Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Long and Winding Road

I suspect that my ideal path looks something like this.
I have a destination, but might not take the direct route --
or the beaten path.
(Photo: jplenio via Pixabay)
I've never really thought of myself as a routine-based person. Last semester, when I took a strengths assessment along with my students, my trait of self-regulation came in so close to the bottom of the list as to be embarrassing.

In my defense, I get things done. A lot of things in fact. And while I'll admit to being a procrastinator, the queen of the snooze button, and skilled at wandering off the beaten path, especially when it involves dropping what I'm doing to do something fun with other people, I like knowing that the path is there. 

My most recent path is one I began crafting when I retired. All my life, a routine had been created for me -- school schedules, later meshed with a work schedule when I was in college and graduate school and then, finally, as an adult, continuing to follow the rhythm of the school year in what became my work schedule. 

When I retired, albeit temporarily, all of that structure was gone. I'd left one professional commitment expecting to forge another path, but lacking a definite destination. Still, wandering aimlessly was not an option. I dared not get too used to having no structure to my days lest I become lazy, unproductive and unprepared to navigate the next path.

Yeah. Be careful what you wish for.

This summer marks six years since the retirement that didn't take and, this fall will mark five years at my second career as educator/author. Now, deadlines and semester schedules outline the path I need to follow in order to achieve success in these new roles, yet the journey is twisty in some places, narrow in others. 

It is in those moments when I come to a smooth, straight stretch with only the horizon in sight that I'm most likely to plunk myself down in the middle of the path with a good book or the television remote, or perhaps seek an exit ramp that leads to new connections. And, while these moments are both lovely and necessary, there's never a guarantee that a hairpin turn, crossroads or detour isn't just a few steps down the road, hidden from sight. This vague awareness of reality makes it hard to truly enjoy those moments when I am sitting still; I'm always afraid there's something I ought to be doing.

This week, the path is smooth, but somewhat curvy. Last weekend, we accompanied our college-aged daughter back to school for a summer fellowship, and on Monday, I started teaching a class. Teaching one summer class, half the size of my usual classes, but with more than twice the volume of material each week, is quite different from teaching three classes in the fall and spring. I keep unexpectedly finding myself on a straightaway, yet I can't shake the feeling that something unexpected lies just ahead. And, during the day, when the house is quiet and I can forge the path I most desire, a part of me feels a little guilty for enjoying it so much.

These days, in my not-really-retired, somewhat empty nest, the path is still unpredictable, leaving me wondering at times why this is the case. As a result, it's me -- the inveterate procrastinator and queen of the snooze button -- who is in charge of imposing order, an order I'm sometimes surprised to discover I crave. As it turns out, I like getting things done almost as much as I like sitting in the middle of a nice, quiet straightaway.

How about you? How much order and routine do you need? Left to your own devices, will you meander along the path, or search out the paved road with mile markers?

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