The concept of a 'Break Year' is fascinating. Every time I read about someone taking a break year on HN, after being burnt out or having survived a personal tragedy, I'm intrigued by what they do with their free time. I used to think this was a thing people did mid-schooling, taking a break from their technical course. But that's evidently not the only time people in tech do this...which was a revelation to me. Most common activity is travelling solo to another country, doing hike trails, learning new languages, basically broadening horizons.
You could say I'm on a break year right now. Well, not quite...but I'm definitely operating several notches below the usual. There are a different set of activities tugging at my attention these days, but in aggregate, my days are certainly lighter.
Should I declare this a 'break year'?
Well, semantics matter little to me.
Must a 'break year' have an agenda? Is it a 'break year' if there's an agenda? If the objective of a time-off is to de-stress or decompress, does having a goal or outcome help or just add pressure?
I'm told most people don't overthink this part and just go with the flow. Overthinking is literally my thing though.
I'm certainly in a cozy space. Most people my age are burdened with concern for their future. I'm 100% debt-free; always have been — that itself is a source of great comfort. When a friend my age called me up to ask for places to invest his money because he saw a news segment explaining "real interest rate" in a world of "high inflation", my eyes rolled to the back of my skull. In about 15 years, me as well as this person are likely going to wake up to back-ache every morning. On a scale of future-things to be concerned about, the fear of not being able to sustain your lifestyle is real...for sure. However, you know what else happens in 15 years? Age 50. Joint-pain and a host of other ailments with no easy solutions.
Now, I'm not the type to suggest we should live life to the fullest and go globetrotting while we physically can. My casual perusal of Alex Garland's "The Beach" left a — likely unintended — lasting impression on the whole "It's not where you go, but how you feel for a moment in your life..." thing. Travel is stressful. A spacious room with regulated temperature controls and good home-delivered food is all I need. My larger point being, people are influenced into taking on debt and responsibilities. People worry about the future far too much. People are far too concerned about things that they have no control over and cannot gain control over despite their best efforts. Politics and public-policy are the best examples. People who feel their opinion affects a larger scheme of things are living a farcical illusion.
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.
Aside: Back when I was in school, I spent almost every evening watching the Hallmark channel. "Hallmark" was more popular as a greeting-card brand back then. Same logo at least. I can recall three great shows I used to watch — Early Edition, Star Trek: Voyager, and on one fateful Sunday when the TV was under my sole control, a back-to-back screening of the 3-episode Children of Dune mini-series. I don't recall watching the Dune mini-series preceding the saga, so I likely watched Children of Dune without any context. As was mostly the case back then, I'd watch some shows just for the special effects. (Back then I was deeply into in graphic design. I had installed a demo edition of Bryce-3D from a yellow CHiP CD along with ArcSoft PhotoStudio — a photo-editing tool far superior to PhotoShop. Anyway, Bryce-3D allowed creating 3D art and animation scenes that you could play, like a video. It had tons of options for lighting effects, etc.)
Too much concern for the future leads to poor decision-making. This has also been my approach to software-design. I've seen elaborately designed large codebases by architecture-astronauts — supposedly so to accommodate easy code-changes — undergo large, complex refactors to accommodate tiny, unanticipated changes in specs. Change is the only constant. I'd take clear-and-concise over elaborate-and-futureproof any day. It has to be in balance.
I largely operate with a 5-year horizon. I don't think it's productive to think beyond that. Heck, an asteroid or solar eruptions (CMEs) could hit some corner of the Earth tomorrow and throw all those plans out the window too. Far too often, we forget that our species uniquely lives on a monetary-inflation-obsessed planet while it is hurtling through space among an infinite number of other celestial objects that could crash into each other for an explanation we haven't thought of yet. The Total Perspective Vortex could easily cure humanity of such ills.