The Gift of Time

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I took some time off recently. I called it a “sabbatical” because that sounds better, but it amounts to the same thing. It was a highlight of my life. I will be forever grateful to Shawn and my teammates at AQUA for giving me this opportunity to do some things I’d wanted to do, but couldn’t find the time.

That’s what you receive when you take a sabbatical: The gift of time.

When you tell people you’ve been given the gift of time, their faces change. Some have been secretly hungering for that deeply, perhaps for years, and their eyes gleam. Others are completely terrified by the thought of stepping off the hamster wheel, even for a moment. Mostly, people are curious about what you did with it, and why. They immediately consider what they’d do with seven months. You can see it — the wheels turning.

“Write a book?,” they say. “Build an extension on the house? Binge Netflix?”

I wasn’t completely sure when I began, but in the end, I spent most of it walking. I walked through the national parks of the American West, I finished a 500-mile trek across northern Spain and I must have ambled past every log and leaf in south-central Wisconsin — 1,000 miles, easy, on foot.

RELATED: Gone Fishing — The Value of Taking Time Away from Work

I can’t say I absolutely had to do this. I had a really good job that I honestly cared about, and I work with unusually decent people for whom I feel genuine affection every day. (To love people actively instead of in an abstract sense is a rare thing, at least in my experience.) So I could have kept going. You can always keep going. That’s one thing you learn on a long hike. No matter how tired you are, you can always keep going.

But at the same time, I felt that my life, as a whole, had become too much. Too much of everything. Too much for its own good.

So I made it really simple for a while. Get up and walk. No news, no entertainment, no traffic, no fighting it out with the cable company. It was seven months of much, much less.

I just started back this week. Came back feeling really refreshed and ready for this year at AQUA.

This walk — the gift given me by my friends at AQUA — gave me a chance to get my feet under me again. Sorta like shifting your grip to a better place on the load you’re carrying.

If you can swing it (and I don’t pretend it’s easy), I highly recommend it. Deep in my heart, I dream of a world where people feel more free to take time when they feel they need it.

There were many beautiful thoughts expressed to me over these months, but my favorite I saw printed out in one of our national parks out West:

“The joy of living belongs to those with the heart to demand it.” — Teddy Roosevelt


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