Gap Year

The “back side” of Pikes Peak. Site of this week’s Outdoor Ed session.

I imagine that many people are feeling like 2020 is a bust.

Personally, I’m planning on another 50 weeks of my current situation.

What’s it going to take to get myself through another year of this?

If you’re struggling then your pain might have something to do with trying to get back to the way things were pre-COVID.

I catch myself playing this game a lot. Was I really all that happy in the past? It’s a version of my self-deception concerning how “stuff” will make me happy in the future.

Regardless of the past, here’s my plan to create a better present.

First, assume no improvement.

  • The government’s not coming to bail me out.
  • The citizenry will continue to do silly things.
  • Science will figure things out but the distribution of their gains will take time => due to the quirks of government, the silliness of fellow citizens and the logistical challenges of a global pandemic.

This sets my mental baseline so any improvement in the status quo represents upside, rather than continual disappointment.

Next, stop making my life more difficult => creating unnecessary challenges is a personal strength, unfortunately!

  • Don’t bother persuading people who don’t want to be persuaded => focus that energy inward.
  • Let go of pre-COVID standards of achievement. 0% improvement is an excellent benchmark in a global pandemic!
  • Focus on the core components of a life with meaning => Connection, Purpose, Recognition (CPR).
  • Write down the five people closest to you and perform CPR on them. Making this your purpose will create a mutually reinforcing circle of connection and recognition. It sounds hokey but it will work well enough to beat your 0% benchmark!

If you have kids in your house then chill out with home school => my focus on outdoor education serves this goal.

Thinking a little deeper, chilling out more generally => probably a good thing. Every single person with whom I interact is facing greatly increased personal stress and uncertainty.

Right now is a good time to remember that optimizing each aspect of your life will make you miserable, as well as creating misery for everyone around you.

What to do?

Well, as I tell my kids, that’s up to you.

Personally, I’m trying to keep my schedule simple and repeat the week. Structure and repetition creates “head space” to reduce frustration (self-imposed suffering) and the clarity to see that my situation is giving me what I need (purpose & connection).

Side Note: the teachers who send me a written schedule, with links, the night before each school day are saints!

Simplicity works because if I’m going to suffer pointless, self-induced frustration then it’s probably because I’m trying to “get something done here!!!” while my kids are asking for help with a random home school IT issue. I’ve noticed that these issues nearly always happen between 8am and 10:30am.

During those morning hours, it’s common for me to be interrupted every 3-7 minutes. To do anything in that slot requires multi-day notice and a personal individual reminder to my household just before I start.

Like me, you probably have sections of your day, or life, which fall apart, regularly.

Don’t fight it. Accept it. Work around it.

Early photo of my son. 😉

The last time I had my life ripped out from under me was 2008/2009.

It was a biggie: loss of employment and a 65% contraction in net worth.

A big shift from a little arrival => similar to home school, a lot of household capacity is soaked up in a flash.

As an added wrinkle, we had a baby arrive 17 days before my professional life started to unravel.

90 days was all it took to go from “set” to “screwed.” This happens all_the_time. What’s different about COVID is we all got whacked at the same time.

There was an initial period of shock which was followed by a combination of mourning my old life and feeling sorry for myself. Eventually, I got to work re-creating the life I wanted to live.

If you’re unsure then simplify and give yourself CPR => connection, purpose, recognition.

Children have a wonderful capacity to give us recognition, and love.

Don’t have kids? Teach students.

Don’t want to teach? Volunteer in an environment that makes you deeply grateful each time you leave (my choice was hospice).

The inner goodness that arises from serving others helps free us from our need for external validation.

Good luck with your gap year.