Last year, I wrote about why you should have a gap year. And, went on to embark on one myself.
Since I quit my ‘real’ job in December 2016, I have been on a sabbatical or rather a gap year, while trying to heal myself physically and emotionally.
For the past 20 months, I embarked on a personal discovery journey to search within for what I want in life moving forward. I explored career and personal interests among others. I also struck off some of my long overdue want-to-do lists. Basically, doing things that I had wanted to do previously but had no time or opportunity for. I also explored career and personal interests among others.
So, what have I done?
Solo-travelled around Central/Eastern Europe for a month
I backpacked nine cities across five countries just to fulfil my dream of visiting Europe. There, I visited museums, palaces, parks, galleries, attractions, salt mines, concentration camps. I took trains, overnight buses and walked miles. I stayed with local hosts, watched how locals spend their days, tasted local food, watched local musical/play and walked with local guides. Most of the time, I was by myself but I never felt alone.
It was a trip I had to take, for myself.
Spent more time at home with my family
Having been overseas for more than a decade, I felt not only guilt but also regrets of not being able to spend more time with my ageing parents. Even when I relocated back home for a year in 2015 for work, I was constantly busy working and on my phone most of the time.
I went home for a month just to spend time with my parents. We didn’t do anything exciting or special, but it made me realize that although the things we do on daily basis were pretty common and routine, it is the presence of those whom we love and care about that matter the most.
At the same time, I also picked up some hands-on skills and tips from my parents like woodworking, making hammocks, etc.
When I left my previous career and industry, I had some ideas on the new career directions that had been on my mind for a while. Over the last year, I explored and experimented with the various career interests I’ve had in mind. I was able to review and re-evaluate what I really wanted in a career.
I wanted a new career path where I am able to make a difference in people’s lives while being able to sustain myself. In other words, I was looking for purpose, passion and profits all tied-in together. Some of what I have tried included
Trainer for a local motivational training company
I applied for a trainer role at a local motivational training company, hoping to gain some skills and experience in public speaking as well as to lead training sessions. However, as the interview went by, I was offered instead a sales role where I had to pitch the packages to clients. As the training schedule was not out yet, I said I could try out for a while. As one who lacks sales experience, I eventually dropped out.
Running interest based workshops like brush lettering and modern calligraphy courses
In mid-2017, I started off giving affordable brush lettering and modern calligraphy courses with the aim of empowering children and youths to build their interests and confidence in themselves. By the end of the year, I had already conducted about 7 workshops. It was a satisfying experience to be able to share my knowledge and pass down what I know to the younger generations. Often times too, the works of my students amaze me.
Teaching young children has also been a gratifying experience for me. Over the last year, I had been giving classes to students. While the timing has been tedious along with travelling time, every lesson left me feeling like I have added value to these children’s education.
While it’s not all glorious as there were also times when students could get on your nerves or when you received disappointing results or having to deal with expectations, it only taught me to be more patient, tactful and empathetic towards every individuals and also, the learning process.
Not all children grow and learn in the same way or pace. The same as not all individuals achieve success in life by following the path of one successful person.
Selling goods online
I also tried my hands on selling products online. While relatively simple and profitable, I stopped after three months as I didn’t feel much fulfilment in buying and selling. Instead, I was constantly feeling low-balled, questioned and pressured to respond on time while having to deal with last minute cancellations, or worse, non-responses after confirming their orders.
This was actually the same feeling I had when I started my marine trading company a few years back. Though profitable, I was soon feeling drained doing works that seem repetitive and without challenge.
Digital marketing works
More recently, I started taking up assignments on building websites and managing social media content for other businesses. I even learned to create a digital online portfolio for myself. Despite being able to earn an income from these, I still felt like a rookie in almost every aspect. I have learned much from this experience as well. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem like a career I would want to build on.
Having dabbled in the above works during my gap year, I find myself coming back to a full circle of wanting to coach again. Coaching has always been a valuable, eye-opening and refreshing experience for me. Each client I talked to always brings me new perspectives and refreshed sense in myself.
I learned that no matter who we are, we all face difficulties and challenges in life, at some point. It is how each of us manages and responds to these life situations that differentiates our bad past from the positive future.
There are many of us who prefer and sometimes, persistently want to work things out by ourselves. However, more often than not, we end up being and feeling stuck for lengthened periods of time, sometimes even years, before we really see light. A coach not only helps to bring different perspectives but also asks you questions you might never have asked yourself at all.