|Could a year of traveling save my sanity?|
Greg made me lose my original train of thought after nixing my Eat, Love, Pray reenactment, but the seed of the idea took hold in my mind and I began watering it carefully and bringing it out for a little sun now and then. I capitulated my fantasy of following Elizabeth Gilbert’s exact steps. We didn’t have to travel to Italy, India and Indonesia to change our lives; nevertheless, the more I thought about it, the more strongly I felt that something drastic must happen. Just taking the kids out of activities couldn’t turn around our lives.
I searched phrases like “taking a break”, “getting away”, and “life break” online. My first two searches resulted in 50 ways to leave your lover and 101 ways get away with murder- no help, but I bookmarked those for future reference. When I searched life break, I struck gold. I discovered there were other people who wanted to take a break from life; so much so, there was a link to an actual life break coach. I thought, “You have got to be kidding me! Who needs a life break coach when you have girlfriends and martinis?” So I decided to run my brainstorm by my friends.
While Greg taught a night class, I threw mac and cheese at the kids, slung some applesauce their way to include the fruit group and got everyone to shower, finish homework and prepare book bags and lunches for the next day. All accomplished by 8:15! Wearing a supermom glow that resembled a sweaty sheen, I was shaking the martinis as Bridget and Jane arrived. Anxious to share my ideas, I tossed back a pink drink and launched into my plan.
“Greg and I want to take a family sabbatical.” Of course, Greg didn’t know it yet. I used “sabbatical” as a nice term for “quitting” our jobs- it sounded better to me and was part of the psychological game I played to convince myself I wasn’t a complete slacker.
“What’s a family sabbatical?” asked Bridget as she sipped her cocktail.
|Would you travel with these kids?|
I gave my rehearsed answer in one breath. “Basically, we quit our jobs, rent our home and road school our kids while traveling the highways and byways of the great USA and abroad for one year.”
They laughed. Maybe I did need a life coach.
“What? That’s insane," Bridget managed to say between giggles. "Drop everything and see the world?”
“That would be nuts," interrupted Jane. "Not work? Not send the kids to school? Not participate in a thousand activities, committees, or sports?” She finished her drink in one gulp.
I realized they weren’t taking me seriously. Looking each one in the eye, I said, “I’m dead serious.”
“Holy cow, you are," said Jane. “Take me with you!"
“Lord! Me, too.”
“So you don’t think I’m crazy?”
“People may call the doctors and carry you to Milledgeville faster than your head can hit a pillow, but personally, I think it’s the sanest thing I’ve heard in a long time!” said Bridget. The martinis were kicking in.
Fueled with my friends’ approval, I expounded on my rationalized plans for our one-year off the grid. "We could rent out our house- furnished, of course.”
“You would leave all your stuff?” said Bridget.
“Who would rent this big house- furnished?” asked Jane.
“There must be some business people that will only be in town temporarily,” I said. “Or a family relocating, but don’t know where they want to buy yet. Our house would be perfect for them. We have our retirement savings, but if we rent the house it will help cover the loss of my paycheck which goes to the home’s mortgage and utilities anyway."
“Jenny, you’ve obviously thought this through, but can you really afford to take a year off from work? Would they hold your job for you?”
“This has been my obsession for months. Public Ed teachers sign an annual contract so there’s no guaranteeing my job. If I don’t sign next year’s contract, they won’t hold my position. But you know what? I’m okay with that. I desperately want to change careers. Sitting in the faculty meeting last week, I looked around at the dead stares on most of the faces. They looked like prison inmates- all serving out their thirty years.”
“I know,” said Bridget. “I’m one of the inmates. Only eight years to go.”
“I’m only at the halfway point! I have fifteen more years till retirement,” I said. “I don’t want to spend that time constantly doing the math: ten years and twenty-six days till I can retire- if I use sick leave days- only nine years and forty-eight days to go... I love the kids, but I am sick of the government mandates and being treated like a sheep in a herd rather than a responsible professional.”
“I am sick of teaching to the almighty test,” said Bridget.
“Me, too,” I said. “The prospect of another fifteen years of this motivated me to write up my Interest Projects curriculum and try to get it published. I never imagined I’d actually get an offer. It felt so good to finally follow through with something. Since I signed the contract for my resource book last month,” I held my glass high in the air for a toast. “I believe in dreams again.”
We all gave a little “Whoop!”
I continued, “I’ve always fantasized about writing for a living. If we take a family sabbatical, I could use the time off to finish writing and editing the book, and then, hopefully, write more.”
“But you said you wouldn’t see a penny of royalty money for two years. Can you still afford to quit?” Ever practical, Jane always grounded me.
I shrugged. “I could sell my car to help with travel expenses. We’d only need one car anyway, if we were all traveling together. Our two rental houses are leased so we’ll have some income. We’ve always wanted to spend more time at the Fripp Island rental home; it really needs fixing up, so we could stay there when it’s not rented and work on the house in-between trips. The kids can help with the renovations and are the perfect ages for home school and travel- old enough to remember everywhere we go, but young enough to not need to be surgically separated from their friends. Plus, I’ve always wondered what home schooling would be like.”
“School at the beach would be a dream!” said Bridget. “You’ve got a plan; I say go for it.”
“Greg’s mother died when she was only forty-five years old. I turn forty-four next month. The older I get the younger she gets. Emily worked hard all her life, but never lived to enjoy one day of retirement. If this is going to be the last year of my life, I want it to mean something. Even if it’s not my last year- which I sincerely hope- I am running out of time to change my life.”
“Grandma Moses started painting in her eighties,” said Jane.
I smiled. “True. But let’s be real… I’m no Grandma Moses.” I paused to take a breath and another sip. “I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t shake this feeling of: it’s now or never.”
“I would toast to that, but I’m out of drink.” Bridget waggled her empty glass at me. We enjoyed another round or three- honestly, I was so drunk on their approval, I stopped counting. With a green light from my friends, I was ready to unveil the final plan to my husband.
|Greatest Husband Ever!|
I expected a long list of arguments against the possibility of our taking a family sabbatical and it taking months to win him over, but Greg loved the idea. Since our discussion, he had been thinking of chucking it all, too. After hours of talking, Greg summed up our stream of rationalizations with, “We take one year of our retirement now while we are young and healthy enough to enjoy it and spend it traveling with our kids while they are still young enough to want to be with us.” (I ask you, how is that crazier than divorce and drugs?)