I’m halfway through My Year Away (time is passing too quickly!) and, for the most part, I’m making progress on my academic goals. I have three academic papers completed and in review. All were developed with different research partners, which has been a fantastic way to explore myriad scholarly approaches. Another research colleague and I just finished developing a survey that is about to launch. We are placing great hopes that this project will yield at least a handful of important papers. I’ve got a few other research projects percolating at various stages. So by most standards, I think I’m doing okay on my research goals.
My latest “new thing” is learning to ring the handbells. Really. I suppose it’s not quite as weird as learning to play the bagpipes, but it’s definitely up there. I mean, seriously, who rings handbells?
Turns out, quite a few people. If you don’t believe me, go to You Tube and type in “handbells.” You’ll have choices like “Flight of the Bumblebee,” Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” the Hallelujah Chorus played by only four ringers as well as traditional songs for bells like “Carol of the Bells.”
Our church has a handbell choir. I asked the director if I could join for the year. Since I’m in the regular choir and she happens to direct that choir as well (she also directs the children, plays the organ, handles all the weddings and funerals in the church, etc, but that’s another story!), she said yes. I was always curious about the bells. Such an odd ensemble. What was up with the bells? How hard would it be to learn?
So the short answer is, it’s kind of hard. It takes some heft to ring the bass bells (the ones I’ve been assigned). Here’s what I’ve learned since I’ve joined the handbell choir.
- Don’t mock something if you don’t know anything about it.
- Pay attention. Always.
- Take joy in the unexpected.
- Practice. Practice. Practice.
I may be the only person in the world who has learned a sabbatical lesson while playing handbells. But I’m thankful I took this opportunity to try something out of my comfort zone.
I think I could say the same thing about administration. I didn’t go to graduate school to be an administrator. I went to learn theory and research methods. But, 13 years into my professor life, I gave administration a whirl. Turns out, I was kind of good at that too. But, just like ringing bells, it didn’t mean I had to do it forever.
During My Year Away, I’m beginning to understand in a deeper way that doing things “for a season” can be a good thing. When my sabbatical is over, I’ll miss ringing. But, that’s okay. In the meantime, I’ll just keep slogging those bells. And wonder what’s next on my “wow, that looks fun!” list.