I originally had big plans to study political science at a prestigious university in Washington, D.C. starting in the Fall of 2012, and I wasn’t excited. The acceptance rate of said school was lower than my age at the time, and I should have been ecstatic and honored to have even been admitted. It wasn’t because it was too far away from my home in Chicago. It wasn’t because I would miss my friends who were all staying in the Midwest. It wasn’t because I had any sort of issue with D.C.

Courtesy of Cassie Scaman

Courtesy of Cassie Scaman

It was simply because I was supposed to be excited. I was supposed to study political science and go to law school and be one of the best lawyers in Chicago. It was what was expected of someone like me who had been on Speech Team and had a nearly perfect transcript. Our counselors all had a secret bet going on who could get their students into the best schools and having me on my counselor’s team was a big deal (don’t worry, the only thing at stake was bragging rights). I was supposed to be excited for my seemingly perfect new life, but I wasn’t. I was terrified. Terrified that I was going for job security and a “brand name college” on my resume over passion. I wasn’t sure what my passion was yet, but I knew what wasn’t it. That was when I decided to take a break and take a chance and move halfway across the country to figure it out.

I had heard about some former students at my high school taking gap years but it wasn’t a big thing in my community. Most of my senior class, including all of my close friends, were off to college in the fall. At first, a gap year just didn’t seem like an option to me, but after talking it over with my mom, we decided that it was the right thing for me to do. My mom supported me through the entire year while my dad was disappointed in my decision. I decided to move to Phoenix, Arizona where I could live with family members while still having the independence of being away from home.

When I moved to Phoenix, I made sure to stay busy. I volunteered at a church taking care of autistic children once a week; I worked with a non-profit organization that focuses on mentoring foster children; and I worked for a children’s theatre company. I also started to write again, and that was when I realized my passion. I first started writing about the oppression I face as a young queer woman living in the ultra-Conservative Phoenix environment. What truly inspired me though was the group of teenagers I met during my gap year who were afraid not only to be themselves but of themselves. They were the inspiration for a full-length play I wrote about homeless youth, which is when I discovered that I wanted to be a playwright.

I applied to several schools with great Playwriting programs but ultimately I found my home at Columbia College Chicago. And in the end, I wouldn’t change my gap year experience for anything. I was lost and now I’m not. I’m actually excited to start college in the fall now.

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