I was a sophomore in high school and I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. Thoughts of being an engineer were always floating in the back of my mind, but most of my free time was spent messing around with cameras and video editing software. I did not think I could turn this fun hobby into a career, but boy…was I wrong. As junior year rolled around and the college search process started, I was not super excited. All the rigorous courses I was taking caused me to become pretty burnt out. I had heard of gap years in the past, but didn’t see that as my future. Then I was introduced to a man who changed my life.
At the age of two my mom enrolled me in gymnastics. Sophomore year I retired from competitive gymnastics due to too many injuries and being too tall. However, I still enjoyed going into the gym and working on my filmmaking skills with my teammates as subjects. The largest undertaking I did was a one-shot with Shane Wiskus, current NCAA National Champion on Parallel Bars. This video was for his Instagram page where he had amassed a significant following, relative to the low popularity of the sport. One Saturday morning we had the entire gym stop to film a “Mannequin Challenge” video. Everyone was frozen except for Shane who I was following around the gym with a camera on a gimbal. In order to “wake up” the mannequins, Shane finished the video with a difficult tumbling pass. We had to do a couple takes for him to stick it perfectly. When he did, everyone went crazy. And so did people online; the video now has over 325k views on Instagram. Shane showed his dad, Mike Wiskus, who asked who made the video. I knew nothing about Shane’s dad at the time but quickly found out he’s a stunt pilot who flies an orange biplane sponsored by Lucas Oil in airshows across the US and Canada. He wanted to meet with me.
This was a significant turning point in my life, going from an uncertain future to virtually my dream job while still in high school. I was way underprepared. With my family, I had done some light traveling, but that was nothing compared to this job. Almost two years later, I am finally starting to figure out what I’m doing.
Back to my college search. I decided I wanted to major in film, but this opportunity was too good to give up and it would not last long—Mike was planning to retire in three years making this not an option for after college. I made the choice to take a gap year, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. During my gap year, I’ve learned an indescribable amount from travel throughout the country. From watching an airshow in a helicopter high above Fort Lauderdale Florida to a sunset photo shoot over the Golden Gate in San Francisco. This has truly been a remarkable year.
If you’re considering taking a gap year, here’s my advice: you need to be a highly motivated individual to capture all the benefits this year can offer. My former gymnastics coach told me, “I wish more people would take gap years. Too many people go to college not knowing what they want to do and burn out.” A gap year can be a great time to discover who you are and where you want to go in life. In many ways, it was the most challenging yet most rewarding year of my life.
After a break from school for a year, there actually are quite a few things I miss from what I used to dread. Being with others in a learning environment allows compound growth that could otherwise not be attained. Being a primarily self taught filmmaker, all I’ve really known is learning by myself. There were some hints at taking a second gap year, but I figured the odds of ever going to college after that would be slim – and I really want to go to college.
People often ask, “so you want to go to Hollywood?” and my answer has always been “no.” Even before the MeToo movement… I didn’t want to be associated with what goes on in that industry. While there’s some really phenomenal talent in LA, unfortunately, a lot is pushed to the side by who is the loudest. I am very excited for my education at the University of Tampa and I have a pretty clear vision of the direction I want to take now thanks to my gap year, and this is the next step for me.
My name is Steven Nye.
I am seeking the truth in our world through my lens.
I made a recap video breaking down where I’ve been, what I’ve learned, and where I’m going in the future. You can find it online at http://stevennye.com/gapyear