1. This Won’t Be Your Dream Job
Most likely you’ve gotten yourself a job doing something, anything, that will help you pad your bank account. Or help you pay off student loans. Or help you save up for grad school that’s so formidably looming on the far off horizon. Regardless, this job is not going to be great, it’s just a means to an end. You’ll probably feel unstimulated, frustrated, and like you’re just spinning your wheels. Breathe, this won’t last forever. Take it as a learning experience. Get everything you can out of it. And when your year is over, leave it behind and know you’ll never have to return to folding shirts or delivering over-portioned dinner entrees.
2. Get a Hobby
Whether it be yoga, ceramics, or underwater basket weaving, find something that you can be passionate about. That Not-Your-Dream-Job job can wear on your spirits. Having something that can challenge you and sustain you is invaluable. Think of it as an elective course that you actually like, and that actually benefits you in the long run.
3. Plan a Trip
Remember, this is a gap year. Your free pass from the responsibility that has been demanded of you the past four years, and will be expected from you until about the time you retire. Have fun! Go somewhere you’ve never gone before. Do something you’ve never done before. Make the year stand out in your memories instead of blur into a gray mass of hourly wages. The three hundred dollar plane ticket to New Orleans for Mardi Gras may make a dent in your savings, but it will stop you from feeling like you’ve wasted a year.
4. Make a Reading List
One of the biggest fears that can come out of the gap year is that grad school will come on quickly and hard and you will be completely unprepared due to a year being out of practice. As a former professor once told me, it’s now your responsibility to blow your own mind. So get a nice stack of books that you can sharpen your wit on, and turn off the Netflix a couple times a week.
5. Get Your Ducks in a Row
Take this opportunity to make sure you are completely prepared for whatever is coming next. Maybe it’s teaching abroad, maybe it’s grad school, maybe it’s off to start your actual career. Whatever it is, be ready for it. Perfect your resume, get your applications filled out early. The important thing is to make sure that you are constantly looking forward. This year is going to be fun, it’ll be boring, it will be exhilarating, and it will be different from anything you’ve ever done. At the end of the day though, it’s just one tiny time before the bigger and better things that are to come.