--Let's Fall Into The Gap--

Hey. So, I'm Antigone Mathilda Jones, and this is going to be my story. Don't even get started on my name – it's not my fault. My parents, like most parents of teenage children, are completely ate up, so somewhere out in deep left field about eighteen years ago, my Mom's passion for literature crashed into my Dad's complete lack of testicular fortitude, and I ended up named after an inbred, grave-digging, suicidal, feminist icon. Lucky me. Just call me Annie like everyone else does, except for my Grandmother who still can't pronounce my first name and therefore refuses to acknowledge it. She calls me Mattie. And my world lit teacher insisted on calling me Antigone all last year, but can you really expect a lit teacher to pass up an opportunity like that?

I think I know why I'm sitting here in the dark, typing with one hand while I try to hold a cigarette out the window with the other so that no one in the house will know that I'm sitting up here smoking. First, it's just a cigarette, and I could be doing so many worse things. And second, they don't even care that I smoke – they just want me to do it outside. Whatever. If they can't smell it well enough to catch me, it must not be too bad. But this isn't about the evils of smoking. This is about why I'm sitting here in the dark, typing with one hand. I'm telling my story to find out if I even have a story to tell. And I sort of hope that this can help me figure out what to do in the next year.

The Gap Year. Dunh-dunh-DUUUUUNH!!

I didn't even know that it had a name until I heard some story on NPR about it, and imagine my surprise when I found out that they were talking about me, and that there's an actual name for what I'm doing right now. Of course, there's a name for pretty much everything now, even the picky little stuff that doesn't need a name at all. Everyone needs to think that Everything is Important, since that means that they are Doing Something with their Life, and the best way to make Something Important is to give it a Name. Or to turn it into a Diagnosis and market a Pill to make it Better.

Bitter much? Yeah. Sometimes.

But not really. I think I'm pretty remarkably normal. Just plain old, regular Annie. My two best friends in the world call me "Anti" sometimes, and they say that I'm a total freak, but I don't think so. I'm not all angsty. I'm not pissed at the world. I'm not dark and depressed and deep and emo. I'm not stupid and happy and cheerful for no reason other than that I don't have anything better to do, either. I'm just me. I read. I write. I listen to music. I smoke. I like reptiles and oatmeal raisin cookies and I have a weird fixation with plaid.

And I have no idea what to do next.

That's what this Gap Year is all about. And I'll admit that I didn't really pay all that much attention to the whole NPR story about the Gap Year, because I figured that they would talk to someone my age who would say something that would embarrass me for being my age, and that would make me mad. And then they would talk to someone with a couple of doctoral degrees who is supposed to be an expert on people my age, and that would make me even madder. So I skipped the whole thing and turned off the car and came inside. But at least I know that the Gap Year has a name, and it's enough of a phenomenon that NPR did a story about it, so that means that it's not just me.

See, the Gap Year is the year immediately after a kid graduates from high school and before that kid decides what to do next: college, job, family, military, drugs, prison… Whatever. I'm that kid. And my Gap Year started exactly four days ago when I graduated from Westlake High School.

I got good grades. I graduated thirty-ninth in a class of four hundred sixty-one. I earned an enhanced honors diploma, though that wasn't nearly as hard as you might think it was. I played lacrosse for two years. I helped build sets for the Spring musical once. I drew a series of surprisingly uncontroversial, unsubversive cartoons for the school paper. I skipped class to smoke pot every once in a while. I had a pregnancy scare my junior year and thought that my life was over until my period finally started – five weeks late, thank you very much. I even went to most of the football games, as long as the weather didn't suck. I hung out with my friends, and sent text messages during class, and avoided all of the sexual predators trolling online, and got my first speeding ticket about two weeks after I got my driver's license, and called my Mom a bitch to her face for the first time when I was fifteen – you know, the usual. Nothing remarkable. Nothing outstanding. Nothing too bad, but nothing too good, either.

I know it's probably way too soon for me to look back on my four glorious years at Westlake High to try to draw some magical conclusion on My Life as a Teenager, but my Grandmother has always called me an "Old Soul", so maybe I'll go ahead and try it anyway. Because I already have tried it, and I already have a conclusion.

Everything about me is average. My grades, my looks, my talents, my interests, my friends – everything. I could talk to almost anyone in school, no matter what clique they were in, but I didn't really fit into a clique myself. I did some extracurricular stuff, but not a lot. I have a couple of really good friends, but I like to be alone, too. I dated a few guys, and maybe I was even sort of in love once or twice, but when it was over, it was over and my heart wasn't broken and my world didn't end. Everything, everything, everything about me is just boring and middle-of-the-road and forgettable. Average. So average that it doesn't even really matter.

And now I'm sitting here in the dark, trying to figure out how I'm supposed to turn such a boring, average, nothing life to this point into something productive and interesting that I'll end up doing for the rest of my life. I don't know how to do that. I don't even know how I'm supposed to try to do that.

And so my Gap Year begins. And I have three hundred sixty-one days left to figure it all out, come up with a Plan, and get started. Thank god there's no pressure or anything…

I guess there are a bunch of other kids in this same position right now, but I also graduated with a lot of people who knew exactly what they were doing after graduation. Some of them didn't even have to think about their plans – like the kids who had already signed up for the Marines, or the jocks who have scholarships to go play football somewhere, or the doctors' kids who are going to medical school and the lawyers' kids who are going to law school, or the pregnant burnouts who are going nowhere at all – but none of that helps me. I don't have a Plan like that (and I don't want any of those Plans, anyway).

So for right now, I'm going to sit here in the dark and smoke for a while. And then I'm going to get online and see if I can download any new, interesting music. And then I'm going to read until I fall asleep.

And then I'll start to try to figure all of this out tomorrow.

But I have decided one thing already – well, two things actually. First, I need a job because I need money because I don't have any. And second, I already don't like the term "Gap Year". It makes me think of crooked teeth and generic khaki cargo pants, and that's not the kind of year I'm going to have.

I guess that's a start, right?

So wish me luck and stay tuned…