“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.” –JRR Tolkein, The Lord of the Rings
I have always been a fan of this quote, so much so that I used to have it taped up on my wall. (I’d tape it up in my current office but I don’t have any room on account of all the Bruce Springsteen pictures.) I liked the quote so much that I used to take pictures of roads whenever we were on vacation. The quote was especially motivating during my early twenties, when I flailed a bit, trying to figure out what the heck I actually wanted to do with my life.
Then I figured it out and I had a career and kids and sailed along (more or less) until my…um….late, late twenties. (Fine, also known as mid 30s. Whatever.)
Then I took a year off work (because they let me) and I started thinking about that road again. Was I still on it? Where did it lead? Did I miss the turn off? How many terrible road/life metaphors could I exploit? (A lot, it turns out.)
Part of adulthood, for me at least, has been acknowledging the fact that I will never do everything that I dream of doing. Part of sabbatical has been exploring the limits of my current situation and dreaming about new options. Listening to the voices that tug at me when I hear about friends taking new jobs or striking out across the country, the voices that say, “You should think about something new, too.”
It is a dangerous business, especially since any actions I take related to my dreams need to be grounded in a reality that includes others who depend on me. I’m out of practice, in some ways, as the past 8 years have been spent building a career and not dreaming.
So it’s been another reward of sabbatical – the chance to step back, assess, and plan a bit. (It’s also nice to have a whole bunch of security to fall back on, no matter what I do next – I don’t take that lightly.) It’s been wonderful – and sometimes terrible – this past year to be reminded that I still get to dream and perhaps take a different step or two, even after becoming fairly settled career and family-wise.
How does this relate to writing? Well, writing is the next step in the road. Or it’s the road itself. Or it’s the crossroads or … (I think I used up my terrible road/life metaphors.) I have been writing for years. Now I finally have the chance to make it the center of whatever comes next. And that’s pretty cool.