Whether you’re 18 and just leaving school, or 28 and have spent some time in the working world, a year out - or taking an extended period of time off - could be a really sensible thing to do.
It’s just like pressing the reset button.
Let’s take a look at some examples.
18-year-old: for the last 14 years, you have been going through formal education, learning just about those few things which are on offer on the curriculum. You have your parents at home, your peers and teacher at school, all - in some way - influencing how you behave and the choices that you make, whether you realise this or not.
I strong believe that after 18 (even 16 - which is when Richard Branson feels school should end), there should be some form of break before continuing on the “Travelator’ and stepping onto the university treadmill.
It’s only after you leave the safe framework of formal education that you realise just how much of an adjustment the real, working world is.
Having been bound by the constraints of the mass-schooling system for such a long time, you have the chance to spread your wings, try new things, meet new people, learn more about yourself; even, I would argue, to learn about yourself for the very first time.
28-year-old: much of the above applies, except that, after school, you probably went on to do 3 or 4 more years in a structured, university environment, and then landed in a job you were able to get. It’s been 10 years since you left school and you feel that you are supposed to be an adult now.
Have you taken any time to reflect on what it is that you want out of life? Who are you? What do you want the next few years of your life to look like?
Frighteningly, for many of us, we have no idea at all. And when we finally do/start to, the reality we are living is one that is different from the one that we actually want - in fact, this is often how the Quarter Life Crisis starts.
If you still need convincing, read on…
Of the countless career-change stories I have heard and read, through people I’ve gotten to know all over the world, and individuals I have interviewed, many of them:
A) Had some sort of break somewhere along the line - often to recharge and reconnect with themselves, and to figure out in which direction they wanted to point their compass
B) Many of these did some form of travel during this period, for varying lengths of time. Those places which appear most conducive to self-discovery are usually those which are the most culturally-different and remote to what we are familiar with here in the towns and cities of the western world.
Whilst this blog is one about the Quarter Life crisis, I would also bear in mind that it is never too late to take some time off. The majority of us have many years ahead, and we often forget that when we are resisting change - often comparing ourselves to those who are younger than us, and berating ourselves for not having done anything about it sooner.
(A personal confession: one of the reasons that I didn’t take a “gap year” after I left school aged 18 was that I felt it would be a year wasted… even though I was 18 and had literally my whole life ahead of me!)
On some level, I knew that I lacked awareness of who I was and what I wanted to do. What I needed was some time and space to reflect, away from the typical day-to-day and those university/degree expectations of the academic school that I went to; especially so, as a sensitive introvert who all-too-easily did as I was told / what I felt I was expected to do.
Sometimes, just a little time and and space is worth more than its weight in gold.
Over to you…
Have you take a break at any point, or thought about it? I would love to hear your own experience in the comments below. Don’t be a stranger ;)
About: This article first appeared on QuarterLifeIntrovert, a blog for millennials who want to make life better by looking after their mental health + living happier.