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Is a Gap Year Right for You?

By Rosanne Ullman May 03, 2021 Lifestyle

If you’re having a late-blooming midlife crisis, maybe you need time away from whatever it is you’re doing, especially if that’s sitting around feeling mildly depressed. Try something new or revisit something you used to enjoy. Give it a year – or don’t set an end date and just see how it goes.

Gap Year Concept

The adult gap year continues to gain momentum. Conde Nast Traveler just ran an article on taking off for a year to refresh mind and body. Proponents typically target about age 40 as the ideal time, but I think with today’s expanded life spans, it’s reasonable to take a break around the 60-year mark.

Gap-year articles tell you to plan ahead with all the financials and other details, but I think at our age we don’t need much of a plan. When I embarked on my gap year, I had no idea that’s what it was.

As the last drop of business dried up, I thought my career was over. I’d had a good run – nearly 40 years of freelance writing for the professional beauty industry. I was at the age of retirement anyway, so this should have seemed like the natural ending to a life’s work.

Feeling Unhappy

I didn’t see it that way. I was sad and felt old and irrelevant in today’s busy world. I missed the money. I’m not the greatest traveler and wasn’t going to liquidate savings in order to tour the world. Sure, I could spend more time with grandchildren, but they were 1,000 miles away, so even that would be challenging.

My career is more of a compulsion than a profession. Writers write. Whether we’re getting paid or not, whether we’re in the mood or not, we write. On top of that, I’m a serial entrepreneur with business concepts popping, uninvited, into my head.

Full of Wonderful Ideas

One of my businesses, Write My Memoirs, was still providing some editing and coaching work, but not enough, and not at nearly a high enough pay rate, to make up for even a fraction of the business I’d lost.

I went down my mental list of projects I hadn’t had time to tackle. Unlike the typical bucket list of fun things to do before you die, my bucket list contained all the things I still needed to accomplish before I could rest easy.

So I didn’t step away from the computer. I still had plenty to write about, a bit of memoir editing, and the bucket list of back-burner projects.

Seeking validation to regain confidence, I started sending out pieces to online sites that accepted worthy observations, and I had enough success to calm my self-doubts. In fact, that’s when I started writing for Sixty and Me.

Next up was the grammar course I’d been wanting to adapt from the in-person classroom format I used to teach to an updated, digital version that I hoped would earn me some of that “passive income” I kept hearing about. Developing this course made me excited to wake up every morning and get to my desk.

Then a friend expressed interest in partnering on a nearly forgotten business idea I’d had years ago. Accountability to a business partner was exactly what I needed to stay motivated and get that going. I also explored online sales platforms to revive a greeting card company I’d launched in the 1970s. Retro is back, right?

Shifting Focus

It turned out that the ebb and flow of my beauty writing work had just ebbed for longer than usual, and after about a year, just before the pandemic hit, my phone began ringing again. I am grateful. But I’ll never be sorry that I had that year to focus on professional projects that I probably would not have pursued in true retirement.

I may be out of the ordinary in wanting to fill a work void with more work, but I think we all have something to which we would like to be able to give undivided attention. What is it for you? If you can stop what you’re doing to attend to it, I heartily recommend that you do.

Have you considered a gap year? Do you think it will help you get a better idea of how you want to spend your life post-work? What would you focus on while you’re in the gap? Do you have any projects that you started way back when and would like to revive? Please share your thoughts with the community!

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The Author

Rosanne Ullman has a long freelance writing career. She is the author of the children's picture book The Case of the Disappearing Kisses, an admin for the Facebook group "Grammar Matters," and the creator and instructor of the Write My Memoirs Grammar and Writing Course.

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