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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Everyone Moves. A Walking Tour of Florence

I am in Italy for most of the summer. I am traveling to big cities and small villages. Today I am in Florence.  The city moves. And we move with it. Tourists and Florentines, moving with an uneasy, yet familiar, flow. I first notice the tourists. The city teems with them. Many are college age. How did Florence become the playground for American students?

Upon closer look, the walking tour I am taking yields an insight to the daily rhythm of Florence life. First, there is the church. While tourists flock (and rightly so) to view the awesome sight of the Duomo, I notice other sorts of travel.

duomo

The Duomo attracts travelers and it’s easy to see why!

There are the horses, waiting to carry the tourists away from the piazza. And there are church workers taking just pressed vestments to a baptism, perhaps.

vestments

These vestments are traveling from the Baptistry to the Duomo.

cavallo

This horse looks like he is tired of traveling.

Second, there is the river. People walking across the bridges. Boats meandering down the serene water. Rowers perfecting their stroke—catch, drive, finish.  Runners and cyclists following the river’s path. The river provides both a place of solace and a beacon for wanderers. I hear a tour guide say, “If you can find the river, you can find home.” As a rower, I know this to be true.

river

The river beckons.

rowing

A rower practices his stroke.

Eventually, I peel away from the group to find my own path. I turn left. I turn right. I am not concerned because I know where both the Duomo and the river are. These two anchors assure me that no matter where I wander, I have a place.  Eventually, I find a quiet trattoria with friendly camerieri. I decide that this is where I will eat. “Buongiorno,” one waiter calls out. “Buongiorno,” I answer. “Siete aperti? I ask.”  “Si!,” he says, following this (in perfect English) with “Do you understand Italian?” I tell him that I am learning. That’s all he needs. We speak only Italian from then on. He is patient with me. What follows is a delightful lunch of pasta, sparkling water and local wine. Passersby are few as I marvel at the quiet just a few blocks off the main piazza.

Quiet Wine

My lunch is a delightful respite from the throngs.

Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” I moved this morning. More than 10,000 steps of movement. And then I stopped. And I felt the rhythm of the city. And it felt bellissimo.