Why Take A Gap Year?


I wanted to have it all together before coming to OneLife. The shocking truth, however, is that I’m not perfect. I have so much to learn about God, about myself, and about others. OneLife is not so much about realizing the destination as it is about embracing the journey. I am on a journey, and so far in this process I am learning some very important essential life skills that I hope will stick with me throughout life. Here are six of the essential life skills that OneLife has taught (and is still teaching) me so far:

1.  Talking (to strangers)
Making conversation is an art, and our generation is quickly losing it. Not at OneLife. Here, without phones to distract us, meaningful conversations happen at any time, at any place, with anyone. I’ve talked to random strangers on the street about where they find hope in life. In an artist’s studio in Greenville, a casual chat led me to discover how one man successfully combined his passion with his ministry. While waiting for coffee, a traveling guitarist explained to me the areas in which he finds brokenness in the music industry. Both of these encounters started with a simple question, like “So how was your day?”.  I think everyone has something to say—all it takes is for one brave soul to initiate. I’m finding that bravery here at OneLife.

2. Declaring
As a personality type that likes to be self-sufficient and people-pleasing, asking for help from others, admitting a need, or being honest about my state of mind is challenging, but it’s essential for One Life to work as a community. “Community Time” and “Hot Seats” facilitate safe places for declaring what I’m feeling about a situation, as well as for calling out the good I see in others. What I have learned is that people are usually ready and willing to hear what I have to say and to respond with grace. Honesty, both in admitting my needs and in encouraging others, is key to thriving.

3. Confronting
I’ve never been comfortable with face-to-face confrontation. At OneLife, however, the only way to live with the same people for nine months is to face conflict head on. Conflict is not always bad; in fact, it strengthens our community when addressed well. We all need to hear and know how we can improve and how we can love each other better.

4. Living intentionally
Everything we do at OneLife is intentional. Intentionality can play out in every aspect of life. It looks like punctuality (yes, being EARLY to breakfast at 7:30 every morning), prioritizing relationships (as well as sleep and homework), scheduling in rest, and planning ahead of time. It requires evaluating what is truly important and what doesn’t make the cut. It is pursuing something higher, something greater; it means always improving and never giving up. It is embracing all that OneLife offers—being all in.

5. Embracing flexibility
As much as I want them to, people don’t fit in boxes. They grow and mature and are constantly changing. Trying to prevent that natural movement from happening will drive you mad. People aren’t the only things that change—schedules change too (surprise!). Going with the flow is necessary if any of us are going to have any peace. An open mind and an open heart also go a long way here at OneLife. I am learning to let my previous opinions, beliefs, and assumptions be up for change. This is essential if I want to experience the full effect of the truth in my life.

6. Accepting vulnerability
The first step to embracing growth is to admit weakness. I won’t lie—I don’t like vulnerability. But here at OneLife, there’s no place to hide…and I am learning that I don’t want to hide. What remains in darkness remains a threat; what is brought into the light finds healing. Vulnerability means speaking up even when you haven’t sorted out all your thoughts yet. It looks like jumping into a new situation, even if it makes you look bad or feel embarrassed or afraid. It is letting go and joking about stupid things and having fun. Vulnerability means exchanging the risk of rejection for depth in a relationship. It is daring greatly. I have so much room to grow in this, and I know I can’t do it alone. That’s why I love this community—by coming together and being honest, our weaknesses makes us stronger. Yes, vulnerability is hard, but I’m discovering that it’s always worth it. One person’s willingness to be vulnerable can spark a chain reaction, creating a place where freedom can thrive.

I’ve been at OneLife for six weeks. Only six weeks—and I’ve already learned so much. “Gap year” is probably the worst description for this experience—every moment is fine-tuned for meaningful growth. I keep finding myself thinking, “This is real living.” I can’t wait to experience the rest of what OneLife will offer.

Riley Hanagan
Riley is a OneLife student at Southern Wesleyan University.