After 18: Jesse Dawson

Planning a gap year.

Jesse with his sister Sarah Dawson at MVRHS graduation.

Every year The MV Times asks four recent high school graduates to write about their experiences during their first year after graduation. Jesse Dawson graduated from MVRHS this spring, and is taking a “gap year.” This is Jesse’s first dispatch.

My name is Jesse Dawson. I’m 18. I recently graduated from MVRHS, and instead of going right to college, I decided to take a year off to work on the Island and to travel. I deferred from UMass Lowell, and currently I’m staying with my parents and working as a field hand at Morning Glory Farm, which I will continue to do until January. I’m also spending a lot of time recording music out of my basement. I have two ideas of how I want to spend the second half of my year: my first choice would be to buy a EuroRail pass and spend a few months in Europe, and if that doesn’t work out, I want to take my car and drive to different destinations across the country.

These are each much loftier and more ambitious plans than how I’m spending the first half of the year. I’m going to capitalize on the freedom I have this year, and I’m doing this in contrasting ways — the freedom of living a simpler life, in which I work and make music and don’t do much else, and the freedom of exploring different areas and cultures and experiencing new things.

A gap year is a unique opportunity. It’s a year free of the constraints of high school and the responsibilities of adulthood. I’m going to make the most out of this, and by dividing it into two separate plans I’m capitalizing on the most useful purpose of a gap year, which is to grow in a relaxed way, without the usual pressures.

By living a simpler life, it’s allowed for a new kind of introspection, along with realizations that staying present in what you’re doing, and not spending time thinking about things you have no control over, is essential to being happy. These thoughts are important, because over the past year I have felt stressed out about the uncertainties in my future. So instead of blindly moving forward, I decided to look around for a while and work on figuring things out.

Working in the Morning Glory fields involves picking tomatoes, squash, and corn, along with many other vegetables. It can be tiring work, but it’s always satisfying. I always feel like I’m accomplishing something tangible, and when I walk through the market area I always appreciate the hard work the Morning Glory staff does to provide food for so many people.

Along with working, I make a lot of music. I play guitar and I’m learning piano. I’m working on pieces by Bach, Gershwin, and Mussorgsky. I’m also recording music out of my basement. I use Garageband and two mics, and add many layers of acoustic guitar to create songs. I’ve only finished a handful, as they all require endless amounts of editing, but I’m hoping to finish an EP (a short album) before the year’s over.

I want to pursue music as a career, and I am working hard to make that more likely in the future. I’m aware of how difficult it is to make a living in that field, but with the passion I have for music, I know that I need to do all I can to succeed. Working on music takes up most of my free time. I love writing songs, and putting together sometimes up to 100 tracks of guitars and vocals to create sounds I imagine. I’m inspired by Elliott Smith, Sufjan Stevens, and Radiohead, among many other musicians and bands I regularly listen to. I’ve always been more interested in composition involving many parts, rather than just writing a song only featuring one guitar part and vocals. I’m excited to further explore piano, because I think it will work with my style of adding multiple layers.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the year. I will continue to pursue music and earn money, and hopefully I’ll be traveling in the winter. I’m also going to take a trip to California at some point to stay with my uncle in the next few months. I have two moms, and I recently found out that my biological dad is a musician on the West Coast, so if an opportunity arises I would like to meet him. Until then I will continue my routine here, read a few more Kurt Vonnegut books, and enjoy the fall.