risk minimization is doing leetcode every day so I can secure my financial capital. Regret minimization is writing 500 words every day so I can secure my creative capital. I want to minimize regret, not risk.
A big draw in favour of taking the travel gap year right now versus next summer, when I am scheduled to graduate, is the fear of soul erosion; that if I don’t act now, I never will, conjuring excuses at every turn.
It is true that there will always be sacrifices to be made — there can almost by definition never be a good time to basically just leave everything and everyone you know for a multi month stretch.
But here’s the thing: I believe in myself. I have faith in my soul. Conviction that I will retain the spirit to explore the world, even a year from now.
My friends have been instrumental in helping me notice this somewhat obvious fact — that I am not the kind of person to become a mindless machine merely because I’m following the script.
I want to do everything everywhere, but it doesn’t have to be all at once.
A gap year is an agency expanding experiment.
It’s an unfurling of the script, a break in the narrative. It’s an opportunity with capped downside and unbounded upside.
I see a gap year as an opportunity to reclaim one’s agency and redefine their narrative.
If used correctly, it can completely redefine the track that you are on and help align your actions with your foundational values.
Right now, I’m still figuring my identity out. What does religion mean to me? How important is it to devote my career to doing good? Is making art something I value for its own sake?
There are a lot of unanswered questions. And the only way to achieve Growth and Progress is through reflection and thought.
That’s why I set myself the challenge of writing regularly this year. If I want to realize my ambitions and live a life in accordance with my core values, it won’t be through a one-off trip to Thailand.
What I need is something more sustainable — thinking, writing, and reflecting every single day.
So in the end, I am taking a GAP year.
Just a different kind of gap - Growth And Progress 🚀🚀🚀