Capstone Presentations: Alex and Taking Baby Steps

April 3, 2019
Emma StiefelFellow Voices

At the conclusion of Year On’s 2018 Fall Semester Experience, each fellow gave a capstone presentation of what they’d learned during the past four months. This is a summary of what Alex G., one of the fellows, shared.


This past summer, Alex sat at his computer, reading about Year On’s gap semester program. There was a lot to take in: five weeks volunteering in Peru, then ten weeks in San Francisco learning how to live independently. To Alex, it all seemed incredibly uncertain, and he started to spiral deeper and deeper into self-doubt. Was he smart enough, good enough, to be accepted into the program? Even if he was, would he like it? Or would it be a repeat of his time in college, where he’d become so miserable that he’d dropped out? And even if he made it through all this, would he have what it takes to “adult”?

Alex shared these initial worries during his capstone presentation at the conclusion of his gap semester, after he’d made it through all of the obstacles he’d feared. What gave him the confidence to power through his anxieties was the advice his mom had given him as he was sitting in front of his laptop last summer, panicking over what his future might hold: “She told me to calm down, and just focus on the baby steps,” Alex recalled. “Just focus on that first step I can take to get started.”

Fortunately, Alex took her advice. He applied to Year On, got accepted, and kept thriving throughout his gap semester. He went to Peru, survived as an adult in San Francisco, and experienced so much in each place. “I wrote poetry, I made origami, I got an amazing internship with a local blacksmith,” Alex said. “I started to get on a roll, and each time that I face these fears it gets a little bit easier.”  

One of Alex's blacksmithing projects.

There are still times, of course, when Alex struggles with doubt and fear. The big picture that terrifies him the most is thinking about his future. Not that he doesn’t know what he wants to do with it; Alex is certain that he wants to run a blacksmithing company out of Vermont. But thinking about actually achieving his dream goal? “That’s horrifying,” he exclaimed. “Being a functional adult with a stable job, are you kidding me?”

But now, when thoughts about starting a business or filing taxes or shopping for groceries start to make his heart race, Alex knows what to do. He understands that these “adulting” skills and the confidence to carry them out just need to be practiced, that “each time I focus on pushing through and overcoming that fear it gets a little bit easier and I get a little bit braver.” He can now tell himself what his mom had to remind him of when he was beginning his journey to adulthood: just focus on the baby steps.

You can watch Alex's capstone presentation here: https://youtu.be/zrjKbilYFjs

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