Two weeks ago, I quit my job. I’d made my decision to leave and let my boss know about it a few months back, but May 28 was my last official day. Right now, I have no definite professional obligations. I’m officially unemployed with no firm date for future employment.
What have I done?
It seems to me that a decision like this comes out of a combination of personal values, desires, and specific circumstances. I’ve come to jokingly call this new venture my “sabbatical,” which really isn’t an accurate portrayal. When folks ask me what I’m doing, the most efficient response I’ve found is that I’m taking time to work on my bucket list, which I suppose is a better descriptor. And there’s a lot of truth in that. On December 31, 2011, I turned 30. It occurred to me then, with more clarity and force than any other time in my life, that I have goals and desires for myself that don’t fit neatly into the spheres of career and family that our society tends to honor. Even more clear was the fact that if I didn’t commit to pursuing these aspirations, they might simply never happen.
Turning 30 wasn’t the only catalyst for my “sabbatical.” I’d be lying if I said that this transition has come easily to me. In my adult life, I’ve taken a lot of pride from being a “professional climber.” By this I don’t mean a pro, someone who gets paid to rock climb, but a serious climber who also has a profession. Mine has been teaching, and I’ve pursued it as a career in some dimension or another for eight years now. I’m quite aware – and have taken advantage of – the fact that an academic calendar is quite conducive for climbing trips, so alongside my professional life as a teacher, I’ve had the privilege of a climbing career that has offered countless wonderful and highly satisfying experiences. I’ll be the first to admit that much of the satisfaction that has come from my climbing accomplishments has stemmed from the fact that I’ve not traded participation in “normal life” to climb. Nevertheless, I’ve had to make choices and compromise some of my aspirations in climbing because it was the “responsible” thing to do. Well, not anymore, at least for a while.
I should add here that I by no means consider myself unique, either for trying to balance vocation and avocation or for deciding to pursue my avocation with a higher level of commitment. Indeed, those people who seem to have found that balance and still excel are those for whom I have the most respect. Sure, I’m inspired by those athletes who have committed themselves absolutely to climbing. They push the limits of possibility, and that can only happen through a myopic drive. This is as true for climbing as it is for any pursuit. Still, achievement and success, in climbing or any other pursuit in life, seem to me to offer a greater depth when they occur in the context of a life rich in other personal and social elements. I’m not discounting anyone’s specific accomplishments here; it’s just what works for me.
All of this makes my own choice to indulge a bit in the myopia of climbing all the more complicated and fraught with hesitance, but I guess it’s also good to try new things. So here I go, beginning work on the bucket list. I’ll let you know how it goes.