The farther we get in our lives, the more comfortable we become in the routines we make for ourselves. That isn't to say there aren't things we want to try or things we would do if we only had more time, but we come to accept that not everything will come our way, and that's alright.
What if that wasn't the case, though? What if there were a way we could partake in all those new things we feel drawn to, breaking out of the ruts we dug for ourselves?
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Half Way Point
The term 'midlife crisis' has always felt a little off to me. Either they're not that common anymore, or they tend to happen later than being middle-aged. Not to mention it just...feels a little insulting.
If someone reaches a point in their life where they want to spend a bunch of money on something fancy, as the trope often goes, why shouldn't they? We should always be chasing our passions if we're able to; it's not embarrassing to invest in something that makes us happy.
There are those who are trying to redefine this 'midlife crisis' definition, though, hoping to expand people's views on it and show there might actually be some practical use in partaking in one.
Taking A Break
Meet Kym Wootton, an author and mother who recently went viral on social media after she announced that she would be taking a 'midlife gap year.'
She quit her job and decided to dedicate the next year to her hobbies and families. Specifically, she wants to slow down, dedicate more time to exercise, and fulfill her dream of writing a book.
People largely loved the idea, encouraging her to chase her joy and start this new trend of midlife gap years.
How Is She Making It Work?
Though, she does have a family to support, so there were also people asking how she plans on managing it all.
Kym herself admitted that the idea of being able to take a gap year "screams 'privilege,'" which she understands. "It's simply not accessible for many people to stop working. For me and my family, we talked about this and planned for several years. We paid off debts and made compromises so we could save and spend much less."
There are other elements playing into her choice to take a gap year, though, ones that others could adapt to make a gap year or semi-gap year more feasible in their own lives.
That's It, That's All
One of the main reasons she's doing it is that she feels the way most people live is unsustainable. "It's crazy to me that once we start working, we start our careers. That’s it, we just work, we grind until we are in our late 60s, and we can retire hopefully," she explained.
"And I found myself at a job that I was increasingly feeling like wasn’t a good fit. And I quit, I quit. And instead of doing what every person does, find another job, I’m gonna take a break for maybe a year if I can. I realize how fortunate I am that I can even consider this. It’s really special. And I don’t want to squander it."
Time To Herself
She compares it to the gap year some students take between high school and college. "You know, when kids are done with high school and they're not yet ready to go to college, and they take that gap year, just a year, to work or travel or have fun or rest or relax or whatever, before they get into their college years."
"[...] so I'm going to use this year to first slow down, take some of the rush out of my life, allow ambiguity to be in my life, which is very tough for me try to do a mix of things every day where I rest and I do some exercise and I write, which I love to do, and I never ever, ever make time for and spend time with my husband and my kiddos and just take a break, just take a break."
For those who can't outright quit their job like she was able to, she recommends "finding a different career that doesn't drain you, going part-time or down from 5 days a week to 4, starting a side hustle that allows you to bring something you’re passionate about to life.
"If your first thought is, 'I can’t do that!’ I challenge you to reconsider. Do you believe that because it’s not the ‘right’ way? How about if you find your way without outdated belief systems holding you back?"
"You Have The Permission To Call A Time Out."
She goes on to describe how our current career structure prevents us from chasing our goals, saying, "Our idea of what success looks like is very linear—you work as hard as you can so you can make more money and achieve more career success. Oftentimes, our careers take on a life of their own—our bosses and leaders define what makes us successful and put us on those paths.
"By the time you ask yourself, 'Do I even want this? Do I like this?' you may be in a spot with your career where it’s too scary to choose another path because it may mean less money or be deemed a bad career move. The fact that if you aren't happy or fulfilled by your work, that you have the permission to call a time out is a disruptive idea."
What Sparked All This?
There was more to Kym's desire than just disliking her job. She also felt a calling.
"My main driver behind my decision to leave my job was to give myself the chance to write a novel that I've had in my head for many years. I’m proud of myself for finally betting on me. I know I’m meant for something different, and it feels liberating to listen to that voice."
She's also excited to spend more time with her family. "Every day feels like freedom. I get to be with my kids fully—no more work travel, checking email nights and weekends, and work situations that kept me mentally distracted even when I was with my family. I get to enjoy mornings with the kids and then pick them up from school and REALLY hear about their days instead of thinking about the meeting I've got to get to."
Something To Think About
Kym is very aware that this sort of plan is easier said than done, but so far, it's been nothing short of amazing for her, so she's encouraging everyone she can to try and plan some distinctive time off when they can.
"If you have a voice that is telling you that you're in the wrong career or job, listen to it. There’s something bigger than you that’s guiding you to a different path. Maybe your gap year can’t start tomorrrow, but maybe it can start in two years if you’re serious about it."
A Reminder To Change
The fact that her story became so popular is honestly a good thing. Sometimes we all need the reminder that just because we're used to living the way we are, that doesn't mean it's what's best for us at all. We need the reminder, the new perspective, the shake up to really remind us that there's more out there than the same daily routine we've been performing.
Even if a gap year like the one Kym is pioneering is off the table for you, try thinking about other ways you can change up your life. A little rejuvenation and time designated just for taking care of ourselves or indulging in what we love is all we need to feel reborn.
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