Family Firelite have been busy making the most of the summer. Not only does that cost ££, it has also prioritised my time. All things considered, I’ve moved forward in refining my ideas for my midlife gap year. A promising start, I’d say. The more I put into the thinking and actioning, the more ‘real’ the year out is becoming! I imagine this is of pretty niche interest, but I hope that anyone reading this who’s considering taking time out from work life (or perhaps you have already) can relate to or learn from the kind of thought process I’m going though. 🙂
How I got on with my writing-related goals
So, I focused my August goals on investigating further what book I might write during my year out. My resolve strengthened on this as a Main Gap Year Occupation as the month wore on and as I’ve enjoyed the process of blogging. Brainstorming 5-10 non-fiction ideas wasn’t easy. So far, I’ve reached 4 clear ideas, though with ideas along a theme, I guess we’re closer to 10. They are all distinct ideas, so I give myself a ‘pass’ as long as I keep chugging along with the ideas. 😉 Certainly, keeping a blog gets the neurons firing, so I stay quietly hopeful.
In the end, I didn’t include the book idea on the extrovert’s cause! I really could envisage books entitled The Extrovert Advantage, The Not-So-Secret Lives of Extroverts, Loud: The Power of Extroverts in a world that can’t stop overthinking etc. 🙂 , but do extroverts read that much?! 😛 Maybe they do and this is why extroverts are so misunderstood as superficial! It would make a nice parody in softback to gift to the annoyingly extroverted loved one in your life..!
I decided that NaNoWriMo, the writing month project, is something I could commit to during my year out. I’m still considering whether I’m writing primarily for myself or with publishing in mind (on Amazon). The book I’d mentioned in my August goals focuses specifically on the latter – on winning an audience. The ‘aptly’ named Joanna Penn makes a great point that, to write, you mustn’t simply wait for the ultimate book idea to come to you, that encapsulates all that is ‘you’; you must keep on producing and, importantly, your writing gets better with practice. I’m going to take that sparkly titbit forward with me on my path.
September will focus on my second idea – to find my cause to support. That all sounds a bit worthy, you may be thinking. Let me try to explain…
When I was a child, I was drawn to looking out for the underdog albeit in my own little world. And in late teenhood, I became aware of the sheer injustices in the world. When I chose my degree, one motivation I had (typical in the discipline area) was to help others in a direct way. Over the years, this “calling” has got stronger.
This (version of my) history seems to differ from most FIers who often come from tech and finance fields, or are otherwise drawn into high salary fields, like medicine or law. Of course, many people want to help others, but this isn’t usually the primary motivator (except perhaps medicine). It’s probably fair to say that this also stands out in my family. Surely it must be a life priority to help those in need, or to do things that really matter?
As time went by, this played less of a feature in my career decision making, partly acknowledging that many ‘helping’ careers have their own practical challenges and partly because other less idealistic values won out. Still, as I chose a mortgage over the re-training I partially yearned for, I made a conscious decision to donate to and support charity, as my way of being of more help than I had if I worked in a helping profession directly (even if I didn’t feel I was helping). This is what’s argued in the thought-provoking book, Doing Good Better. Still, it’s hard to embody any kind of cause when your brain is stuffed with work stuff.
As much as I try to focus on ‘being of service’ in my work, it’s not easy. Going the extra mile doesn’t necessary get rewarded and in fact takes away time from targets that the organisation understandably has. Trying to develop impactful projects is also difficult within the constraints of the workplace and the paperwork. This leads to inner conflict. So, if I spend my year out doing something ‘directly helpful’ to others’ lives, while utilising at least some of my skill set, then perhaps I won’t look back at life when I’m old and feel like I didn’t have the courage to follow what I really wanted to do… But what IS it exactly do I want to do?
I’ve set myself 4 tasks for September:
1. Read in some depth about four causes I feel passionate about
My fuzzy thinking has been: What viable way can I slot into a charity or social enterprise? That’s very pragmatic and probably reflects my low confidence and lack of knowledge in the area. But this is one Midlife Gap Year idea that really could follow my values. If I’m going to spend a year volunteering, I want it to be something I’m Very Passionate about! For some years, I’ve been interested in the primarily US-based Effective Altruism movement and UK arm, https://www.givingwhatwecan.org/ , originally led by an Oxford Uni philosopher. I don’t follow the 10% pledge (as you can probably guess from my savings rate!), but I really admire those who do. Though focused on who to donate to most effectively, I’m sure their materials may also help me pinpoint my cause.
2. Narrow down to 2-3 causes and identify large and small organisations that support each one
It may be a little ambitious, but I feel some relatively quick follow-through is needed from Task 1. But definitely as separate tasks. And since I’m pretty tied to my current location, there’d need to be potential overlap between these organisations and my location and skill set. My causes will be based on where I feel there’s most need and most chance of changing.
3. Consider how I can strengthen my CV to demonstrate my interest in the cause
Self-explanatory; even if I’m volunteering, I don’t want to be taken as ‘any old fool off the street’. At the moment, I have absolutely no idea what activities these could be. If I can incorporate it into activities in my current work that has a social responsibility remit, then that’d be ideal!
4. Brainstorm another 3-5 non-fiction book ideas
Because I feel more certain now that my midlife gap year will include writing, I think this is a good target to continue with before I start considering which book (or books?) I’ll write on my year out.
I’ll update on how I got on at the end of the month. Thanks for following!