My name is Evan New-Schmidt, I’m writing to you from drought-stricken California, more specifically San Luis Obispo (or SLO, as we call it here), a land of mild temperatures, hills, and lots and lots of wineries.
Halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles lies “The Happiest City in America” according to Oprah.
I’ve lived in SLO for all of my life, and after 18 years of a “cool Mediterranean climate”, it’s fairly safe to say Needham will be a bit of a change weather-wise.
Not that I didn’t see this coming, quite the opposite; one of the many reasons I decided to attend Olin was because it’s outside of my comfort zone in several ways, including the weather. All the same, recognizing my preconceived (and incorrect) notions of how the world works (weather and otherwise) will be a main theme in my gap year.
I say “will be”, because I realized recently that I don’t think I’ve started my gap year yet. Historically, my years have been separated into two parts: the school year and summer. Subconsciously, I’ve just replaced the school year with my gap year.
Perhaps this is just a way for me to rationalize my lack of planning. You see, I still don’t really know what I want to do during my (rapidly approaching) gap year. And when I try to grasp the enormous amount of time that I am now personally responsible for, my mind tries to push the idea someplace far away from where I’ll have to focus on it again.
Michael Scott knows how I feel.
When I was trying to decide between directly attending Olin and taking a gap year, I felt nervous and intimidated by the latter’s lack of structure. Still, I chose it (obviously). I wanted to see what it was like to be in complete control of the direction of my life for a year, however frightening it may sound, and I’d heard rave reviews from Olin students, friends, and family who’d taken gap years.
I have many ideas for what I want to do during my gap year, including but not limited to traveling, working, learning, meditating, more programming, drawing, photography, running, another road trip, Netflix and HBO...but they have yet to coalesce into a 12-month itinerary. I’ve told myself that I want to devote at least 6 months to traveling outside of the US, and to remain in SLO for at least the 3 coming months, but other than that the year is a frightening and thrilling blank slate.
So it’s probably better to talk about where I am right now.
The standout event of my summer was a 16 day trip with three fine also-graduated gentlemen from my high school into the Pacific Northwest. It was an action-packed road trip that took us from SLO to Silicon Valley, the Redwoods National Forest, Portland, Seattle, the Olympic National Forest, Canada, Crater Lake, and numerous other locations. The journey affected me in many ways, but the one most important to this blog is that it exposed me to a wide variety of people, places, and things, ultimately solidifying my desire to travel during this gap year.
One of several “family portraits” from the trip. I’m the one on the far left in desperate need of a haircut.
Prior to this summer and embarking on a gap year, the decision that has been most impactful on my life in recent memory is my involvement in the FFA. The Future Farmers of America is an agriculture-based youth organization that began in 1928, and since then has grown (get it?) to become the largest career and technical student organization in the US, expanding to represent the entire agriculture industry, leaving behind its original name in favor of the initials. Some of you might recognize the FFA by its token blue corduroy jackets and brief appearance in Napoleon Dynamite.
Napoleon: The defect in that one is bleach.
FFA Judge: That’s correct.
Why do I mention it? The FFA offers a wide variety of competitions (including dairy product judging) all based around providing valuable leadership, public speaking, and agriculture industry skills to its members. It transformed me from a sweaty, awkward freshman into the slightly less sweaty, slightly less awkward dude who sits before his computer screen today. All jokes aside, the four years of experience, relationships, and memories the FFA provided profoundly changed me. Because of that organization I’ve had the pleasure of mixing up my notecards before 400 people, competing at the national level, catching ringworm from a sheep named Margaret, managing to drive a tractor and trailer without jack-knifing, and getting to know all sorts of people from diverse backgrounds I never would have met otherwise. Few things have been as life-altering as those four years with the FFA, and I’m hoping this coming year will join the list.
Come December (when I’m scheduled for my next blog post) I’ll have more to share with y’all about the first couple months of my gap year, and my plans for the next few months. Until then, I’ll try my best to stay alive in California’s drought (the main evidence of which in SLO is the dying grass in my backyard and the shorter showers I’ve been taking).
Exhibit A (Exhibit B not pictured) in the case of The People vs. California’s Water.
Evan Lloyd New-Schmidt
P.S. Bonus pic of me eating an apple cider slushie (slushy? slushee?) with my Candidates’ Weekend shirt at Pike Place in Seattle: