Of course a gap year in the usual sense is for a young adult to gain perspective on life, blow off the initial energy of post high school freedom, explore the world and return to university with a more mature focus.
A gap year after 60 is quite different. It is not about focusing but about refocusing.
It is not about blowing off energy but about marshaling energy anew.
It is not about looking forward but about looking back, analyzing, then looking forward again – but with a less distant horizon.
Without a daily load of patient appointments and hospital visits, the first challenge for me is to structure my days.
I was a slave to punctuality
One of the rewards of medicine is the knowledge that your work is valued and valuable. Even if unable to heal, a physician can guide and comfort a patient. To replace that structure of appointments and procedures (and I was a slave to punctuality) I plan to impose a schedule of blocks of time to allow for more free reading, some exercise, writing, studying, and whatever errands and projects need to be done.
From the point of view of restructuring my day, Milwaukee might not have been the best first choice. To visit a 92-year-old man for the sake of catching up and reminiscing is to be a slave to his schedule. Meals, naps, treatments, etc. dictate the general rhythm of the day but the idiosyncrasies of the nonagenarian supply plenty of unexpected interruptions.
Of course, the point of the trip was to maximize face time so when he called I responded, dropping whatever mini-project I was working on. It was well worth the time. I hope to get back soon.
Time, what a luxury
Today is one of the first when I can set the schedule I have outlined above. Write, clear my desk, read, exercise, study, do errands and leave the evening free. Repeat tomorrow.
Clearly, if I were an exceptional person and physician I could have done this over the last few decades, but I didn’t have the energy or bandwidth. I never found the time. My work expanded to fill the gaps and I never blocked out enough time to grow in other areas.
Time, what a luxury for me.
Today’s project is to select our first load of furniture for the new rooms on the coast of Maine. It will be a test of my new relationship with Debbie, vis-a-vis time, space, and each other. [Editor’s note: ha! the new relationship is going well. Yet I fear that Sam is so organized… and I am not. – Debbie]
Parking permits, moving trucks and the D.C. government
Yesterday we went to the local police station to obtain a parking restriction permit for the moving truck, which is scheduled for later this week. What a farce. In years gone by the desk officer would simply handwrite the request and advise you to give your neighbors 72 hours advance warning.
Now the police station houses a terminal for the DDT (District Dept. of Transportation) that prints out the red parking restriction signs – for a hefty fee of course. You pay by credit card. The police have nothing to do with the new process and the desk officer is quite happy to tell the petitioner that she can’t help at all.
It took two college grads (with three post grad degrees between them and 31 years of experience with the D.C. government) an hour to work through the program. We came out with the wrong request (a moving container instead of a moving truck) and the wrong dates (five days of restrictions versus the intended two days).
If we hand modify the sign we are threatened with a fine. So goes it in DC.
You can see I like to get things done. Doctors tend to be that way. We see the patient, institute therapy, push for a cure and move on to the next. More about that later.