When I started making plans in early 2015 for what became this current life sabbatical, I focused on the details. I planned month-by-month what was needed until I would power down on my job of eight years and stretch into my first real free time in two decades.
As a writer, I know to construct stories to reveal key messages clearly and concisely. When I was working at a large consulting company years ago, we were taught to start every email with a BLOT: Bottom Line on Top. This bold headline summarized the purpose of the message.
And yet that’s not how life is revealing any meanings to me on this journey. It’s uncomfortable, the not knowing. When you read a book, flick the screen, or listen to the news, you know the story has an ending and your brain is okay to wait as it unfolds.
I’ve slowed down my personal writing in the last couple of months partly because I felt I had no BLOT to offer. I’m more than 7 months into this journey and am getting impatient with my own story.
It wasn’t like that at first. The first several months were glorious because of the not knowing. And, I was busy. I purposely planned an amazing month-long European trip with my family three weeks after I started the sabbatical. And when we returned there was the sunshine of summer, catching up with friends and family, and the busy buzz of school beginning for my boys. I made myself a promise that I wouldn’t engage with job-y stuff until the fall.
The funny thing about having the time you so longed for is that you realize how much more you need. I sometimes feel guilty that I am able to have the luxury of time – because it is a luxury, or at least that what’s most of us are taught once we get our Adult Card.
Other times I’ve felt selfish because I haven’t done more with the time. I done loads of projects, updated my will, traveled to 19 cities, cleaned out my garage/closet/kitchen/den, and made numerous to-do lists for husband, much to his delight. I have made meals from scratch and other times ordered a pizza. But, still, I had this expectation that I should be “accomplishing.”
At the same time, I have been happily amazed at how many other people are on similar sabbaticals, some by design and others in embracing an unexpected opportunity. Here in Seattle, I have six friends who are in various stages of exploring and I keep track of many more folks via social media. Whatever circumstances led us here, I sense a movement of people like me who decided for myriad reasons to simply pause for a bit.
My absolutely favorite moments are the middle of the random day when I catch myself staring out the window or driving on a road I wouldn’t have otherwise been on at this place and time. I know what Tuesday feels like now.
I’ve also read many, many books and recently finished The Alchemist for the first time. I was struck about this fable of a young shepherd who embarks on a personal journey by following omens. Here is just one of the many passages I found well-timed:
But he was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.
So whether or not this is actually the midpoint of my journey, I discovered that I do have a BLOT:
I don’t know how or when my sabbatical will end and that is the whole point.