Sunday, August 25, 2013

Gap, schmap, I need a rest

Carol in Cairns reports that her son, who is finishing what we call high school this year, is thinking of “taking a gap year” before starting university.

I’d like to take a “gap year” too, or a gap month or even a gap week.

Mama used to say, “There’s no rest for the wicked.” Or was it “There’s no rest for the weary”? Oh, well, I know she said something I was supposed to remember.

A gap year is meant to be temporary, a respite, a time to reflect on what one has accomplished and a chance to catch one’s breath before continuing with the next step of a previously established plan. Sometimes, though, plans can change. Gap years can become permanent. Gap years can even become dead ends.

Someone once said that a grave is a rut with the ends knocked out.

I don’t know how that relates to the concept of a “gap year” but it came to mind just now.

It took my son five years to finish university because his major required more courses and hours than he could fit into four.
But he did it, and went on to get his masters degree as well.

It took my daughter seven years to get her undergraduate degree, but she did finish finally, and married her college sweetheart, with whom she is raising two sons.

There were times during those seven years when she was in the midst of earning her baccalaureate degree that Mrs. RWP and I wondered if she would finish. At one point she moved out of the dorm and into a house along with a couple of her friends, sharing the rent. Later, she decided not to take any courses one semester (a “gap” semester, maybe?) and talked of moving back home. Mrs. RWP and I talked it over, and decided it might be better if she stayed there. “If she comes back home,” I said, “she may never return to college.” So I called her and said we would pay her living expenses to stay in that college town in that house with her friends.

It turned out well, and the following semester she re-enrolled.

Last fall, at the beginning of her 17th year of teaching, she began working on her masters degree, attending classes one night a week. Currently she is about halfway through the required courses.

There are eight million “gap stories” in the naked city. This has been one of them.

I think what I’ve been trying to say in this post is simply this:

Some gaps turn out to be longer than others.

[Editor’s note: This post has generated more comments than I usually receive. They are (a) longer than average and (b) quite interesting. I must have struck a nerve. Please don’t go away without checking them out. --RWP]


  1. Most of my daughter's contemporaries took "gap years" - mostly travelling through Asia. In fact you might say that I also took a gap year at the age of eighteen though in those days the term hadn't yet been coined. I think gap years are healthy. They remind us that life doesn't have to be a ceaseless conveyor belt. (Here's hoping this comment wasn't too offensive).

  2. This gap you took, not posting since Wednesday.....Is it over? Are you taking a hiatus? A respite from the regime? A break from the beat? A vacation from the venue? A....well, you know what I'm saying. I missed you while you were gone :-) Are we supposed to read between the lines? Have you ever noticed how small the space between the lines is????

  3. I think that was an excellent call as far as your advising and helping your daughter to stay where she was, because there's more than a small chance she'd not have returned, I've known the same happen to others. Sometimes it's worth sticking it out if you can, you get there in the end. I'd have loved a gap year but was never in a position to have the funds to manage any travelling, so it would have simply been a year working my guts out cleaning the hospital full-time for a year instead of working my guts out cleaning the hospital part-time whilst doing my degree. Cleaning hospital toilets....I'm sure you can imagine the joys that held of an afternoon/evening.

  4. So many kids take gap years today because they feel their life will not be good later on.
    Many study and work at McDonalds with Masters degrees cause there are no jobs and others quit after high schol begin businesses and make mega bucks.
    Today nothing is clear
    With the news every day we keep thinking the end is very near.
    Just takes one idiot, one asteroid,
    no water, one bug, and kids raised on computers and iphones, who learn nothing about survival cause everything is done for them.

  5. Yorkshire Pudding, ah, yes, your year in Rotuma. I remember it well. Which of its seven districts -- Noa'tau, Oinafa, Itu'ti'u, Malha'a, Juju, Pepjei, or Itu'muta -- were you in? The only thing offensive was seeing you in your khaki shorts at age 19.

    Hilltophomesteader, I didn't purposely take a little gap, it just sort of happened. But four days is four days after all, time enough for a certain blogger in Far North Queensland to leave blogging forever and then enjoy a triumphal return.

    All Consuming, thanks, but I'd rather not imagine the joys of cleaning hospital toilets.

    A Lady's Life, 'tis a bleak future you picture, milady.

