Sam is two weeks into our Gap Year and apparently enjoying his freedom. He has the normal worries (logistics of packing and travel) but he doesn’t seem particularly anxious about his yet-to-be-made-up future.
I, on the other hand, am feeling confused and discombobulated, set adrift. I seem to have lost my bearings.
This doesn’t make any sense.
Nothing about my work life has changed. I’ve been a creative entrepreneur, making up my own story as a writer, speaker and Web consultant, for a decade. My work and professional identity are location independent. It doesn’t matter if I am in Washington DC or Stonington, ME.
And in fact I have spent a good chunk of the past five summers working from Stonington while Sam has mostly remained in DC, taking care of patients.
So what’s up?
I’ve spent much of our 13-hour drive from DC to Maine sifting through my anxious brain for an answer. It finally came to me.
For the past three decades, Sam has been tied to his medical practice, the hospital and his patients. He had a permanent mooring while I bobbed around him doing different things at different times. Thirty years ago that meant being the hands-on parent for our three young children. After getting a late-in-life MBA and enduring a brief corporate career, I struck out on my own and have been an entrepreneur ever since, relishing – among other things – business travel on my own to China, Australia, Dubai, Canada and Europe.
In fact I railed against Sam’s inflexible career. We couldn’t take a three-month trip through Asia. We couldn’t take a six or 12-month break to live and work in another country. Sam was tethered. We could not leave.
But it turns out Sam’s being tied down provided stability for me to come back to while I wandered through the Interwebs and foreign airports. I depended on it as a way to define my life.
And now we are both untethered and it feels… different. It is a little scary.
I know the freedom of our Gap Year will make adventure possible. I wanted this. Sam’s stepping back from medicine to pursue a second act was as much my idea as his.
Now I must learn to be comfortable with a flood tide of freedom.