Tête-à-tête on the taboo issue of gap years

Above is a gap year in the Dominican Republic.

Setting: Dominican Republic, maybe with a relative, maybe with a friend over some mojitos on a veranda overseeing your sugar cane plantation.

(Note: These types of conversations with Mr. Dominican Somebody are almost always in Spanish. This has everything to do with how awkward they are.)

Dominican Somebody: Jordi!

Jordi: Dominican Somebody!

DS: Hi! I haven’t seen you in foreeeever!

Jordi: I know! Right back at ya! So, how are those [insert practical career track here] classes going?

DS: WHATever, let’s talk about YOU! How’s it going at Yale? What’s your GPA? Do you have a girlfriend yet? Is it cold over there right now? I bet it’s super cold right now. When do you go back?

Jordi: Oh, um, you know, actually, I’ve been in the DR since August. I’m taking a gap year.

DS: Wait, what?

Jordi: You know, like a sabbatical of sorts?

[Silence.]

DS: Oh NO, did they kick you out of Yale?

Jordi: What?! No! It’s something I’ve wanted to do since before college and circumstances finally allowed me to take the plunge.

DS: I don’t get it. WHY would you leave Yale to come back home?

Jordi: Well, I had originally planned to travel or do some research but then this great opportunity came up here to work for this nonprofit that helps childr-

DS: How much do you get paid?

Jordi: Oh. I mean, nothing.

[Wordlessness! Eyes widen, an imaginary tumbleweed rolls by.]

DS: You are working for free?! I can’t believe oh my god what WHY OH WHY DID YOU LEAVE YALE?

Jordi: It’s just that I wanted to take time off from academics for a while, and it came to a point where my goals became blurred. So I actually ended up needing the time to, you know, reset, reprioritize, refocus.

DS: You could’ve done that while still staying in school.

Jordi: Maybe, but actually I don’t think so. Everyone around me had some kind of inkling about what they wanted to study, some even knew what they wanted the rest of their lives to look like. I needed to remove myself from that context to really think about my next step.

DS: So this new job of yours, is that what you want to do now?

Jordi: Erm, not really. I just wanted to do something different for a year and right now my work makes me feel purposeful, and that feeling helps me pay more attention to what I actually want from life.

DS: That’s some gringo bullshit.

[A stare-off ensues.]

Jordi: Anyway. I’m even starting to take a couple of college courses here, on subjects that are not normally offered at Yale, you know, just to check them out.

DS: Sooooooooooooo, you’re not going back to Yale!

Jordi: Um, yes. I. Am.

[Forced silence, the staring contest kinda continues. Jordi gets the urge to slap something.]

DS: Oh … right … And what do the ’rents have to say about this … thing you’re doing now?

[Eye contact breaks!]

Jordi: Let’s like, um, I don’t even what even, I mean, no.

DS: [Coughs.]

Jordi: Yup.

DS: But don’t you miss it?

Jordi: Every single day. That doesn’t mean I regret my decision. I don’t miss the stress of academia, I don’t miss the very American practice of social climbing, I don’t miss the weather, la-dee-da.

DS: Meh, I wouldn’t wanna leave the people I already met.

Jordi: I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. I keep in touch. My real friends will remain my friends. New Haven will still be there when I return.

DS: New what?

Jordi: New Haven, where Yale is … In Connecticut … It’s between NYC and Boston.

DS: Oh! Yeah, my mom’s second cousin lives around there.

Jordi: Huh. Cool.

[Silence, revisited.]

DS: Um, so like, since you’re here now for a while, I was wondering if you could lend me a hand with an essay I have due next week? C’mon, if you help me out, you’ll get it done in no time …

[Silence, revisited.]

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