With tertiary education institutions re-opening in February some school leavers are giving formal education a skip for the next few months, or even a year, while they experience something different in the form of an organised ‘gap year’, and still others are undecided how they are going to spend this year. It got me thinking.
Firstly, we mostly think of gap years in terms of school leavers and yet they don’t belong solely in this domain. What about taking a post-graduate gap year, or a mid-career gap year? Come to think of it, I have had three gap years – well two of them were full years and the other was about four months. And, looking back, they were all hugely beneficial in changing the course of my life significantly when it came to studies and career development.
Would I recommend gap years, or periods of contemplation at any age? Absolutely! I don’t think for a minute that I would be doing the work I currently do had it not be for all three of the breaks I took.
My gap years
At age 17 I matriculated and left South Africa on the Rotary Youth Exchange programme to Australia. In that year not only did I grow and mature in unbelievable ways, but I switched my direction of study completely – from Home Economics and Dietetics to Public Relations and Communications – something I would never have considered had I not left home and ventured into the big wide world, coming into contact with things I never knew. I came home and studied for four years qualifying in that field, followed working in various companies and consultancies for 8 years, thereafter starting my own PR consultancy. I eventually fell into my passion, finding my way into the early childhood development field where I was involved in sales, motivation and developing and delivering training programmes.
My second gap year occurred when I was 32 years old, from the middle of my second pregnancy until the time my baby was about six months old. During this time I studied interior decorating for fun while being a full-time mummy which was the most incredible treat. Thereafter, I started an interior decorating business with my mum and took on the editorship of a monthly publication in the field of – can you guess? Early childhood development!
My third gap took place not long after that and was not for a year but about four months. It was not by choice or design but I sure got alot out of it! Having blown three discs in my lower back I was forced to stop and treat myself as if I had had a spinal fusion (the surgeon said I was too young at 35 for such an op) and so I could not sit for four months! I either had to lie down or stand up. And when you spend a lot of time lying down in a quiet house while your toddler is at preschool and your eldest is in primary school, you have a lot of time to think, meditate and contemplate. In a busy life these things are normally rare luxuries. The outcome of this gift of time was really ‘listening’ to what people were saying as well as to my own inner wisdom, which resulted in the birth of Nikki Bush as a professional speaker and author in the child development and parenting space.
These gap periods were some of the most constructive and creative times of my life that literally reset my compass. Whether gap years are taken post-matric, post-tertiary studies or in mid-career, their impact can be profound. There are so many ways to take a gap year too. I will be blogging more on this topic. Do keep reading and I would love to hear about your gap year experiences or those of your children. Do inbox me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your stories are so useful for other parents to hear.