Sabbatical: Betwixt and Between

Reflection. It is the essence of wisdom. Taking the time to look back on the past to gain insight, and then using that insight to chart a better course for the future.

Dawn at Navarre Beach

Dawn at Navarre Beach

With a handful of trips behind us and a long trip ahead of us, it seems like a good time to consider what we need to do differently, start or stop doing, and how to plan for what is ahead - at least what we imagine will be ahead. 

We are in the midst of moving our home base from an apartment in Macon to a shared house in Woodstock. Renovations are underway at the house, so we could simply stay in the RV and travel all summer! Well, that would be my immediate response, but someone has to oversee the renovation. So, instead, we will stay at the house during the renovation and venture out for short trips around the Carolinas, Tennessee, Alabama.

These short trips will keep us within a reasonable day's drive back to the house to meet with the contractor when needed. As the renovations wrap up in August, we will head for Maine and follow the coast back to Georgia. It should be a good time of year for a trip that will last about two months, returning us to Woodstock early in November. 

Since our new Leisure Travel Van Owners group will hold it's first rally in late October in Asheville, NC, we will try to incorporate the rally with our return journey from Maine. Should be an enjoyable way to meet others who own the same type of RV and hear how they are coping with retirement or managing travel while working.

The year-long sabbatical will be drawing to a close by then with only a few months remaining (that went fast!). Right now, it is still summer and there is planning to do, routes to map and reservations to calendar. The renovation is underway and we are researching ideas for Christmas week. 

As a planner by nature, looking ahead like this is what I do. It is hard to stay in the present when there is so much to look forward to in the future.Yet, sabbatical is the time for resetting the life buttons. That in mind, there are a few areas in which I feel I have made progress.

First, I realize how much time I have is relative. We have time for what we want to have time for. We are responsible for setting up the priority system. If we don't set the priority, others will dictate priorities for us, trapping us on the merry-go-round of "have to". 

Second, relationships are far more precious than work, money, place, or status. Only relationships with others can sustain us in the long run, helping us to fulfill our true potential. We often get confused about that, thinking that tasks hone our potential. Not so. Although we can learn new skills through tasks, the task itself can be limited to skills. On the other hand, relationships are developmental in nature. They stretch you in a way tasks cannot, testing your patience, your creativity, your emotions and your very soul. We need community to grow as individuals. 

Third, it is surprising how little we actually need in the way of material goods. Though I still have far more than I need, it is amazing to me how downsizing three times has not left me feeling impoverished. From a large home and property to an apartment to an RV, each step away from "too much stuff" has been quite liberating. With fewer things to take care of, protect, and keep track of I have more time to pursue experiences.

Fourth, learning is life-long. We are never too old to learn new skills. Spending the time to become proficient on the uke is an attainable goal as is learning a second language, writing a book, starting a new career or launching a business. One of the great joys of a sabbatical is having the time and energy to sample new activities.

All this said, my sabbatical is going well even if not quite as I had planned. Now approaching the half-way mark, I am finally slowing down. I don't panic if there is nothing on my "to do" list. I look forward to discovering what the day holds, enjoying time with the family, learning another song on the uke, writing, or planning the next trip.

Thoughts about returning to a job or beginning a new career are daily exercises in imagination and research. Yet those thoughts have not resulted in any definitive plans. For now, I am fine with that. There are seven more months of "recalibration" before making such decisions and the process keeps me open to opportunity.

Between the beginning and ending of a sabbatical is the place where damage is repaired, insight is gained and opportunity is recognized. The "betwix and between" feeling in the midst of sabbatical offers a space for gleaning from our accumulated experiences. That space encourages us to think more broadly about our life and purpose.

Although this is not necessarily a time for decisions, those we make during sabbatical can have greater impact on our future because they incorporate what we know with what we are learning about ourselves. I expect that is what I will be doing over the remaining seven months of sabbatical. 

Robin North