In about a month my gap year- my year without college-will be concluded.

I must say, that I am glad with my decision to not pursue a bachelor’s degree. This year, I have learned far more about myself and about life than I feel I ever would have in the cog wheels of an institution. Looking back on my education, in public school, high school and community college at the same time, it was a hurdle race to nowhere. It was a frazzled rush to hurry the hell up and just get to the finish line—jump over this hurdle, and then that one, and just when you think you’re done, another row of hurdles pops up in your way.

In school, each assignment, each test, and each grade level was presented as a hurdle to be crossed and to not to be enjoyed. It’s the American mentality to put happiness in future tense: happiness is to be enjoyed in the future, never now. And we believe that the more we sacrifice ourselves in the present, the happier we will feel in some distant future. Except that future never seems to come, just more hurdles, more sacrifices, and more unhappiness. You can waste your whole life thinking this way, and end up looking back full of regret. Yes, the future is something worth working towards, but you ONLY ever live in the present.

“Happiness wasted is happiness lost.” –unknown

The problem with the hurdle race mentality is that we are all WIPs- works in progress, humans in training. You’ll never be “done” and there is no finish line to be crossed. You don’t stop learning just because you graduate school, and you cannot graduate in human. It reminds me of the quote by Leonardo da Vinci, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” That’s what I feel life is: your career, health, relationships, and spirituality. There is no finish line in life, and you either keep growing or you abandon yourself. This is not some cut-throat rat race, but it is a JOURNEY to be enjoyed.

If you aren’t enjoying the journey, then you aren’t enjoying life.

Even though I learn on my own now and set assignments and deadlines for myself, sometimes I find myself caught up in the hurdle race mentality every now and again. I’ll start to get frustrated and stressed out about the work I’ve given myself. I’ve gotten so used to believing that learning should be a struggle, but I’m getting better at letting go, course-correcting, and just having fun with it. This is a journey to be enjoyed. If you aren’t having fun, then you’re doing it wrong. -ahmunduh