Unlike Bill and Kris featured in Parts 1 and 2 of this Transitions series, Brenda chose another way, a “turn-key” sabbatical experience as a way of pausing to discern the next steps in life. Pondering retirement from the US Army, Brenda wasn’t sure how the post-military phase of her life would unfold. A friend recommended that she investigate a sabbatical program that he had attended. Brenda applied and was accepted. After hanging up her uniform, she stored household items, packed the car, and drove cross-country from northern Virginia to northern California. To guide her transition process, she chose the School of Applied Theology (SAT) in Oakland, CA as a way of discerning next steps. The SAT offered “attentive rest, theological renewal, and spiritual transformation” over periods of time ranging from a day to a year. Through study, reflection, contemplation, and spiritual practices, SAT attendees participated in communal and individual discernment for renewal of work, ministries, and life. Brenda reflected on her sabbatical: “For me, it was a fun adventure, and a community building experience, while I let time and the Holy Spirit tell me what I should do next, since I really had no idea at all. I’m grateful it all worked out.” After her year concluded, Brenda was hired as a parish administrator in the Chicago area and continues to thrive in the mid-West. Brenda relayed that the SAT program no longer exists in the way that she experienced it. The SAT ended in June 2018 and merged with the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University, which has a different sabbatical available.
The last person I interviewed, Mario, didn’t actually consider himself on sabbatical, but he also didn’t plan to return to corporate America. In his mind, he left his job as Senior Vice President with Viacom International to dedicate himself to academic pursuits. He enrolled in Harvard University’s Extension School to pursue a Certificate in Religious Studies & Education. After trying to fit classes in while working, he opted to concentrate on completing the requirements. He received the certificate in 2018. Through connections made while taking classes, Mario used his professional background and personal passion to design a religious literacy initiative for media executives under Harvard’s Religious Literacy Project (RLP). He is a Fellow with RLP, which includes research and fundraising responsibilities for the program. This semester, members of the RLP attended the National Association of Television Programming Executives (NATPE) conference, the most important media industry conference in the Americas, to promote religious literacy sensitivity workshops. Mario guest lectures on Corporate Social Responsibility and Entertainment Media in Dr. Diane Moore’s class “Religious Literacy in the Professions: Journalism and Entertainment Media.” In his instructional capacity, he holds office hours and meets one-on-one with students to help them understand the industry.
Mario and his partner have been renovating an apartment in Madrid, Spain. Its completion in October 2018 makes visiting the city more enjoyable, with having a place to make breakfast, do laundry, and call home. While in Madrid, he took part in the ARCO art fair. Mario took part in two talks focused on giving a voice and a platform to contemporary arts of Central America, organized by Y.ES, his private foundation, which supports contemporary artists from El Salvador. Y.ES has one program that is still going strong after 15 years.
After a stop in Miami, Mario will visit El Salvador to see and supervise the final steps on a lake house, finishing the punch list and furnishing the residence. After that who knows? As Mario reflected: “The next step is to plan the next 20 years (hopefully we are alive) and then when we are gone.”
Humans seek a sense of purpose. Theologian Frederick Buechner describes where to find meaning: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” The plan that works for one person won’t suit everyone, which means you need to design your own. Elements to include in your transition blueprint are a picture (visualize what your transition will look like), your purpose (articulate what you’re looking for), and a plan (step-by-step details). As you face a transition, consider how you approach traveling. Some people want to develop the itinerary themselves; others choose to take a tour; and some just wing it.
People plan and God laughs. When you face transition, whether anticipated or thrust upon you, realize it’s impossible to know what the future holds, but ongoing discernment of your life’s legacy shouldn’t be left to happenstance or someone else’s agenda. Be thankful for the realization that you will cope and welcome the possibilities of what comes next. Take time to imagine a fresh vision and develop a road map to guide your way. Life happens, whether we’re ready for the journey or not. Mark Twain mused: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” If you are ready to ponder your “why” or change direction, maybe it’s time for a sabbatical. Who will you be when you grow up? Take the initiative. Don’t leave the answer to chance.
“It’s good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matter in the end.” Ursula LeGuin
Writing prompt: What question consumes me? How does this interest play out in my life? What is ready to be born in my life?
- Bridges, William. Transitions: Making Sense Of Life’s Changes.
- Palmer, Parker. Let your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation
This is part three of a three-part series about third age life transitions.
© Joan S Grey, 21 MAR 19
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