Yesterday, my daughter hit ‘submit’ on her online college application, which means graduation is on the horizon for my oldest child and with it, choices about how to begin life as a young adult. This past year, we tackled the infamous, “Where do you want to go to college?” question, and discussion of a contemporary trend, the Gap Year.
The Gap Year is the period of time between high school graduation and freshman year at a university of choice. It is an opportunity for young adults to take a sanctioned break from the academic system to explore, work, learn, grow, and get to know themselves. The reasoning is that life experience, self-discovery, and a broader perspective on the world will benefit them as they enter the higher education system.
In my opinion, Mom & Dad are the ones deserving of the Gap Year. I mean, by your forties (or later), you have a pretty good idea what gaps exist in your life. It’s time to start rekindling that sense of adventure you lost the minute you graduated from college and set foot in your first cubicle. In my case, immediately after fleeing said cubicle, I chose to start a family, which led into an 18 year blur of exhaustion, culminating in my daughter’s current college application process.
During that time my children grew up, a few dreams and travel plans were deferred. A few friendships fell by the wayside, as we were all too busy with travel soccer practice to prioritize our own social lives. A few business ideas sparked, but have not yet had time to ignite, as my changing worldview slowly shifts my focus from income potential to social good. And one more thing, I need rest and relaxation like I need air and water.
Most of all, I crave uncertainty. Not recklessness, but rather the potential and opportunity of being less defined. Now I am older, and more financially secure, but I remember how it felt to feel so ungrounded at age 22. My 20s were financially tight, but I was secure in my relationships. How fluidly I moved with less burden, and how invigorating it was to be experimenting with my life’s path.
I have big decisions ahead of me, as does my daughter. Of course, there is a standard path in front of me. Continue paying the mortgage, build the nest egg, live safely and comfortably, but feel stagnant. But there is another way. Make changes, shake things up, take some risks, but feel fear. My daughter plans to start college next fall, but Mom has her eye on the Gap Year.