Bridging Gaps

For someone who promised to keep up a blog detailing my life (and reminding you all I'm not dead), I'm doing a remarkably terrible job. I suppose one issue is that I don't feel like I'm off living grand adventures worthy of writing about. This is just my new city. This is just my new home. This is just my new life.

And this is the new coffee place where I spend time being a Very Serious Writer:

Pictured: Very Serious Writing.

I'm at a table that is clearly meant for three people, and so I feel obligated to buy three times the amount of coffee I should be drinking, also in the misguided hope that it will cheer up my somewhat moody waitress (when she asked if I wanted anything else, I said, “Wifi?” I would resent me, too).

But despite self-deprecating jokes to the contrary, I really am writing, and it's going swimmingly. This was a bit of a surprise to me. However much faith I had in my desire and decision to write, whenever well-meaning family friends inquired into writing during my gap year, the conversation usually went like this:

Well-Meaning Family Friend: So, you're taking a gap year! That's so great. What are you doing with it?
Me: Well, for the first half, I'll be volunteering and taking classes at Princeton, and then in February I leave for Holland and travel from there. And write.
WMFF: Write?
Me: Yes, I'm finishing my novel abroad.
WMFF: Oh, for research? That's so great. Where does it take place?
Me: …New Jersey.

It seemed a little random. But I knew I wanted to travel, and I knew I wanted to write, and it seemed natural to do both at the same time. However ridiculous it may seem now, I didn't realize how closely related the two would turn out to be.

For the uninitiated, my novel is about finding family and growing into your own. This trip is about rediscovering my own family, discovering a little more of the world, and figuring out what I want out of life. Somehow, I didn't see the connection.

Taking a gap year was a big decision, and I sometimes doubted myself. But now that I'm more than half-way through, I can honestly say that I don't think I could have made a better choice. If it weren't for this year, I wouldn't have found the direction I want to take my life in. I wouldn't have discovered my passion for theology. I wouldn't be 3,600 miles from home, planning trips to Dublin and Vienna, or spending a week in Berlin.

I wouldn't have had all this time with my family, or found my place therein. And this year has honestly been one of the best things I've ever done for my writing.

Spending the first five months at home, volunteering (and taking classes, no less), baffled some people. Writing about New Jersey at 3,600 miles' distance may have seemed ridiculous. But the ground that all my leaps of faith have landed me on has all been coming up daisies. Whether that's a testament to my own resilience, or a natural rhythm in the universe, I don't know.

But I can live with that. After all, if there's one thing this year has been good for, it's discovery.

And excessive amounts of coffee.

Author: Sara Laughed

I'm Sara, a writer, recent grad, and American abroad. I graduated from college in December and promptly moved to the Netherlands, where I live with my boyfriend and our 11 plants. Follow along as I figure out my roaring twenties: I don't quite know what I'm doing, but that's not stopping me from writing about it!

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  • Glad to hear you say that about the gap year–I keep worrying if it was the right thing, but only you can be the judge of that. Glad you’re enjoying Holland. The Dutch certainly know a thing or two about coffee, having been traders in the stuff since the 17th century. (Check out David Liss, The Coffee Trader, a totally gripping novel about the coffee trade and the Jewish community in 17th-c. Amsterdam.) Is it still cold in Europe? Love, Pop.