We’re in the middle of July and many of you are on vacation, or heading off for vacation. This is also a time when many of you thinking about what you’re doing with your life and if there’s something that needs to change.
Many feel that the weeks of paid vacation you get from your job just isn’t enough and you need to take time off. A common thought is that a year off would be great to really recuperate and to do all the fun you’ve wanted to do. And since you’re reading this I’m assuming this is what you’re thinking about too.
We all have good intentions and an image in our mind how things will turn out with all that we do. Though as you might well have noticed, things doesn’t always go to plan.
So to prepare you about what could happen, to give you an idea of what a year off could look like, and also hopefully help you decide if it’s for you, let me tell you [the short version of] my story.
Back in 2011 I headed off for a year off. To give you a bit of background, in the run up to 2011 my stress level had been continually rising. I never felt like I was even close to reaching my goals or doing what I wanted to do and rarely felt like I had time to even finish daily tasks. I had also pushed people away and kept relationships on merely an acquaintance level, because that’s what felt the safest.
Despite this background, when the opportunity to arose in 2011 I made the decision to take a year off with the intention of initially travelling, starting in Bali, and returning later to University to complete my studies.
There was, as you might understand, no one to travel with. Though I wasn’t afraid of going alone and this wasn’t a problem until the moment I was standing at the airport to board the plane to Bali. I had a horrible panic attack because there and then I realized how much I really didn’t want to travel alone. That’s where the plan for my year off ended in the bin.
Somehow I managed to get on the plane and spend almost 4 weeks travelling around Bali but to continue the trip was out of the question. I went back home feeling like a complete and utter failure. I tried to book new trips to follow the plan but got anxiety attacks every time and couldn’t follow through.
And you see even though I didn’t travel like I had set out to do I had things to fill my days, despite the constant anxiety. I learned very quickly that doing nothing wasn’t what I needed and it’s most likely not what you need either.
I learned very quickly that doing nothing wasn’t what I needed and it’s most likely not what you need either.
My life took a turn for the worst one night in March 2012. I was about to go to sleep and suddenly felt like I was lying in a rocking boat. I thought it was because I was tired and went to sleep. But the feeling was there next morning and it wouldn’t subside. Instead a set of other symptoms appeared in the following weeks and months.
I saw a doctor to get it checked out, but he referred me to a specialist. I got to see a specialist in the beginning of June who after doing some tests was very concerned. He said it was serious and a neurological disease had to be ruled out.
Never had I ever imagined getting an answer like that. I asked what that meant and he told me it could be nothing or it could be something as serious as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
What happens when you already have anxiety and you’re then told you might have a very serious disease and might not have a long time left? You get death-anxiety!
There was a period of about 1,5-2 months before the semester started and if that was going to be my last summer I had to do something that would make me happy. Well it all fell through and no matter how devastating that was in the middle of everything else, it was for the best, because I got called to do the first scan (Exactly when I’d planned to go away again!).
So my year off consisted mainly of a lot of anxiety and it ended with me going back to University while waiting to find out if I was going to die in the coming months or not. It wasn’t until about 6 months after the visit at the specialist that I got the final letter saying they couldn’t find anything wrong with me and that I was clear.
So back to the original question, my answer to the question “should you really take a year off?” is undoubtedly a
I’m not telling you this story to freak you out or get anyone’s pity, I’m telling you this story because the diagnosis from the doctor was that all the stress had caused my symptoms.
I’m telling you this story because the one thing I wish I had done different is to have taken the time off sooner.
I’m telling you this story because if you are stressed and can relate in any way to what I told you about my back-story – go take the freaking time off!
I’m telling you this story to keep you from living with what I live with now. Some of the symptoms pop up now and then and I will always have the thought flash by “is it really just stress or has the ‘final countdown’ started?”
No matter your reasons, or what your goal for your time off is, just remember: there’s no one in this world that will thank you for not having done what feeds your soul and make you happy.
Take the time off.
Sara Norberg is a Swedish entrepreneur and the owner of S & Co. where she develops small businesses and websites. Her love of writing is expressed through, among others, the S & Co. blog. Growing up in the northern part of Sweden close to nature, and her life experience, has made her an advocate for healthy people and businesses, a sustainable environment and society.
Graduating from high school and taking the next big step toward college can be daunting, so a growing number of students are choosing to take a gap year to focus on personal growth. Whether you spend a year traveling, volunteering or working, we’d love to share your story. If you’d like to contribute a text or video piece, please email email@example.com and tell us all about your experience.