Taking a sabbatical was harder than I thought…at least initially!
In the hopes that it will give you some fresh perspective, inspiration, and resources for your own journey, I wanted to share some of the highlights and insights from my recent sabbatical. In the first post, I shared Why I’m Taking a Sabbatical (And How It Will Help You, Too). This post is the halfway update (thirty days into a two-month sabbatical) and deals with some of the joys and challenges of a sabbatical for overachievers.
For an overachiever like me, rest can be hard. Whether it’s a vacation or a sabbatical, I need things to do or I get grumpy. Living with me for the past 22 years, my wife has come to terms with this. That’s why even on vacation, I typically have some things to do that feel productive like reading and writing in the morning. For a more extended break like a sabbatical, in order for me to feel good about it, I had to put some structure to it. That’s why it was a balance of writing, home projects, books to read, time in nature, rest, vacation, and family time. Even so, the first couple of weeks were a bit rocky. I spent a lot of time thinking:
What am I supposed to be doing?
Have you ever felt this way as an overachiever? What have you done to alleviate this?
It took a while, but halfway through the sabbatical, I finally settled into a rhythm. In the early morning, I read and prayed. After breakfast, I typically spent some time writing, journaling, and reading a bit more. Afternoons were usually spent at home with the family or doing some light coaching and consulting work. And one day a week, I tried to spend some time in a beautiful place outdoors.
Here are a few highlights from the first half of the sabbatical:
- Celebrated my oldest son’s graduation on June 3-4 as well as the birthdays of my wife and mother-in-law together (it was a weekend of partying!)
- Went golfing with my Mom
- Went on a personal retreat
- Took my daughter to the Broadway musical called “Wicked” for her 16th birthday. It was phenomenal!
- Watched the New England Revolutions pro soccer game at Gillette Stadium with my youngest son (he just ended his soccer season in mid-June)
- Wrote 500 words per day 4-5 days per week
- Finished one book and started many others (more on this later)
- Began the sabbatical with a personal retreat to Singing Hills in NH
- Traveled to Boothbay, Maine for a weekend away with my wife
My Best Day in a While…
I kicked off the sabbatical with a personal retreat to Singing Hills Camp in New Hampshire. It has been my retreat center of choice for the past twelve years. A while back, I wrote a blog post called Why I Love Retreats (And Think You Should Take One, Too) hoping to compel everyone to do a yearly personal retreat!
During the second day of my retreat, I decided to take a ride to Burlington, VT. I’ve heard about Burlington for years but have never been. Home to the University of Vermont (or UVM) and situated on the majestic Lake Champlain, Burlington is a collision of the independent Vermont spirit, good restaurants, spectacular beauty, and the intellectual culture that often comes with a college town.
It was a gorgeous day and I spent most of it sitting on a sparsely populated beach a few miles outside of town. I finished a book (The Alchemist), prayed, napped, took in the view, watched a plane take off from the Lake, went swimming, and got lost in the view of the Adirondack Mountains across the Lake.
On my way into Burlington, I passed the UVM campus (the University of Vermont) and was hit by a wave of nostalgia remembering my early days in campus ministry. In fact, I really miss working in a campus environment and with students. Wanting to explore that pang of nostalgia, I decided to spend some time on the campus exploring why I felt that way. I walked around most of the campus and finally settled on a shady bench in the middle of campus to do journaling. It was during that time I realized that I really enjoy the unique energy of college towns. Not so much city campuses, but mid-sized towns where the college is a significant and almost inseparable part of the town.
A sabbatical is a good time to explore those unexpected things that may pop up in your heart.
What things from your past bring you a pang of nostalgia? There may be something to be explored there. Is it just a fond memory, or could it be more? Is there something there that needs to be considered more deeply or is it simply a fond memory to reminisce over?
Earlier in the day, I asked a Mom who happened to be hiking with her little one, “If I only had one day in Burlington, what would you suggest I do?” Without too much hesitation, she said, “Get a Maple Cremeee and watch the sunset at the park on the Lake!”
Mistakenly, I thought a Maple Cremee was some type of pastry. But when I looked up the place she suggested, I discovered that “cremee” is the Vermonter name for soft-serve ice cream. After dinner, I did just that. I got a large maple-infused vanilla soft-serve ice cream cone and enjoyed it down by the Lake. It lived up to the hype.
Vermonters know how to enjoy the good weather (probably because it’s such a short season). There were hundreds of people out on the green in front of the lake playing frisbee, enjoying dinner, flying drones, and doing countless other activities. I sat by the lake on a bench and just stared for two hours as the water glistened and the Adirondack mountains spoke in the background across the Lake.
Originally, I hadn’t intended on staying until 8:30 PM to watch the sunset, but I was mesmerized.
Reluctant to leave, I finally pulled up stakes around 9:00 PM and headed back to the retreat center. The drive home was filled with a feeling of euphoria and deep satisfaction.
It was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time, and I walked away refreshed and revived.
Plan a Day, Away
When was the last time you took a day to just slow down and be? A day to do whatever you want? A day to enjoy life and reflect?
Why not put one on your schedule today? You won’t regret it!
In the belief that it’s going to add value to you (and crystallize the lessons for me), over the next few months, I’m going to be sharing some of the 5 biggest takeaways from my recent two-month sabbatical.