Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Third Times a Charm

This is not my first rodeo . . . I mean . . . leave of absence.

I took my first leave during the 2001-2002 school year, after five years of working at my school district.    Before teaching, I hadn't worked at any job longer than a year.  My usual plan was to work as an office temp, save up my money and then go traveling.  That worked well until I met my husband, a fan of stability, and it worked out that I was ready to settle down a bit. However, after five years of teaching, I was ready for a break.  No plan, no goals, just free time.

I don't remember much about that year though.  I know that we were deep in canoe wilderness on September 11.  We didn't hear about the terrorist attack until Thursday from a passing fisherman and even then we weren't sure if what he said was true or whether he was crazy.  50/50 we thought at the time.  We did notice a distinct lack of planes in the night sky though.

The following week, my father fell, so on September 18th I was on my way to Los Angeles to help.  That's what I mostly remember about my first leave of absence, going to LA a lot to be with my Dad.  I'm sure I did lots of stuff, I went to Paris for a week with my family and I know that I acted as a substitute teacher for my district, but at the end of the leave it felt like it had flown by and it wasn't clear what I had accomplished.

My next leave came after another five years of teaching (a pattern?) during the 2007-2008 school year.  And because of the lessons of that first year, I realized that I needed to have more of a plan to counteract that feeling of loss at the end of the leave.  I wanted to be able to look back and be sure about what I had done.  So I wrote a whole page of goals, but decided to choose three important ones.  That way, at the end of the year, if I had done nothing else, I could look back and make sure that I had accomplished three important things.

Ironically, I can only remember two of the three goals I chose:

1.  Write a novel during November for nanowrimo.
2.  Live somewhere else for a month.

And I did those things.  I wrote my first novel in November 2007, a piece of realistic fiction that I haven't let anyone yet read. And then that winter, we went and spent a month living in a very small town in northeast Iowa on a backwater of the Mississippi.  It was a cabin as nice as our house and we often saw bald eagles in the trees at the river's edge.

I did other things.  I worked again as a substitute teacher and went to Spain for eleven days.  But at the end of the year, no matter what I had done, I knew I had accomplished some of my goals.

And now after five more years of teaching, I am again on a leave of absence. The current leave is always the best leave!

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