Monday, January 13, 2014

GAP YEARS FOR BOOMERS

Have you ever heard of someone taking a "gap year"? I don't think it's commonly done here in the U.S., but I've read about it in British and Australian books. It's when young people take a year off, usually right after graduating from high school, to travel, undertake volunteer work overseas, or undertake a working holiday abroad, as a way of expanding their knowledge, independence, leadership skills, and self-sufficiency, thus improving their resumes before going off to college. Personally, I think it's a brilliant idea. How many kids do you know who wasted several years of college (and a butt-load of money) because they didn't yet know who they were, separate from their families, or what they really wanted out of life?


Anyhoo, yesterday I was scanning through a recent newsletter from the Sixty & Me website, when I spotted this article about a new trend where baby boomers are taking gap years! It said "After long years of stress and personal sacrifice, raising families and navigating careers, many older men and women are taking a break in their 50s and 60s. We are rethinking retirement. Rather than retire, in the traditional sense, many women over sixty are taking time away from their usual obligations to reflect on what could be next in their lives." This got me to thinkin', and it suddenly occurred to me that I had, in fact, taken a gap year of my own!


You see, before quitting my job in Houston, and moving up here to Wimberley ahead of my hubby, I'd never even had a room to myself, much less a whole house! I went directly from sharing rooms with my siblings, to sharing dorm rooms on campus, and from there to sharing half of a tiny beach bungalow on a company compound in Indonesia, where I had no say whatsoever over my life, with my hubby. As soon as we returned to the states I began raising children, and they were still in pre-school when my father-in-law started having strokes, then my mother-in-law got cancer, then my dad got leukemia, etc., etc. So, can you even imagine, then, what it felt like to be here on this hill, completely on my own? Kinda scary at first, to tell you the truth. Especially when that wind was ahowlin'. It didn't take long, however, before I learned to savor the thrill of waking up each and every morning, knowing it was completely up to me, how I wanted to spend the precious hours ahead!


A year or so later our daughter moved back from California and stayed with me until she got her feet on the ground. Not long after she left, Dear Hubby had the first of several health crises. But you know what? It didn't really matter then that I was back to planning my life around others. Why? Well, because in that one short year I had managed to find my "voice" through writing and blogging; find my "tribes" via Story Circle Network, the Muses, and The Bountiful Sprout; find my inner chef thanks to all the "real" food I was getting from TBS; establish my sunrise meditation and journaling habit; and best of all, I was getting back in touch with my inner artist, thanks to my funny little to-do lists, and a book called The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. I finally had all the tools I needed, to cope with whatever life sent my way.


Know what's really scary? Thinking about how close I cam to missing out on all of this! If I hadn't got fed up with things at work one day, and griped about it to my sweet hubby, then he wouldn't have told me it was fine with him if I quit my job and moved up to our Wimberley house ahead of him. And if I hadn't already been well established in the house and community when we found out he needed by-pass surgery, and if he hadn't pushed to come up here for his recovery period, instead of giving in to me staying there with him, close to his doctors, I don't think we ever would have had the nerve to walk away from his cardiac team there in Houston and move up here at all. Moving and downsizing and putting in rain tanks and gardens and driveways and remodeling all at once would have just been waaaaay too overwhelming! In which case I might well have ended up just as bitter as my mom, for never having discovered my "authentic self." Scary indeed!


1 comment:

Corrine at sparkledaysstudio.com said...

What a great story. Gap year, I sort of did one too when I did my intuitive painting training and disappeared to California for 4 separate weeks....and then spent alot of time art making at home. I still worked, still work but have cut way back to make time for my art and teaching and whatever shows up. LOVE the painting.xox