I’ve never really thought of myself as a routine-based person. Last semester, when I took a strengths assessment along with my students, my trait of self-regulation came in so close to the bottom of the list as to be embarrassing — especially for someone who writes about organization and time management.
In my defense, I get things done. A lot of things, in fact. And while I’ll admit to being a procrastinator, the queen of the snooze button, and skilled at wandering off the beaten path, especially when it involves dropping what I’m doing to do something fun with other people, I like knowing that the path is there.
My most recent path is one I began crafting when I retired. All my life, a routine had been created for me and when I retired (albeit temporarily), all of that structure was gone. I’d left one professional commitment expecting to forge another path, but lacking a definite destination. As nice as those wide open days of early retirement were, I knew I dared not get too used to having no structure to my days lest I become lazy, unproductive, and unprepared to navigate the next path.
Yeah. Be careful what you wish for.
This summer marks six years since the retirement that didn’t take, and this fall will mark five years at my second career as educator/author. Now, deadlines and semester schedules outline the path I need to follow in order to achieve success in these new roles, yet the journey is twisty in some places, narrow in others.
It is in those moments when I come to a smooth, straight stretch with only the horizon in sight that I’m most likely to plunk myself down in the middle of the path with a good book or the television remote, or perhaps seek an exit ramp that leads to new connections. And, while these moments are both lovely and necessary, there’s never a guarantee that a hairpin turn, crossroads or detour isn’t just a few steps down the road, hidden from sight. This vague awareness of reality makes it hard to truly enjoy those moments when I’m sitting still; I’m always afraid there’s something I ought to be doing.
Some weeks, the path is smooth, but somewhat curvy. Earlier this month, we accompanied our college-aged daughter back to school for a summer fellowship, and on that Monday, I started teaching a class. Teaching one summer class, half the size of my usual classes, but with more than twice the volume of material each week, is quite different from teaching three classes in the fall and spring. I keep unexpectedly finding myself on a straightaway, yet I can’t shake the feeling that something unexpected lies just ahead. And, during the day, when the house is quiet and I can forge the path I most desire, a part of me feels a little guilty for enjoying it so much.
These days, in my not-really-retired, somewhat empty nest, the path is still unpredictable, leaving me wondering at times why this is the case. As a result, it’s me — the inveterate procrastinator and queen of the snooze button — who is in charge of imposing order, an order I’m sometimes surprised to discover I crave. As it turns out, I like getting things done almost as much as I like sitting in the middle of a nice, quiet straightaway.
How about you? How much order and routine do you need? Left to your own devices, will you meander along the path, or search out the paved road with mile markers?
Copyright 2018 Lisa Hess