Start Your Retirement with a Gap Year

“I decided to gift myself a year of experimentation.”

These words arrived over the car radio as I thought about this week’s newsletter. They weren’t uttered by a newly-minted retiree, but they could have been. It’s a wonderful way to begin the UnRetired Life. Have you ever wanted to give yourself an entire year to experiment with your life? Yes? Did you actually do it? If not, what stopped you?

Sometimes what stops us is our assumption that we have to do something Big. We think that “experimenting” means leaving the family to sail around the world, or some such adventure. If you really want to sail around the world – go for it! You probably already have your route mapped out.

But if you find yourself putting your dreams on hold, again and then again, there may be something else going on. You may be making the dream too big.

“I decided to gift myself a year of experimentation.”

Stella Lau, the young woman who uttered these words, thought she had to do something B-I-G. For her, that meant getting into a top college after high school. When she didn’t get into any college, she panicked. “I thought there was only one path to success, and I wasn’t on it,” she said.

Ultimately, Stella enrolled in a community college and that year changed her life. She slowed down, took classes that piqued her curiosity, and learned to “silence the comparison monster in my head.” (You can hear Stella’s whole story from KQED’s Perspectives here.)

My clients often come to me wanting to re-connect with their creativity and sense of adventure during their first year of retirement. There’s nothing wrong with setting big goals. But as they begin to explore their UnRetired life, they realize that adventure can also be found in exploring nearby neighborhoods. Creativity can be expressed in their very first drawing class.

What would open up for you, if you gave yourself a year to explore exactly what you wanted to, with complete openness? So what if you’ve never made a hat. You like hats? Make a hat!!

Ask yourself, “What feeling do I want to get from this activity?” Then banish judgment and go for it!  Start. Just start.

“I used to have this notion that I had to rush in order to achieve a certain level of success by a certain age,” says Stella. “But a year of community college has taught me to slow down . . . and to recognize that things take time to fall into place.”

What will you explore in your gap year?

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