…about Gap Yahs vs. gap years!

Many of UoN’s students seem to have had a year out before starting first year. If this time was spent working for a season in the Alps, donning the compulsorily patterned harem trousers while backpacking in Thailand, or partaking in manual charity work in Africa (possibly funded by hard earned ‘A level prizes’), then you had a Gap Yah.

On the other hand, if you re-sat a mediocre set of A levels, worked part time in Next (Topshop being the only beneficiary from the money earned) and the nearest you came to the mysterious East was losing a £10 note during a weekend in Whitby, you were the unfortunate recipient of a gap year. Sadly, I fall into the second category.  Whilst Gap Yahs are periods to be celebrated and are recorded in proud detail (particularly in personal statements and on Facebook), gap years are dark and shabby events; shameful lost periods little talked of or written about. Yet that shouldn’t be – it’s time to step out of the shadows!

“Gap years are dark and shabby events; shameful lost periods little talked of or written about”

Of course the transformative experiences gained on a Gap Yah are unforgettable, and just to be sure they stay just that, it seems the done thing is to get a large tattoo of a world map somewhere along the way. It’s probably for the best that I didn’t follow this trend; my gap year tattoo would have been quite small since I primarily existed between two streets in Liverpool and New Mersey Retail Park (plus the said diversion to Whitby).

Almost 6 hours and a half into the trail, we are finally in Machu Picchu.

However, in between not going to the Biology lessons my school so kindly suggested I attend so “the same thing doesn’t happen again”, and watching a vast amount of Friends, I believe I did manage to grow as a person in my gap year. Every life-changing experience one might have while touring South America in a 1978 VW Camper Van I bet I witnessed in my equivalent.

The carnage of the famous Next new season sale is unparalleled. Don’t talk to me of monsoons and parasites. Having to abstain from alcohol on Christmas night so I could rise at 4am on Boxing Day morning (also my 18th birthday) taught me all I need to know about hardship. Oh to be doing something unforgettable on one’s coming of age! The children’s section is the worst. Of course, nothing can stand between a Scouse bird and a pair of killer heels going cheap, but that doesn’t compare to getting in the way of her trying to grab the last age five Minion onesie. I’m not complaining, the whole Next sale gig is a laugh if you’re behind the reassuring safety of the till. In fact, dealing with people when they got to the pay point was great, they’re delighted to finally  be there and you get to have a good chat in the time it takes to scan and wrap upwards of 50 items. I  heard hundreds of bizarre life stories from a whole range of people, many  from the very darkest and most mysterious corners of Merseyside.

“The carnage of the famous Next new season sale is unparalleled”

Teaching young children in developing countries is an incredible way to touch peoples lives on a Gap Yah, but I also made my mark on humanity. Next till receipts bear the name of the staff member who was on that till. A couple once arrived at the checkout ecstatic to see me. They had been in a couple of months earlier at a loss for a name for their new baby and I had served them – they liked me so much they checked the receipt and used my name!

I know, I make my gap year sound very glamorous, I’m sure everyone is wishing they had done one now! But it wasn’t all this soul-enriching malarkey that I make out. I did also spend 80% of my mornings in my PJ’s until midday, having a pizza for breakfast around 11 and watching crapTV. Great preparation for student life. Why would you want to go to Thailand anyway, I don’t think they even show Jeremy Kyle there…

Floss Binks

Featured image: Floss’ own. Embedded image: Eduardo Zarate via Flickr

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