A LEAPYEAR graduate reflects on his choice to take his education into his own (capable) hands.
Somedays I sit, and I wonder: where could I have ended up?
It’s a interesting question, you see. I really could have “ended up” anywhere. In fact, I did. I ended up where I am right now: a passport full of visas, a bookshelf full of journals, Lonely Planet guidebooks spread throughout my house; and that’s a whole lot different from where I was “supposed” to be headed two or three years ago. I think about how my life was and how it is now. Change. Transformation. Evolution. Definition. All words that come to mind when I think about the process I have lived the past couple of years.
If I was “supposed” to be somewhere, I guess, my first thought would be that I would be attending technical theater classes in northern New York. About how I would be living in a dorm room, eating on a meal plan, sitting at my desk late at night, questioning textbooks and myself, wondering when I would get to travel or go home or meet up with friends or join that party scene or when I would be going to bed. I would be answering to academic standards, to other people’s expectations, learning information and passing it along, text to typed report. I’d be associated with the academic world as a pilot fish is to a shark: I’d follow along behind, munching on leftover bits of information and education, never eating a fresh meal, never independent or relying on myself for learning.
Alternatively, I could be in southern California, studying Evolutionary Biology. I could be going to the beaches on my afternoons off, talking with classmates about our latest assignment, our latest lovers, our latest social gatherings. I could be visiting libraries and computer labs, attending labs and studying the fundamentals of our human existence on this planet. I could be doing homework, and once again, transferring the written word to some report, where someone would either agree or disagree and let it be just that – an exchange of opinions and an evaluation of how well the opinion was presented.
Both of those places – Theater in New York, Evolutionary Biology in California – were places I was headed as a senior in high school. That’s what I was and am “supposed” to be doing, had I followed the traditional high school-to-university path.
I didn’t. I have no idea what is actually going on in New York and Southern California. I can only guess from the reports of my peers.
I tried something else. I discovered early on that I was tired of being in a classroom, but I still wanted to learn. I needed to stretch my wings out and explore what lies beyond that horizon we all look to at sunrise and sunset. Beyond those distant hills, those plains and grasses, those lapping waters of the great oceans. What is out there?
I went for it, and I spent time abroad. Across the sky and into far off places. I adapted and gave in to new experiences. I lived among Thai, Indonesian, Cambodian, Ethiopian and Eritrean natives; I ate local cuisine; I learned local languages; lived with local families. I participated in local traditions; wore monks garb and extravagant and beautiful local designer wear. I joined cultures already in progress and lived the life of a not-so-average college experience.
Again, I am reminded of the words that come to mind: Change. Transformation. Evolution. Definition. Of all the classes I could have taken, and of all the assignments I could be writing, of all the people I could have met, of all the things to study and analyze, of all the lives I could have led, I happened upon LEAPYEAR, and that led me to arts and humanity in Southeast Asia on to youth empowerment and tribal customs of Africa on to creating and defining my further education: Deeper Waters.
In time (as time does), I changed. My focus went from Theater and Sciences, to World Studies and Conscious Leadership. I transformed from the thought pattern of following things as they are, to using my potential as a human being to be the change I wanted to see in the world (credit given to the late Gandhi). I evolved from the high school-to-college mentality to the create-your-own-education-and-take-on-the-world mentality (which I have started, and focused mainly on the “education” part; world domination to come later.) Lastly and perhaps most importantly, had it not been for the year I spent abroad, I would never have had the moment of grace on a hot beach in Northern Africa in which I received a vision of myself, truly defining who I am as a person.
Now I’m here, at this moment, reminiscing about the past couple of years. I am doing what I want to be doing, exploring distant lands, absorbing different cultures, educating and learning without having to set foot in a traditional classroom. I use the world now as my classroom, evolving from being a pilot fish of a nurse shark to the pilot fish of a Great White: I’m eating a larger portion of information I want to be eating, I’m growing bigger, my knowledge bank is expanding, and I’m learning lessons at twenty that my parents didn’t learn until their thirties and forties. I’ve transformed from a questioning child to a curious adult. I’m realizing that I have the ability to change my world, this world; envisioning and creating the possibilities for a world my generation wants to live in. I’ve found that inner fire in me that wakes me up everyday and says, “YES! Let’s go! There’s a lot out there, and today is a new day!” It’s the most amazing feeling to have, a purpose to live for.
And, this is how it has all “ended up.” It’s nothing more than education at its finest, and the will of the world at its best. On those days, I wonder, and then I realize, I’m exactly where I am supposed to be.