Blog Written & Illustrated by Tawn Le

My Intentions for an Adult Gap Year


I realized that I never went into detail as to what I planned to do during my year off. And while I love getting all the cool and random suggestions of what I should do and where I should go from people, some of the suggestions don't necessarily go towards what I wanted out of this year. And I think that's totally ok. Take what works for you and what you want - and for the rest, just acknowledge it, thank it, and move on. It's ok to not take every single cool suggestions that don't really resonate with what you want or need for yourself. I feel like I'm in an all-you-can-eat restaurant, and I'm just picking the things that ultimately makes me feel good because what's the point of a gap year if you're not engaging in things that feels good to you?

Anyway, this article isn't about how you should do your gap year because I think everyone has a different purpose of taking time off. I just wanted to write more about what I wanted out of this gap year, provide a generic idea of what I've loosely planned, and some of the benefits that I've seen through the last few weeks.

Most of my plans/ideas are open-ended as long as it continues to resonate with me. For me personally, I allowed myself the option to pivot my gap year plans as new discoveries along the way. Who knows what can happen!

At a very high level I touched on what I was looking for during my gap year in a guest post I did on Hustle Juice and also in my first blog post called Quitting Amazon & Taking a Year Off - Adult Gap Year , but I never really touched on what I wanted to do or where I wanted to focus my energy and time.

So with that all set up, let's go!

What the hell do you want out of this year?

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 'Self-growth' and a 'career change' were the high level concepts that I set for myself. So what does that mean for me? 

This is how I broke it down for myself (and all of this is open to change along the way and that's ok):

Self-introspection & Self-awareness

Generally speaking, I think I'm decently self-aware of my actions, my thoughts, how I positively and negatively impact myself and those around me, ways I can be a better person to myself and to others, where my thoughts are coming from, some of the root of my issues, etc. etc. But, I believe there's massive room for more introspection which can yield purposeful thoughts and lessons. I mean, monks do this practice every single day and there is always something to be gained. So, if I can even do an itty bitty part of that, then that's worth something in my life.

With this adult gap year I have the ability and time to cut through noise that kept me mindlessly busy or confined in a certain manner (most of the time my mind was going through loops of my to-do lists despite having it all recorded, wondering if I fucked something up at work or with the people I knew, trying to control things I have no control over, unhealthy relationship with social media, etc.). I do have a belief that we all have a purpose (or even multiple purposes) here while we are still alive, and I wanted to see it more clearly while I had the opportunity.

Aimlessness is a part of it. Not having a plan of action, except to just be is how I interpret this, and what I wanted to engage more in my life. This is a Buddhist concept that my Mom and I recently joked about with what I'm doing. The word 'Dust' combined with a phrase in Vietnamese can have positive or negative connotations - for the majority, it's used negatively to describe vagrants or people who are living without purpose. However, if you were a Buddhist monk and you 'go dust' (used as a noun), then that meant you are living in the present moment with no end goal - everything is here (now, it's much more complicated than what I just wrote but that's the gist). I'm used to ticking things off my checklist, making sure shit's getting done, but what about just being there sitting, listening, seeing, feeling, tasting, and/or smelling? 

Now, you don't need to take a gap year for this and can do this at any moment in time (when I was working, I would go to the bathroom and just sit there for a bit and come out lighter literally and figuratively or just take a stroll outside), but this need really highlighted itself during my travels in Europe where I didn't have a clue of where I was going, what I was going to do, or even why I planted myself in Europe in the first place. I remember halfway through my trip I had nothing booked for the rest of my time there - I had no idea where I was going, I hadn't booked any housing, or means of transportation, I didn't know what to see or do, and I started panicking like crazy. I was so mad for throwing myself in a place without fully knowing every single detail and wants from this trip.

And then I stopped.

For what? All I needed was a good place to stay - aka shelter - and everything was all good. It didn't matter where in Europe, what mattered was that I was present with every aspect of it.  


