An Argument for an Unstructured Gap Year

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Photo by Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash

It is increasingly common for young adults to take a gap year between their high school graduation and college. I think this is a fantastic practice, and I think it should become more of a normal activity for teenagers as they prepare for college. I will save my arguments for why we should encourage the gap year for another essay. Right now, I want to focus on how young adults spend their time during their gap year.

The Challenge of Parental Influence and Interference in the Gap Year

First and foremost, young adults need to realize that they really do not need anyone’s permission to take a gap year. Parents who continue to control their adult children’s decisions by shaming them or telling them that there are conditions on their decisions are harming their kids. There are typically two responses from parents when their children want to take a gap year. (1) If you are going to take a gap year, you need to get a job. …

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Photo by Sebastian Pena Lambarri on Unsplash

I love to travel. I have traveled all over the United States and to some countries outside of the United States. This summer I took my oldest to the United Kingdom for a graduation present — their first trip abroad. I am getting the travel itch again. This time I want to go to Nepal.

When I say this to family and friends I get a mix of reactions from concern to horror to curiosity. Many assume I want to travel to Kathmandu and that I want to go trekking or to see the temples and Mount Everest. …

Gossip (n.) — 1. Companion, crony. 2. A person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others. 3. Rumor or report of an intimate nature. 4. A chatty talk. 5. The subject matter of gossip.

Gossip (v.) — to relate gossip

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Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

If you say the word “gossip” this usually carries negative connotations. A person who is considered “a gossip” is often frowned upon, looked down on, or otherwise seen in a negative manner. That person is regarded as not to be trusted, someone that will stab you in the back, and as a toxic influence in most circumstances. …

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Photo by Sonnie Hiles on Unsplash

Recently, I quit my job without having another job lined up. Plenty of others have written about the benefits, horrors, stupidity, and joy of quitting your job without a plan. I will write about that another time. Right now I want to talk about why we should encourage taking an adult gap year.

I have been incredibly unhappy in the past few jobs that I have had. First, as an academic, I was chasing tenure (and more money). My mantra became “I just have to get tenure.” Then, I started watching those around me who had recently (or not so recently) been awarded tenure and I noticed something — they were doing the same thing as the pre-tenure folks. …

And Why We Need Them in the United States

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Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

This summer my daughter and I took a two-week trip to England, Scotland, and Wales. As part of our trip, we took a one day private guided tour of the Cotswolds. As we wound our way from Bath to Stratford-Upon-Avon with our wonderful tour guide, Jules, I noticed something that has stayed with me since. There are so many public footpaths in England.

Imagine this. You are driving down a country road and you see a sign — Public Footpath. These are all over England, and you can get a map of them. …

It All Starts With Us

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Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash

Authors in a variety of media — newspapers, television news, books, blogs — have been calling out the lack of civility in democratic society. There is increased attention to the challenges we face as a society when our political leadership can’t talk to each other, debate, negotiate, or compromise. The trends in the media are promoting an environment where fighting is encouraged and civil debate is considered boring news. The problem is that the lack of civility is pervasive; it has extended into our daily lives.

There are four approaches that we can all use in our daily interactions to restore civility to daily life. I challenge people to work on these four things in their interactions with friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, and complete strangers. These are four aspects of interactions that are often missing today. I have observed it in my (former) workplaces, when interacting with friends and family, and when watching the interactions of our public officials. …

On Getting Out of the Echo Chamber

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Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash

There are many challenges that we face in today’s political and economic climate. Increasing polarization coupled with increasing division are making civil discussion and debate difficult if not impossible. This is creating an environment of social distance and heightened anxiety in society.

Ten years ago, I remember debating with individuals of varied political and social persuasions in a civil and friendly manner. I had friends and colleagues who were “liberal”, “conservative”, “socialist”, “libertarian”, “green party”, and everything and anything between those categories and beyond. We would sit in the bar, at dinner, in a café, on the phone, or online and engage in a discussion of topics from our varied perspectives. None of this civil discourse caused us to “unfriend” each other, and we were able to do so based on the concrete issues behind whatever topic we were discussing. …

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Photo by Bram. on Unsplash

Fear (noun): an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat

Fear (verb): be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening

(as defined in the Oxford English dictionary)

Fear is a powerful thing. Both as a noun and a verb it has the power to control our lives. I have discovered the overwhelming power and danger of fear in my life recently, and I want to talk about it.

How many of our decisions are driven by fear?

I will use my current life as an example. I am dreadfully unhappy in my work and in my life, but I am letting fear control me. I am afraid of leaving a job that is toxic and that is killing me — not figuratively, but literally killing me. I have panic attacks when I get about 5 miles from the office even if I am not taking that exit and going to work. I have nightmares about work. I sit and constantly ruminate about the decisions I have made and all of the bad that will come my way from making those decisions. My heart rate and blood pressure are elevated on a near constant basis. I have gained weight and can’t find the time for healthy eating or exercise habits. I have developed back problems, and I tend to get out of breath just walking short distances — sometimes due to the pervasive panic attacks and sometimes because my health is failing. …

How the Simple Act of Reading Can Be the Ultimate Form of Rebellion and Revolution

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Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash

There are two types of people in society: those who read and those who do not read. Those who read can be further broken down into a few categories: those who read a lot, read challenging books, and read books across a wide array of genres; those who read a lot in one or a limited number of genres; those who read to learn; those who read for enjoyment; those who read when they are on vacation; those who read occasionally; those who read because they have to; those who read to improve themselves; those who read to improve others. The list could go on and on, and the categories are not mutually exclusive. Ultimately, reading can become entertainment as we transition into adulthood. …

Reading Animal Farm in the Time of Trump

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Photo by Andre Ouellet on Unsplash

Recently, I re-read Animal Farm by George Orwell. It turned into much more than that quick and easy read that I had intended. Dystopian fiction becomes dystopian reality in our current socio-political environment. There are several things I took away from this reading of the book that I had not thought about before. Reading the book today was much different from the last time I read the book.

Labor as the Reason for Life

There are several moments in the book where Orwell highlights the dangers of labor becoming the driving reason for life. We live to work, and we work to live:

“Now, comrades, what is the nature of this life of ours? Let us face it: our lives are miserable, laborious, and short. We are born, we are given just so much food as will keep the breath in our bodies, and those of us who are capable of it are forced to work to the last atom of our strength; and the very instant that our usefulness has come to an end we are slaughtered with hideous cruelty.” …


Meghan Hollis

Meghan is a recovering academic and writer. She loves to travel and write about it, and she loves reading young adult fantasy and fiction and middle grade books

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