While there are many things I could tell you about Discover Year, I find it challenging to tell you what Discover Year actually is, or what it does. I feel it’s something that needs to be experienced to be fully understood.
So, I’ll paint you a picture of what Discover Year does by sharing a real life story.
Meet Michelle, a cashier at a local store. Five years ago, I was in Michelle’s cash lineup with my daughter, Oriana. It was December. When it was our turn the three of us engaged in a friendly conversation because the girls had gone to elementary school together. They had just graduated from grade 12 in June and hadn’t seen each other in years.
Of course the ‘What are you up to now’? question came up.
Michelle went first: ‘I’m at York University…but I hate it. How ‘bout you?’
Oriana said (a little sheepishly because she was loving where she was at) ‘Uhh, yeah, I’m taking a gap year. I’m working at Best Buy & lululemon and am enjoying it! I’m going to university next September’.
Michelle: ‘A Gap Year! That’s what I wanted to do, but my mom wouldn’t let me.’
In my head I was like ‘What do you mean she wouldn’t let you? ‘Wouldn’t let you’, what does that even mean? I caught myself judging, which is never a good state for me to be in.
Truly though, in that moment my heart sank. I knew Michelle and her mom pretty well. They are both lovely people who I like very much.
But looking back, I wonder, had Michelle taken a Discover Year what difference it would have made in her life.
• I wonder if she was given permission to take the breathing space she wanted after high school, how differently she would have felt. And who knows why she liked the idea of a gap year? Maybe she worked her butt off in high school and was feeling burnt out, maybe she really wanted to save up some money before starting post secondary, or maybe she just wasn’t sure about what she wanted to do, and needed to know that it’s totally okay not to have that figured out at 17 or 18. Actually it’s kind of fantastic that she didn’t know. And, how was her mental health, being in a program she hated every day? That probably didn’t feel very good.
• I wonder if she had explored her passions or at the very least her interests & curiosities, what program she would have chosen? And chosen it for herself, not letting someone else make the decision for her. How would she feel when she completed those assessments that allowed her to know her values and strengths? Would she see them as little shiny gems of information that she could use to start taking steps towards a future she’s excited about?
• I wonder if she had a solid group of amazing students her age, that allow her a safe space to share anything she wants to talk about each week, what she would have told them. Even if at first she felt scared to.
• Here’s my biggest curiosity though: I wonder if she had developed the courage to listen to her real, authentic voice, and speak her truth, what decisions she would have made for herself?
The last time I saw Michelle, she mentioned that she switched programs and was studying Public Policy. She commented that government work gives you amazing benefits and a great pension. She’s right. But there was no spark from her when she talked about this and it saddened me. My wish for Michelle and every student pursuing any post-secondary path is that they create a life for themselves that allows them to do meaningful work, that they love. Work that allows them to be fully expressed, and inspires them to keep growing and learning so they can continue to share their gifts with the world.
And I would argue that in order to discover and be these things, a great majority of students would benefit from taking a purposeful gap year. Unfortunately, most are too afraid to actually do it.
Every morning I listen to an audio recording of Wayne Dyer telling me:
‘Don’t die with your music still in you’ He continues:
‘Too many of us are afraid to listen to it, and march to it’
He also reminds me to
‘Have a mind that is open to everything, and attached to nothing’.
It’s true that Discover Year does everything it says on the website. If you’re looking for all the nitty gritty details - go there. But as someone who is lucky enough to work with these students as a Coach and Facilitator, I feel what we really do is help students Find the music within them. While the path to finding that music is unique for each person, we teach all of them to have a growth mindset, explore possibilities and courageously take action to discover who they really are.