Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sabbatical Days Ahead

The most amazing thing is about to happen. I have graded my last paper, responded to my last discussion board, created my last Excel spreadsheet for eight entire months. Two hundred forty days.

Please pause for a minute and twenty-seven seconds of really happy (OK, projecting!) dancing animals:

This semester has been better than spring semester, where I think part of my problem came from teaching summer school and not getting any break at all from teaching for five semesters. Not this year. Fall semester, aside from the new math, pie chart graphs, and strange Edu-Speak I found myself uttering in meetings with high-level administration, has been much better. I have been busier, but the students have been better, kinder, and more interested in learning.

I have some plans - lots of travel - Vegas, San Francisco, Chicago, Taos, New York, Massachusetts and North Carolina. I have writing goals. Reading goals. (I'm shooting to read fifty novels. We'll see!) I  finished a draft of a novel I've been working on for five years in November, and I plan to finish two more on sabbatical which are currently languishing at the magic 30,000 word stopping place. I am working on a teaching and writing project with my friend Cain Carroll. I am feeling very full - like I've been gathering and gathering and gathering for many years and now can harvest some of that bounty.

OK, pause for one more dance. Monkeys! Irish jigs! Computer-generated animation ...

But here's the real thing: I am at a place in my life where I understand what this means. I understand that this time off, with pay and good health may never come again. I understand that it doesn't ever come for many people, and that I am, frankly, profoundly lucky. I'm not a better person than others. I'm not smarter, more talented, more deserving. I've been dealt a good set of cards and the older I get the more I see the randomness of that deck and the more gratitude I feel for not only the most basic of things (food, shelter, health), but for a life which provides the opportunities for me to do the best I can with the deck I have.

I understand what is important to me and I understand how to best use this time to sow the seeds for the next decade of my writing career. I wouldn't have known this ten years ago. I wouldn't have been far enough along in my study of the craft of writing. I wouldn't have done so much work with my body - with yoga, with food choices, with meditation. There's more - always more to learn, to let go of, to move deeper into. But I know how to use this time so that I don't find myself on August 15 saying, "Oh my, I haven't done anything." This is a winning lottery ticket, and I'm going to spend it on the things that help me do the work I do in this life (write, teach) better.

I'll also probably get a new refrigerator. I expect the hot water heater to go at any minute. But I'm going to dream deeper than I've ever dreamed. I'm going to unpack the metaphoric basement and see what I've gathered and where it's supposed to go. I'm going to learn more about writing than I know now, and I'm going to stretch. I'm also going to have unexpected things happen. I'm going to leave space for wonder, space for surprises, and space for magic.

Thank you, Yavapai College, for this time, for this gift. I'll be back.

But not until August 15.


Alma Luz Villanueva said...

Dreaming DEEPER, Yes AND YES...Go, Gata, Go...xoxo *Your bedroom is here in San Miguel if spirit moves you, let me know dates, we'll SHOP...

Donna Decker said...

I, too, am on sabbatical for eight months, starting at exactly the same time as you. I have plans to read novels and to finish one too! How come we do not know each other? I am a professor in New Hampshire. Congratulations on your audacious plans.

Donna Decker said...

I, too, am on sabbatical for eight months and have so many of the same plans you do, Laraine: reading 50+ novels and finishing a novel I have been writing for 2 years! Happy days ahead.

Laraine Herring said...

Donna - best wishes for your sabbatical too! What a great gift, isn't it? I keep pinching myself. Send me an e-mail w/your e-mail address if you want to be in touch. The e-mail link is on my website.

Alma - AH! Dream, dream, dream! I just fell & sprained my ankle pretty badly. I'm in Massachusetts now at Kripalu teaching this week. The Wounded Warrior. LOL.