Our National Gap Year


Woman at Computer Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels

Here’s another take on this weird, endless, awful year: let’s consider it a gap year. Seth Godin writes that many students are considering taking a gap year, delaying starting or continuing college until things return to normal – or as close to it as we can get.

But Godin says the gap year is a good idea with a misleading name. “The gap year has a terrible name. It implies that the year is somehow wasted, that it’s a gap snuck in between the stuff that you’re supposed to be doing.

But of course, it’s not that at all. Living is what we’re supposed to be doing. Contributing. Learning. Figuring out how to make things better. The stuff we’re not doing when we’re simply complying–that’s the point. Our compliance years are the gap.”

So what if we all considered 2020 a gap year? Most of us have lots of time on our hands, or at least a lot more than we had before. What if we spent it on something important, something worthwhile? Thinking, planning, creating. Building something that will not only distract you from the worry, boredom and anxiety you’ve been feeling, but be something you can be proud of a year from now.

Here are some suggestions, from easy to challenging.

Read a book you’ve always wanted to read, but never had the time to start. War and Peace. Atlas Shrugged. The Bible or the Quran. The entire Harry Potter series. Whatever it is, take a deep dive. Think about it. Talk about it with friends. In fact, read it with friends and start a mini Zoom book club.

Write a plan or start a venture that will bring in extra income or teach you new skills. This may not be the time to launch your business, but you have the time now to plan and test your ideas. Or this might be exactly the right time to launch. My hair stylist is doing brisk business selling her custom-made scented hand sanitizer and room freshener. “I had some time on my hands during the lockdown,” she says. “I started experimenting, and people seemed to like the products.”

Or make a change in your home to make it feel more like a resort and less like a holding cell. It can be easy and inexpensive, like putting on a new coat of paint or rearranging furniture. Or make a significant change. Install or upgrade home workout equipment. If you’re cooking or baking more, like so many of us, upgrade your equipment or remodel your pantry. Start a garden.

You get the idea. Your gap year can be used in a way that makes your life better next year. You can come through this stronger, smarter, or more prepared. This has been a terrible year for most everyone on the planet. But maybe it’s our chance to rethink our priorities and make plans for the future.

Seth Godin again: “If you can afford it, this is a powerful moment to invest in the next chapter of who you are and what you will become… A month, a semester, or an entire year. A chance to create a change, to make an impact, to cause a shift in your posture that you’ll have forever. The discomfort people feel when they consider a gap year is precisely why we ought to spend more time considering it.”

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