This post isn’t necessarily going to be financial in nature. Well, in some respects, I guess you could say it would deal with my financial future because someday I would like to be financially independent. That independence would allow me to cut back on some of my duties at work that make me extra money. I am not saying that I will retire early (although that would be nice) but it will be nice to have greater freedom. I long for that day. The lessons from my sabbatical kind of play into having this extra time that I desire.
Lesson 1: Time Is The Most Precious Commodity We Have
When I was on sabbatical I had all kinds of time. I mean I could do what I wanted. I did structure my time somewhat, but a lot of it was unstructured and I fully admit that I didn’t like it. I have been so used to putting forward a heavily structured schedule that I struggled at first as to what to do with that time. I felt guilty when I wasn’t being productive (e.g. going to the gym). I still feel guilty about it today. When I veg out in front of the TV or don’t work I still feel guilty.
I saw a movie a couple of days ago and one of the characters said that “time is the most precious commodity in the universe.” When I reflected on that statement I realized that I need to start to value the fact that I veg out a bit. It is ok. The key thing, however, is that I create the time to do with what I want to do. I don’t want to be beholden to others. If I choose to spend three hours at the gym or watch a movie or whatever so be it.
Lesson 2: I Get Bored Easily
For whatever reason, I have always been pretty quick with my work. I can write fairly quickly, grade papers, get other work things done. I am not sure why, I just can do it fairly quickly. Maybe quicker than most. And because of that I have a bit more free time. Because I have a lot of structured time at work I don’t have time to really be bored. There is always something for me to do. I typically teach the equivalent of six classes, advising, writing for my next project, letters of recommendation, meetings, mentoring student research, etc. So my day is pretty full and while I complain about it sometimes I enjoy being busy. But during my sabbatical with not as many smaller things to do I found myself getting bored easily.
Perhaps that is why I didn’t finish my larger project. I focused on other things that could be done more quickly and seemed more interesting at the time. I did, I think, accomplish a lot on my sabbatical. I started a new book project, taught a course, wrote, revised and/or submitted three articles and a book chapter. Three of which will be published or were published. The other one was a revise and resubmit, which I haven’t been able to finish yet.
Maybe it is a grass is greener syndrome, but I need to be better at fixating on those longer-term projects, accomplishing them, and allowing that to take care of some my boredom. I need to figure out also how this would translate into me doing projects or work or something when we are financially independent. I just don’t think I would do well by sitting around all day.
Lesson 3: I Need To Be Social
A lot of academics love their sabbaticals because it gives them time to be alone where they can work on a larger project, recharge their batteries, travel, whatever it is. That is true for me as well I enjoyed it, but the most fun that I had was when I was social with others. During my sabbatical I traveled on a couple of occasions to a conference and to larger social gatherings regarding academia. I had a lot of fun in those environments. I realized I need people. I like people. I need to be social. That is when it seems I am at my best whether that is schmoozing, talking with others, having a drink with fellow colleagues and/or friends. I do best when I am in a social environment. That is why I taught a course to get out that isolation of sabbatical. To me it was a bit too isolating and I like to be social. (HInt: If anybody wants to be more social with me…I am in….well, after Mrs. ROB heals a bit more then we can all be social together).
Lesson 4: I Need To Take More Risk
I can be somewhat of a risk taker, but my idea of taking a risk is analyzing something over and over again and then coming to a decision. The object that I would be deciding on is the risky thing. For me, this blog was a risk. I talked about doing this for over a year and a half. I lurked and continue to lurk on personal finance blogs all the time and for whatever reason don’t participate. This was my way of participating in a conversation that a lot of people don’t talk about, but impacts all kinds of peoples lives.
I know that I have it a lot better than others and that I have a long way to go compared to other people. But one of the things that I have not done a good job about is taking a bit more risk in my life. I don’t know that really means. I think it is trying something new or breaking out of my comfort zone. For example, I write about a lot of the same subjects I have for the past 10 years. On the one hand that is great because I have a research agenda. I know what I am good at. I have become somewhat of an expert in that area. But I need to branch out more. Do more interesting and fun things. Figure out how to connect with others and work on other projects that I am unfamiliar with. Certainly, this blog is a bit of a risk because I don’t know, still to this day, what people think of it. If they think I am crazy, etc. But you know what, at some level I don’t care. This is my story. Not anyone else’s. It is my thoughts, feelings, etc. I hopefully don’t offend others. That is not my point. But I need to throw caution to the wind a bit more. Again, not sure what that means, but I do know that it is not a bad thing.
Lesson 5: I Really Like My Career
This maybe isn’t a lesson from my sabbatical, but I have to admit I really did miss teaching, interacting with colleagues, students, and others. Yes, I complain about some aspects of my job. A lot of those complaints I bring upon myself because I am the one that proposes to do the work. I don’t have to, but I do anyway. But the truth is I am person that likes to be needed. Maybe I am care-giver by nature or whatever. But when I would go into my office to get something and I would see people and they would say how much they miss me and can’t wait to come back I had a huge smile on my face. Maybe it is a bit of an ego thing, but it sure does feel nice to be needed and wanted. Again, my job isn’t perfect. There are a lot of things I would like to change. But all in all, I have colleagues who are my friends, good students, I get all kinds of travel opportunities, and I get paid to talk, which is something that I don’t stop doing anyways. I don’t know how long it will last (robots could replace me tomorrow) but I do know that I really like it and I missed it.
That is why I am probably a bit atypical with the early retirement, financially independent community. Lots of the blogs out there have people who can’t wait to retire when they are 30, 40, whatever. I want to be financially independent, which I hope to reach someday (50 is my goal), but I don’t know if I will ever truly “retire.” Which means to me that I quit my job and I do something else. If I could find something where I have more free-time, get to socialize, instruct, talk, etc then maybe I would (politician or consultant would be my ideas). But I really do love what I do. Maybe that will change when/if Mrs. ROB and I have a family (and we do want one). But I don’t think so.
These are the lessons off the top of my head. I enjoyed my sabbatical and if i am still teaching in seven years and get another one I think next time I will take a full year so that we could go somewhere abroad or another institution to teach, but that is a ways off. Until that time I need to learn what I have, appreciate what is front of me, and take some more risks in my life.