How do I make my gap year meaningful?

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“I decided to take a year off between high school and college. I am staying home and have an internship lined up. I feel good about my decision but am a bit worried about what my life will be like when all of my friends leave for college. Any advice you have for me?”

I actually know quite a few girls in your situation, and I’m glad you’re thinking ahead about what life will be like when you’re not in a school environment anymore.  Community is much easier to find when you are in school.  This is why a lot of 20-something year olds struggle when they graduate college and move to a new city for a job.  It takes a lot more effort to make friends and build community when you’re not naturally surrounded with people your age and in your season of life.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.
A few things for you to consider:

1) Get involved.

Your internship will hopefully be one aspect of your involvement, but you need to find another place to really plug in where there are people your age.  I recommend a young adults ministry at a church.  There are also kick ball leagues, running clubs, and all sorts of other things you can pursue.  No matter what you choose, it’s not enough to just show up.  You need to really plug in.  So, if it’s a young adults ministry, you can’t just show up one night a week.  You need to join a small group within the ministry.

2) You have to pursue people. 

You’re going to have to be super intentional about this.  As you start meeting new folks in your areas of involvement, you are going to have to chase after them.  Ask them out to coffee, lunch, etc.  Don’t be offended when you invite them 2-3 times and they still haven’t reciprocated.  It takes time for people to remember you and think to invite you.  If you find a person you’d like to be good friends with initiate and pursue, then pursue some more.

3) Try not to hang around your younger high school friends too much.

It’s okay to do this some times, but you need to make sure your entire community is not limited to only high schoolers. Why? Because I don’t want you to get stuck in high school.  You still need to be growing and maturing, and they aren’t going to help you do that as much.

4) Find a place to serve.  

I feel strongly about this during any season of life, but especially during a gap year.  We should always be serving and pouring into others.  Life is way more meaningful and fulfilling when we do that.  So find a place that you’re serving on a regular basis.

5) Don’t let this gap year be a waste.

It could be easy to go stagnant this year. These 12 months will fly by before you know it.  What do you want to accomplish during this year?  Be intentional.  Write out goals; keep them on your mirror.  Define what you want this year to mean or what you want it to look like and then make it happen.

Did any of you take a gap year where you stayed at home? What advice do you have?  What do you wish you had done differently or think you did really well?