Virtually all of us will experience this at some time in our lives. It happened to me two weeks ago when I left my job – and the structure it gave the last 32 years of my life. For you it could be job loss, the end of a relationship, a sudden illness, a child leaving home, a death or even the end of football season.
Anticipated or not, the result is the same. Yesterday you were a valued employee, a student, a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a child of your parents, or healthy. Today you are no longer one of those. Who are you now? What do you do?
If you’re like me, things may have been too hectic anyway. I often said I’d love to catch a break. But now that it’s here….now what?
Several years ago, after a death in our family, the folks from hospice cautioned us not to make any major decisions – that after a major loss, you need time to reorient yourself. But our life couldn’t wait! So we sold our house, moved 1000 miles away, bought a lot, contracted with a builder, and made a hundred different decisions about options for our new house. (The house worked out ok, if you were wondering!). Forget grieving, we were busy!
I don’t want to do that now. I want to take time to reexamine who I am and where I’m headed. What does God have for me? I want to spend time in prayerful consideration understanding what is of God….and what is not.
Before I announced my departure, I knew I’d have a sudden void in my life and wanted something to ease the transition. So I volunteered to help a friend with a 3-month project. I joined the YMCA. I scheduled a visit with Mom. That’s ok. I think that was smart. Where we can smooth an abrupt transition, that’s appropriate.
But deciding the direction of my life for the long haul? That’s more serious. As much has I’d like it, God doesn’t often smack me upside the head with the answer. And both God and Satan can put potential options out there for me to see. One is God’s will, the other is just a distraction. Within 2 hours of announcing my departure, I received an email from an organization I already volunteer with – an offer to engage more deeply. Maybe. Within 4 hours, I received my first contact from old coworkers, many of whom are now engaged in consulting work. I would be good at consulting. But is that why I retired? To do more of the same? Maybe not…..
It would be comfortable to sign up for several commitments so I can to keep my schedule as jam-packed as I’ve been used to. And then I’d be stressed, behind on the things that really matter, missing the people I want to be with – in fact I’d be right back almost exactly where I started. Not smart….
So as I head into this new chapter – this thing I refuse to call retirement (because that smacks of “you’re OLD”), I’ve made a commitment. To me, to the Hubbie, and to God. For one year, I am going to swear off making major commitments.
I will not take on any significant new long-term roles, paid or unpaid. A limited project? Ok. Specific dates with no ongoing weekly commitment? OK. Beyond that….ask me next year.
This is my year to figure out my life. To spend time with the ones I love, to meet new friends. To be intentional. To learn to trust God….to REALLY trust Him.
This is my sabbatical year.
Here’s what I’ll be doing – in no particular order.
1. Reconnecting with friends and family. Want to do lunch? Want to go on an adventure? Give me a call! My relationships have taken a back seat due to the demands of work – it’s time to fix that.
2. Exploring/renewing hobbies – I want to learn to use my new camera better. I have a huge stack of unread books – hopefully I can plow through some of those. I want to do more cooking and try new recipes. I want to learn to tune my own piano. I want to try kayaking. I want to go target and trap shooting with the Hubbie. I want to run Disney’s Princess Half Marathon. I’m thinking of brushing up on my Spanish. Have another idea? I might add it to my list!
3. Purging surplus possessions. There hasn’t been a good purging in the Gleaton household since shortly after we got married, when we had a spectacular garage sale to offload most of Hubbie’s bachelor stuff. With his permission of course….. It’s time for another one!
4. Getting myself in shape! Did you ever say you’ll get in shape once you have more time? Yeah, I’ve said that for 32 years. I’m hoping now to actually do that.
5. Reconnecting with God in a challenging way. Sure, I have a spiritual routine. Daily devotions, go to church, etc. But I’m convinced God wants much more than that. I want to focus on being in-tune with God and in-the-moment, seeing others each day as God sees them and relating to them with Christ-like love (instead of my natural tendency to focus on to-do lists and long-term projects).
6. Exploring opportunities for serving others – In the midst of all this, I want to be open to new or better ways of serving others. I have no idea how this one will unfold. Stay tuned and we’ll figure it out together!
When this year of sabbatical is over, I hope to have a different story. Instead of saying “a large part of my identity is gone,” I hope to be saying “I’m so excited about the future – here’s where I’m going.” I hope to have figured out what Michael Hyatt calls a Symphonic Life, where all the parts of my life are aligned around a common purpose and important parts of my life don’t get squeezed out.
But right now, this sabbatical year is a bit of an adventure, one day at a time. Where will I end up, and what will it look like? Who knows….but God has a plan, and that’s good enough for me.
How about you – have you ever lost a major part of your identity? How did you handle that? Did you ever take a sabbatical? Have an idea for something I should do?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!