  6. Sir Robert, I love reading others' take on gap years, so thank you for canvassing that opinion, and offering your own stories of your own children. Congratulations to them for showing the staying power to reach their goals.

  7. P.S. Laughing ~ others have coined my gap week as a hissy fit, and that could be true. I am calling it a crisis of confidence, and not going to worry too much how long it takes me or others to share the next story. There are many stories to share and read, but we all have real lives that have to be lived. Have a great week!

  8. Carol in Cairns, twice (not twice in Cairns but twice in commenting),

    1. I never know which posts of mine will generate comments and which won't. It's out of my hands, but you're welcome anyway.

    2. One person's hissy fit is another person's merely venting. One person's hissy fit is another person's letting it all out. One person's hissy fit is another person's brief hiatus. You can't win. So don't even try. Just be you.

  9. Thought I'd fill in the gaps. I do understand how a gap year could end up being a gap life. You could lose the momentum that was the driving force in further education.

    All turned out well for your son and daughter. Thus, that's most encouraging.

    Gap years are now happening in Britain not necessarily out of choice. Our government has tripled university tuition fees. Which sadly means, there are poor talented kids who have no chance. And the rich kid, maybe not as gifted, will still go to university.

    Thanks for a thoughtful post.


  10. klahanie/Gary, thanks for commenting. I like what you said: "I do understand how a gap year could end up being a gap life. You could lose the momentum that was the driving force in further education." That's what I was trying to say in my post, but you said it much better than I did.

  11. I tried very hard to talk my son into a year off befor he entered uni. He was only going because he thought that was what he was suposed to do and had no clue what course to take. He was not an academic, not a good student... and the fact that he was offered a place was a real achievement. He went and failed his way through various courses for several years, accumulating a large hex ( uni fees ) bill that took him years to pay off and still no degree. Not even close! He finally gave it up and moved to Sydney with his girlfriend, got a job in a bank and less than 10 years later is responsible for all loans up to $5 million in QLD. Although I don't believe any learning is wasted he may have worked out what he wanted to do with less angst with a gap year..... or mavbe not!!

  12. And as the announcer on the London Underground is forever telling us, you should 'mind the gap'.

  13. Hello Robert, I had taken a gap almost 9 months from blogging because the rest of my life got a bit too much and something had to give! I also took what was intended to be a year break from study which actually turned into 4(does that count as a gap 4 year or slight deviation on my educational journey) but that was mainly down to childcare and finances, its not cheap or easy to study in the UK! but in those 4 years I knew I would return when the time was right and now I only have a year left and then I think I'll be in need of a gap year! (are you allowed to take one from your family too?)

    Brilliant post as usual

    Emma x

  14. Wow, this post must have struck a nerve. Thank you, everyone, for causing this comment thread to grow. It makes this old blogger's heart very warm. The purpose of blogging, after all, is -- despite what some people think -- not to express onself, but to elicit a response from others.

    Helsie in Brisbane, each person must find his or her own way in this world, and it sounds as though your son has done that very well. He just stumbled around a bit at the beginning -- and who among us hasn't done that? -- because of the expectations of others.

    Shooting Parrots/Ian in Lancashire, not having traveled on the London tube, I have not heard "mind the gap" before. I've been told to "mind your manners" and also to "mind your p's and q's" in days gone by (both by my bother), but never to "mind the gap"! Here in the U.S. the announcer might say, "Watch your step!" or some such.

    Emma! It's been too long! I wondered where you had gone and it's great to know you have returned to Blogland. I'm glad you are back! I think when you take a gap year from your family it's called "running away from home." The children are allowed to do it, but never the parents. I'm just sayin'....

  15. FREUDIAN SLIP! (or as they say nowadays, "O.M.G.!"): In my reply to Shooting Parrots (Ian in Lancashire), I typed "bother" when I meant to say "mother" and now I must slip away and schedule an appointment with my therapist.

  16. My younger, (thank you Mr. Brague), took a gap during high school. His Mother was furious. I am seldom furious over anything nonviolent. He spent a few years doing nothing much but playing D&D with other teenagers who also had no ambition to achieve "success in life."

    He now has his Master's degree in English and teaches at our local community college. There are certainly two roads that diverge in a wood and possibly many more.

  17. David Oliver (you're welcome), good for him. I took one of the ones less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.