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The Daily Tar Heel

Farewell column: Me, the Risk-Taking Hamster

Next year, I’m off: For the first year in three, I’ll be living somewhere other than Chapel Hill. I’ve studied abroad before, but this year I will be utterly unaffiliated with UNC. I’m stopping out.

In maybe the early 2000s, gap years began to punctuate our high school to college transition. Sometimes kids were forced, their acceptance having been delayed. Or maybe they needed to save some money.

Now, gap years figure in to the ceaseless grinding we all feel compelled to keep up. People take gap years to make the next Facebook, become the president of a small country, "save Africa," etc. And so, a time once protected from the zombie-like striving toward academic and extracurricular perfection has been compromised. 

Enter in the stop year: I’m working for part of my stop year, sure. But for the better part of it, I’m going to do very little. No matter how well I do it, I will not earn another line on my resume, and the quality of my LinkedIn will remain unaffected. I’m going to work on a novel, but my main priority will just be reading through the colorful stack of titles that has been accruing on my bedroom floor. 

It’s a damn shame that, for so many people I know at school, college has thoroughly beaten all love of learning from their skulls. I’ve learned so much at Carolina, but sometimes it has been despite the harsh workload. 

So much of the past seven years of my life has been about fitting so much other-oriented content into my time that it hardly resembles mine anymore. I’ve just been a diligent little hamster on a great big wheel that I’ve convinced myself is super, super mandatory for having a good life one day in the future.

How about now? This is undoubtedly the first time in my recent memory I have done something just for me. It feels like our society is more selfish than ever, yet we are really bad at being the important sort of selfish where you develop yourself for yourself, and not for some imagined suits at the other end of a big desk.

So off I go, off the wheel, onto something my little hamster feet haven’t felt for a decade.

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