Better Relationships with Loved Ones

I also wanted to have a better and deeper relationship with my family and close friends during my year off. And, damn, did it present itself to me in full force within the last few months with the hospitalization of both my parents (at different times and for different causes), leaving us kids to really start talking to each other about how we are going to approach elderly care planning this year. 

What this gap year has really done was given me the ability to not only spend more time with them (this was already part of my gap year plan prior to any of those incidents), but to now be really be focused on listening to them and capturing as much knowledge and lessons as I can. Because as cliche as it sounds - nothing is guaranteed tomorrow. Within the last year, I started to pick up some of the traditions that my parents did while I was growing up and incorporate them into my own life so I can continue and pass on these traditions.  There's so much more that I know I need to learn and now is the time.

And then there's having a better and more engaged relationships with my friends and siblings that isn't through social media (although, I do think chat apps are pretty good at connecting randomly throughout the day). I love my close friends - they are the rock who support me and they are the ones who will call out bullshit when necessary. Having a moment in time where I'm able to see them and be with them is precious.

Lastly, I want some time with my brother and sisters and their family. I only get to see them 1-2 times per year for nearly a decade, but now I can be that annoying sister again for a longer amount of time (muah ha ha). My niece and nephew are also growing up so fast, and being far away has made me miss out on the little things moments. Except now. So fuck yea!

One thing that I've concluded from this last month is the desire of now having a career that allows me the flexibility to work anywhere. I love NYC and I love it for me, but I also need the flexibility to travel whenever I want, and wherever I want.  


Creativity: Exploration & Play/ Exploration & Work

I've always been a pretty playful person and one that likes to randomly tinker with new amateur creative projects for the sake of having fun without any real purpose/output. But now, I want to fully immerse myself into creativity not only for exploration and play, but also as an integral part of my next career.

The only thing is - I have no clue what that means.

My hope is that I'm able to explore various creative communities and collectives that not only support the play, but potentially even support my growth and development in the case(s) where I want to fully immerse myself. That's why my traveling will stop at the end of January so that I can focus on creative development based on all these new learnings and perspectives I've had within the former few months. Will it work out exactly like this? Who knows. But it's ok!

And what if I don't find creative 'work' after a year. That's ok, too. At least I'm a step closer. 

This year, I've drawn more and am doing more personal arts and crafts at home. I don't show everything I do, but I have been working on things because they're just fun. I've also watched a lot more YouTube on nearly any type of design topic - it's one of those rabbit holes that I think are definitely worth getting into for my situation. 


Improve ways I can help others and myself

I guess this really goes with the first topic of 'Self-introspection & Self-awareness'. If I'm aware of myself as a person, I can take the right steps in getting more balanced/chill, and, in return, positively impact others. I think this applies to everyone regardless of who you are and where you are. The small decisions we make not only impact us but the people around us. For example, if I'm pissed, and I use words of anger to someone else, there's a whole ripple effect that follows afterwards, and in NYC, it is so much more pronounced.

I see it every day here in NYC. We are jaded, angry, and annoyed and we lash out at strangers and even loved ones. Not going to lie, I participate in that too, it's so easy to get sucked into that nasty motion. I've shoulder-checked people on the sidewalk because they were in my way, I've kicked the MTA Machines because I was so frustrated, I've gotten annoyed at people asking me for directions where I would look at them and walk away, etc. I could easily move where there's less negative stimuli but then that wouldn't allow me the experience of truly improving myself unconditionally. Even in a place like NYC, I do see examples of kindness woven into the people here each day...I just need to tap more into it.

Part of that is now being a bit more disciplined with my meditation, spending more time being 'aimless', fulfilling play, and practicing Reiki on myself and others. I still have days where I'm out of my element and get back into sadness and anger, but discovering these tools have been super helpful in making sure that the world gets the better version of me as much as possible, and for me to get the better version of myself.