A gap year is usually taken at the end of high school. Young people take a year off – the gap year – to pursue something non-education related. It’s usually travel. And it’s usually a means to buy some time, before having to make the next major life decision – study or work.
Gay men, for a number of reasons, face a similar situation at some point in their lives. It might not be post-high school necessarily. In fact, it usually comes a bit later. Typically, you settle into a career. Find a guy and settle down. Then you make the biggest financial purchase of your life – your home. And then what?…
That’s when the gay gap year comes in.
I’ve arrived at exactly this point in my life in my mid-30s. I’m happily in love. Satisfied and successful in my chosen career. And settled in the home my partner and I share. All of these things are great. I’m genuinely feeling happy and fulfilled. But lately, I’ve also started to feel something else. It can perhaps be best described as a tinkering for something more.
For straight people in a comparable situation to me, the next major life option is marriage and babies. That’s not the case for me. It’s not just that marriage equality hasn’t arrived in Australia yet. If I/we really wanted to, we could get married overseas. It’s not that. I just don’t personally feel the need or desire to get married (at this point anyway).
And the kids thing feels like it’s too hard and complicated at this point in time to be a viable option as well. Besides, again, it doesn’t feel like something I’m driven or compelled to do naturally. Sure there may be a sense of expectation that perhaps I should be considering having children and raising a family, but that comes from the outside – not from me.
Which brings me to the question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately – what next?
Interestingly, this is the same question and mindset I found myself in when I finished high school in 1997. I knew I wanted to get out of Australia, see the world and broaden my horizons. So I jumped on a plane, Lonely Planet guidebook in hand and headed to Europe. My one year gap year turned into an amazing five year adventure of a lifetime.
Maybe the fondness with which I look back on that time is the reason why I’m thinking of another travel orientated gap year (or years) now in my 30s. I’m very attracted to the idea of spending some time each year – say 3 months – living, breathing and experiencing life through the lens of another culture.
At this stage, my ideas are in their early stages. Realistically, I probably wont make any major changes until the end of this year (at the very earliest). But it’s an interesting life junction to be in.
I’m wondering if there are any other gay guys who have or are experiencing something similar. Is the gay gap year (or years) something that happens to us all once we reach a certain point in our lives? Once we’re settled, happy and sorted – does a craving for something more creep in? Are the gay gap years a time for us to continue our own self discovery, and think about what bigger contribution we’d like to make in the world?
Up until now, my whole life has been all about me. Maybe the feeling I’m experiencing is the beginning of going down a path that focuses on the bigger picture? Maybe it’s a way for me to focus on something other than myself. I’d love to make a positive contribution to the world. Maybe a gay gap year is an opportunity to do just that.
I’ll keep you posted!