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.
The adult gap year continues to gain momentum. 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.
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.
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?
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!
Funny, I’ve been thinking about my looming ‘retirement’ as a “redirection”, as I don’t feel ready to retire. I do want my time to be my own though, and I’ve never been entrepreneurial. But I need time to figure things out, and then maybe I’ll look at projects or whatever to get involved in. Right now I don’t want to be tied down by any obligations. Hence I’ve been vaguely looking at it as a gap year. Stories like this validate my musings.
Ava, I find that I’m not a tough taskmaster – I give myself plenty of “me” time even as I pursue my many projects. So just be kind to yourself! Another advantage of having something to work on is that in the process you learn so much. It’s good to keep exercising your brain, right? It seems that everything you do today requires a learning curve for the technology involved. Instead of letting that intimidate me, I look at it as a built-in brain exercise.
This might just be what I needed to ge me motivated. Is there such a thing as a gap year after retirement? If so, I am the personification of just that. I had retired and had just been divorced from an eight year toxic marriage. I was spending a great deal of time with 4 of my five children that live in the north east although I had moved to sunny Florida about 14 years before. On one of my visits to my youngest daughter, she one day reminded me that her new home was just a few minutes from my deceased, first husband and our best man and maid of honor. Because I was not familiar with Long Island, NY, I was totally oblivious of their proximity. In order to spare you a very detailed but pleasant narrative I’ll get to the point. Jean and Tony, the couple previously mentioned, and I renewed our disconnected relationship. It was a bittersweet reunion because Jean had been diagnosed with dementia 10 years prior. It had been very difficult for their 5 children and for Tony. Although we kept in touch, not four months later, Tony emailed me to tell me Jean had peacefully passed away in her sleep.
From that point on Tony and I continued communicating via email and then one day he suggested we FaceTime. I’m sure by now you have guessed that our friendship blossomed into something more. So what does this have to do with a ‘gap year’? Well I have kept at least 98% of our emails and I have been threatening to write of our beautiful love story. I often say that God has saved the best for last.
But I truly believe there is a way of compiling these emails into a truly inspiring memoir or collection. I just am not sure how to start. But this article about a gap year has triggered something in me. Thank you. I am certainly open to any suggestions. Thank you. Thank you.
Frances, your story is inspiring! I’m not sure whether I’d call that a gap year or another twist and turn that tends to describe our life map, and retirement itself can include a project like writing a love memoir. Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com if you’d like to explore ideas. I know we could come up with something. There are other Sixty and Me authors/coaches as well who have articles addressing memoir. I’m very happy for you that you and Tony rediscovered each other.