My Year Away. Again.

First, I went on Sabbatical. Now, I'm beginning My Year Away again as I start my first year of Retirement!


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It’s Time to Begin My Year Away. Again.

I started this blog in 2014 as I began my year-long sabbatical. I thought My Year Away would be informative. I even hoped it would be life changing. Simply put, it was.

I remember wondering what it would be like to be away from the office for an entire year. Would I be bored? Would I miss the office? Would I miss my job? Will I have enough to do for a whole year?

One of the goals of my sabbaticals was to recharge, think new thoughts, do more “everyday” writing (as opposed to definitely-not-every-day-academic writing). I set up the blog to help me with that. 

I did other things too. I planted a garden. I learned to play the handbells. I went on two cruises—including a trip to the Panama Canal, which was a bucket list destination for me. I went to the Grand Canyon. Heck, I even went to Greece and Turkey! I’ve always loved to travel, but the sabbatical woke up a part of my soul that is satisfied only when I am sitting in a cafe in Rome, eating caccio e pepe. Or staring at the wake from the aft of a ship. Or contemplating my next adventure. 

I love to travel with my friend Beth. She is always up for an adventure!

And, I read. I read a lot. I read about travel (of course). I read cookbooks. I read fiction. I even read books about statistics.  I read history. Lots of history. And I started reading presidential biographies.

Fast forward to the end of 2020. As I contemplate my sabbatical—My Year Away—I realize that it was really a foreshadow of what my life could be like in retirement. 

My new life as a retired professor begins in two weeks. What will I do? Well, for starters, I’ll read. I’m still working my way through the presidents. (This may be good or bad news depending on your perspective, but reading these presidential biographies has shown me how messed up our politics have been from the very beginning.) I’ll have a garden next to the house we’re restoring in Paducah, Kentucky. I plan to travel just as soon as COVID stops nipping at our heels. I will not, however, be playing the handbells. 

I sure will miss my colleagues at the University of South Carolina!

I plan to continue to write as well. I hope to write my blog posts more often than I have in the past couple of years. And I also plan to branch out and tell stories in other ways. During these past several months while living on Zoom, I’ve discovered that the digital space is more interesting than I had imagined. For example, venturing into podcasting with a former grad student (check out “Pandemic Professors” on Spotify!), I learned all sorts of new skills. As a result, the hubster and I are planning to launch a You Tube channel for our Paducah house restoration called “(re)Tired Renovators.” Given my knowledge acquisition and retention as I work my way through iMovie tutorials, we may only make it through one show before we keel over. But we’re going to give it a shot. I mean, who doesn’t want to be a Social Media Influencer at 65?

During My Year Away the first time, I tried new things, learned a bunch, stretched myself, and experienced life. In two weeks, as I begin My Year Away again, I hope my first year of retirement will, once again, allow me to stretch, learn, and experience life in even more new ways. 

The view out the window of my lovely C.S. Lewis office.

I’m not gonna lie. Giving up my identity as a tenured professor at a research university is going to take some time. While I won’t miss grading (not even one little bit), I will miss my colleagues. I’ll miss my lovely C.S. Lewis office. I’ll miss seeing a new publication in print. I’ll miss creating new classes. I don’t feel old—although applying for Part A and B of Medicare did make me think for a minute. But, it’s time to try new things. It’s time to start a new journey. It’s time.

I’m ready for the challenge.


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Can you have a mid-life crisis when you’re 61?

Okay, okay.  I know I’m past middle age (At least I know that when I’m thinking straight).  That being said, ever since returning from Italy on June 6, I’ve been contemplating the next phase of life.  Usually, I phrase it something like this:  “ARGHHHH!  There’s not much time left!  I’m 2/3 of the way through life. IF. I’M. LUCKY. What happened?  So much to do! So much to do!”

Since learning to live with achalasia, I’ve spent a lot more time contemplating “What’s next?” than I would normally be inclined to do. Clearly, I’ve had some sort of massive wake-up call.  For example, I’ve always planned to work until I’m 70. And why not? Being a tenured full professor is a fantastic profession. Job security. Good pay. Flexible hours. Extremely liberal vacation time.   Who would walk away from that?

Except, I just had the vacation of a lifetime. And I want more. I loved being in a different culture. And I want more of that. I loved crossing the ocean at 15-20 knots (i.e., slowly) with time to stare out into the horizon wondering about everything or nothing.  I want more of that, too.

Seventy as a retirement age is starting to sound too far into the future. I’m not getting any younger. Clearly. I used to look younger than my age. But, people no longer stare with their mouths agape when they find out I have grandchildren. Sometimes I’m given the Senior Citizen Discount. Without asking.  And, more than once recently, I’ve had acquaintances assume I’m retired—and look a bit of a confused when I tell them I’m still working.  Heck, I’m not even Social Security eligible yet.

In my “I’m getting old!” full freak-out mode, I’ve noticed more creaks and moans coming from my body. Recently while rowing, I damaged my “sits bone” (the ischial tuberosity for anyone who is interested in keeping up with my continued bizarre medical escapades) and for the first time, I’ve wondered if it might be time to sell my racing scull.

We own two houses (one at the beach and one in the city), which take a modicum of effort to keep in good shape.  Lately, I’ve walked around both houses thinking about things we should start getting rid of.  (Including at least one of the houses.)

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Here’s a view of our island at high tide.

I met with the retirement guy to get his opinion on whether we have enough money to retire sooner than later.  And, I’ve read just about every online publication Social Security offers trying to figure out if I know enough to make the decision to retire.

As for the hubster, he’s taking my whirling dervish “let’s do something” activity in stride. Occasionally, he’ll listen in when I say I’ve found the perfect cruise that leaves Amsterdam and travels through Iceland and Greenland on its way back to the States. Apparently, I have just developed a NEED to see the Arctic Circle. I think I’ve convinced the hubster that we need to get our next adventure to Italy set right now.  We’ve booked an apartment in Nereto, Italy, next July.  I’ve never heard of Nereto. either, but apparently I need to go there as well.

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I can’t wait to go back to Italy to see more views like this!

I’m studying Italian every day—determined to be at least 50% fluent before I return. I’ve read that studying another language helps delay brain deterioration.  So, now I’m worried that my brain is deteriorating. (Drat! I broke my 29-day streak on Duolingo.)

Big breath. Sigh. Here’s the thing. Yeah, I’m getting older. But my life has been pretty awesome—and it looks like it might be pretty awesome in the future as well. (I’ve got my next trip to Italy planned so it can’t be all bad, right?) I’m normally not a freak-out kind of person. Maybe a wake-up call once in a while is good. And maybe visiting the Arctic Circle really is a good idea.  Who knows? But, what I do know is that I’ve had an amazing summer—and now it’s time to get back to work. The fall semester starts in just a few days.  Looks like I’m not retiring this year no matter what the retirement guy says.  And that’s okay. I’ve got time. I hope.