The infamous “Gap Year”; it’s similar to a sabbatical and typically taken between the end of secondary school and college. Students finishing up their high school education but unsure if going to university is right for them may use the Gap Year to explore other options, whether volunteering or even travel.
But what about those who are beyond their high school years by maybe a decade or two (okay, or three)?
How does a Gap Year sound once you become an empty nester?
Or, How cool would a Gap Year be when you become a parent, finish chemo or move into a new home?
I think most people feel like it may be impossible to walk away from an income or personal responsibilities and simply take a year off and do whatever your heart desires, but what about taking a “Gap Year” for one thing in your life that you feel needs more perspective?
Granted, in the thick of raising children, having a career, or trying to pay off significant debt, taking a Gap Year would seem somewhat irresponsible or even foolhardy regardless of how necessary it might be.
In the movie, “Where’d You Go Bernadette?” an agoraphobic 50-year-old successful career woman, disappears from her everyday life and takes a journey of self-discovery to reclaim herself.
Seems like something many of us would do in a heartbeat today if possible.
Not everyone has the luxury of disposable income, consistent childcare, or even someone to pinch hit for them regarding responsibilities and obligations. So, a Gap Year might seem to be a whim, but I think all of us can find pieces of our life where taking a Gap Year can make an incredible difference.
Here are some examples of areas where you may be able to successfully take a Gap Year:
- Take a Gap Year From Social Media
While that FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) can play havoc with you, eliminating social media for a period of time can be cathartic and enlightening.
Instead of scrolling through countless pictures of your friend’s children, pets dinners, or vacation, or feeling polarized by politics on Social Media, you have freed up wasted time that may have made you feel your life was insignificant or irrelevant.
- Take a Gap Year From Gossip
This can be a very difficult thing to do especially in certain environments but if you can train yourself to start walking away from situations where gossip runs the party, you may develop improved discernment and become much more open-minded.
It’s a learned behavior but one that can have a long term influence on living a fuller life.
- Take a Gap Year From Toxic People
A close friend I have decided that the recent pandemic was a perfect time to begin to remove herself from the noxious behavior of some people in her life.
She couldn’t visit and chose not to communicate in any way but email, letting people know working from home and now homeschooling her children swallowed up her time. Gradually she cut out phone calls and emailed less frequently.
Yes, some friends and family members were angry but she has an excuse to not have to tolerate the difficult people in her life and she doesn’t plan on letting that happen again anytime in the near future.
She says she has found that ridding your life of what irritates it whether physically, emotionally, or relationally is overwhelmingly cathartic.
- Take a Gap Year From Constant Busy-ness
There will always be things to do, but what about deciding that for a year or an extended period of time, you will not fill your life with lists of goals.
Maybe do what you need to do to get through your life and eliminate the should have, would have, could have, must do things that spin in your mind making you feel like you never truly accomplish anything.
It’s a whole new world most of us are living in now. There’s no shame in going with the flow rather than trying to pretend nothing has changed.
Maybe take a Gap Year from planning so much for the future and instead live in the moment for as long as it takes to find your clarity and your joy.
Another man I know described himself as “Living with the same joy my dog does every day!”
Dogs don’t have goals. They live in the moment and it seems to work well for them.
- Take a Gap Year From Expectations
Sure your family expects dinner and clean clothes but should YOU expect more from you than you can realistically deliver? Taking a Gap Year from beating yourself up with unrealistic outcomes might be just what you need.
Maybe this is not the time to lose 30 pounds, meet Mr. Right, complete a degree, or find a better job.
Maybe you should only expect from yourself what you would expect from others for a whole year.
How much damage could you really do by spending an afternoon daydreaming or watching all the re-runs of Cheers instead of squeezing in another session at the gym, finishing a dissertation, or making homemade Christmas gifts?
It’s not always wrong to lower expectations for yourself. Sometimes it’s the cure you need to become healthier.
- Take a Gap Year From Your Stereotypes.
Did you ever think something about a person and then when you hear their story have a far different impression? What if you could take a Gap Year and be open-minded and wait to form an opinion until you really know someone?
If you have been swayed by the opinions of others or by a cultural bias you have had all your life, maybe reserve this time for simply being a discerning observer and wait to pass judgment until you know all the information.
One of my neighbors, upon returning from military service decided to make it point to visit all different types of religious services. While quarantining makes participating in person impossible now, he continues to regularly meet online with various religious groups and is forming bonds with some remarkable people who have beliefs and values sometimes quite different from his own.
He has discovered he harbored more irrational beliefs than he realized.
- Take a Gap Year From Thoughtless Spending
Are there victims of “what was I thinking?” in your closet that will never see the light of day?
Did you succumb to the latest decorating trend only to discover you really don’t like the colors or textures you are living with?
Are there cobwebs on your exercise or musical equipment?
If you can’t seem to figure out just where your money is going, maybe taking a Gap Year from spending any money that isn’t absolutely necessary is not only wise but critical.
During your Gap Year ask yourself “Do I really need this or just want this?” for every purchase you make.
Your answers could change your life.
- Take a Gap Year From Worry
I know you are probably thinking this is impossible!
But what if instead of over-thinking, over-planning, and over-worrying you resigned yourself to simply accepting what is. Accept you lack control for many outcomes and tell yourself, “ Worry will not make this better.”
You may have to put that mantra on every wall of your house but as you become more aware of how often you worry you will deliberately be affecting a positive change in your behavior.
Every time you find yourself worrying mark it on your calendar as you become more aware of the way worry controls your life you may discover a better outlet for your time and energy.
- Take a Gap Year From Blame and Shame
Maybe this year has been especially difficult for you. Maybe you regret what you haven’t accomplished or how disorganized and random your life may seem now.
What if you forgave yourself for any mistakes or foolish decisions you made for just a year and gave yourself permission to simply learn as you go?
How different would your future be if you eliminated the negative mindset that you have and took a year to start with a clean slate of “just being human”?
- Take a Gap Year from Your Residence
Ever wonder what it would be like to live in the city or somewhere remote? Maybe you yearn for just packing up and living a nomad’s life for a while.
Friends of ours did just that. They rented out their home and decided to take 6 months and explore the country via their recreational vehicle. They have discovered places in the Mid-west they never knew existed and fell in love with a charming little town in South Texas with amazing food!
(They swam naked in a waterfall as well, but I think I am not supposed to share that!)
With digital learning and many working from home, this could be the time to park a tent at the campground for more than a week’s stay or even for returning to your childhood hometown and rediscovering your roots.
But, maybe you don’t need an entire year. Maybe you just need to take a break long enough to affect change.
Maybe your Gap Year needs to happen just to give you space and purpose.
What if instead of a Gap Year you just took a Mini-Break?
We can take a break from countless things; small things like jumping to conclusions or always having the same routine or big things like where work or who we associate with.
We can take a break from wanting more and learn to enjoy our “just enough”.
Some people take a break from eating during a fast. Maybe that is just what a Gap Year is; a fast from whatever is weighing us down or keeping us stuck.
This year I am taking a Gap Year from the “ Someday I will thinking” and instead am asking myself, “Will I get this opportunity again”?
With that in mind, I am certainly not waiting to do some things I may have thought I would do later in life.
Whether you need a Gap Year or a Mini-Break, how would you spend it and why?
As one of my neighbors in our book club proposed, “ I am taking a break from serious and this next year, I am only reading things that will make me laugh!”