Sabbatical: A Change of Perspective
In my last post, I spoke about the challenge of avoiding boredom with so much uncommitted time. Over the last two months that challenge has been recast as "what could I do now" rather than "what will do I do now". With a pocketful of free time and a little imagination, I have an unusual opportunity to explore, learn and try new things. That is why I chose travel as the medium for my sabbatical. Yet, travel is not the challenge. I have found many new places to explore and activities to try. My challenge is the time between trips. I think the effectiveness of this sabbatical will be measured in how I learn to handle the interim periods.
At first, the time at home was uncomfortable. No work to re-engage, no buddies to tell about my adventures and, after getting rested, I was anxious to get back on the road rather than mull over what changes or development opportunities I might consider. After the second long trip, my time at home was a bit easier. I was ready to rest and ready to consider my options for home and future travel.
Instead of boredom, I had planning to do, writing to catch up on, and time with family to enjoy. I learned a lot on this last trip and made note of what to change for my next trip in light of that learning. I also realized that though I have a pocketful of free time, I tend to maintain the old habit of thinking I am "too busy" to respond to invitations or last minute opportunities for fun when I am at home.
I spent years focused on work and what needed to get done- both work at home and work at the job. The to do list never ended and I often thought I was too busy to do anything that was not on my "schedule". Now, I have no set schedule. Last week, I realized my daughter needed a babysitter at the last minute. At first, I didn't think too much about it- I live 2 hours away and - no wait, I have no schedule and I am ONLY two hours away so why not help out?!
See? A new paradigm. We even went to the Scott Antiques Market the next day- I had never even considered it before because.... "I was too busy". I am not too busy to babysit. I am not too busy to go shopping. I am not too busy to play the uke. Perhaps this needs to be my new mantra- I Am Not Too Busy.
Instead of keeping the old habit of planning life around an overstuffed calendar, the luxury of time gives me the freedom to plan my life- period. This is a new habit I want to maintain into the next career. I am rarely so busy that I cannot enjoy life. I have time to do the things I choose to do by making them a priority.
You might ask if I am still concerned about boredom when I am at home. Honestly, it is a fleeting thought every morning when I complete the breakfast dishes - "Now what?". Trip planning or arranging an outing with the grandkids helps, but there is still that nagging thought. Probably because a lifetime of "gainful employment" has stilted my perspective of what is significant work. I am making progress towards defining what is significant in my life and what was simply required to make a living. What I choose to do next needs to align with what is significant in my life.
And that choice is never far from my conscious thought. We have planned and saved for this trip, but I am aware that, eventually, this sabbatical will end. My goal is to have several interesting options to pursue whether it is a business of my own, a completely new career or build on what I have already accomplished. This is always a loose thread that appears somewhere during the day, especially when we are back at the apartment between trips.
On a similar note, I have been thinking more about what makes work significant. By that I mean, work that has lasting impact and that achieves something worthwhile. Even though my present is all about getting refreshed and ready rather than jumping into something, my search for "what's next" is being shaped by my desire to contribute in a way that aligns with what is important in my life.
The third month of sabbatical has been far more relaxed than the first two months. I am taking more time to do my tasks, considering new ways to do things, and adding more enjoyable activities to my list. Whereas the first two months of sabbatical I was longing to return to the safe schedule of work life, by the end of the third month, I am quite content to leave the whole concept of a work life on hold for a while. I really do need the break and I am finally beginning to embrace the idea of not working, at least for a while.