Gap Year in New York

And on to Guatemala.

Sabrina Reppert (left), with her friend Kelsey Moreis, at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School graduation in June. Courtesy Sabrina Reppert.

By Sabrina Reppert

For the past three years, The MVTimes has asked four recent Vineyard high school graduates to share their experiences during their first year after graduation. Our fourth correspondent is Sabrina Reppert, who spent the fall dancing in New York City.

This past spring, I walked across the stage of the Tabernacle to receive my high school diploma along with 160 other classmates. I am a graduate of MVRHS class of 2015. I was anxious and scared for what lay ahead. Unlike most of the other graduates in my class, I had no plan. My name is Sabrina Reppert. I have just turned 19 years old, and here’s my “After 18” story.

I have lived on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard since moving from New York nine years ago, and I have loved every second of it! It is like paradise here, and I never imagined I would want to leave. By the time April 2015 rolled around, I was exhausted. I was ready to be done, completely done, with schoolwork, projects, tests, homework, peer-to-peer interactions, but mostly, just high school itself. Please don’t think I did not enjoy all of my high school experience, as I did very much. Yes, it did have its ups and downs, but I craved something bigger, crazier, more uncomfortable, and just something downright out of the ordinary.

During my school years, I had zero time to myself. I juggled countless hours of sports practices, off-Island meets, dance classes in the evenings, friendships, a relationship, a social life, and my family while managing my schoolwork and being an honors/high honors student. After four years of hard work and an overly booked daily schedule, I was ready for a break. I longed for a gap year of exploring and challenging myself on my own terms. I knew I would not enjoy the college life, with the partying and school work. I was not ready for that stage of my life yet. I did not even know what I wanted to study in college yet!

My parents supported me in whatever endeavor I chose, for which I am thankful. This September, I ventured off to New York City for seven weeks to pursue my passion — dance. Dance has been a part of my life since I learned to walk. Dance feeds my soul. Words are inadequate to explain how dance makes me feel. When I am dancing, I forget all my problems, and it eases all my stresses. I wanted to take the time to focus on dance, and I took a variety of classes from ballet, contemporary, and jazz to hip-hop and yoga.

I was nervous to be in the Big Apple, alone for the first time. Well, I was not, in fact, alone. I lived with my 26-year-old sister, Christina, in Brooklyn. But when one is used to living with eight people in your house 24/7, it’s weird to live with just one other person. It felt strange actually to feel lonely, even though I was surrounded by millions of people. I had never been challenged in this way before, to be independent and responsible for myself; cooking every night, going grocery shopping, figuring out everything on my own was unfamiliar, but at the same time, exciting.

I took the subway into Manhattan every day for dance classes. I took, at least, two, two-hour, dance classes, sometimes three or four, per day. Some days I would criss-cross Manhattan to attend my classes. I became a pro at taking the subway. My first-week dancing was highly intimidating and unnerving. I was out of shape and felt self-conscious. I had only taken dance classes at RISE on Martha’s Vineyard, which I loved, but had never danced with older and more committed dancers, let alone with professional dancers. In New York, I was always the youngest in my classes. In most classes, I lagged behind, struggling to keep up. Every pirouette, every arabesque, every improvisation never seemed good enough. How difficult it was to go back to the same class, after embarrassing myself the class before. My sister, Christina, had to reassure me daily that each of the other dancers had once been in my position, that with practice and repetition, I would feel better.

Christina was right, of course, as she is also a dancer. In many of the classes, my body had to learn to move in a new way. When taking a contemporary class, I expected it to feel and look like what I did back home, but in NYC, it required moving in different ways. During my last two weeks in New York, I found the style I loved and teachers who really inspired me. From participating in various types of floor work to body rolling, to the way my hand movements complemented what the rest of my body did, my body felt alive and invigorated. I went to bed excited for the following morning. One thing I loved about going to these classes was the teachers, who would call you by your first name and always tried to correct or compliment each student. By my third class, my teachers had memorized my name, which made me feel like I must have been doing something right.

It took until my last day in New York City for me realize that what I had done was a big deal. When I said farewell and thanked my teachers, they were surprised to hear I was only 18 and fresh out of high school. They complimented me for challenging myself. Looking back on this experience now, I wish I had pushed myself more, by taking more classes and not feeling so intimidated. I wish I had taken each dance class just for me, instead of feeling that all eyes were on me. Although it had been my desire to participate in a more structured dance program, figuring out the city and planning out my time was a unique learning experience.

And now onto the next. As I get ready to leave for Guatemala, I am proud of what I accomplished in New York City and feel like it will benefit me as I begin my next adventure.