photographer. artist. author. singer. songwriter. musician. teacher. student. humanitarian. visionary.

A Very Long Sabbatical

I’ve decided that after this semester’s over (in December), I’m going to take 1-2 years off from school. I’ve been pushing myself very hard for 4 years now (since the fall of 2010) with only one summer break. My brain hurts! I’m clawing at the fuzzy realization that it’s only two months away.

I remember the last day I worked at Dialamerica. I was a telemarketer (the woman everybody loved to hate!) and as I got out of the car, pregnant with my son, Brian, I put one foot on the pavement and it was all I could do to heave and ho and drag my other foot out. I hated every second of it. I thought to myself, “This is the last day I’ll come here. No more.” And that was it.

Well that’s how I’m starting to feel about school. I have chronic TMJ gnawing away at my head like a deranged hamster- the pain is gnawing at the pain, and it’s every day. Sleep is the only comfort I have because it’s the only time I’m not in pain. It’s making my schoolwork virtually unbearable. I just don’t feel good. I have the immune system of steel, I really do. I haven’t had the flu (or even a cold) in a year, and before that, it was another year. I seldom get sick, but I pay in pain in every other way.

As long as I’m convicted and driven by principle- I’m in it for the long haul. But this lukewarm romance with college is falling away and I’m scrutinizing the “balance” of it now. I have 3-4 years to go before I get my Master’s. By then, I’ll be 50! I don’t want to wait until I’m a burnt out shell to record my songs and work on my art and photography. (This is not a new song I’m singing. It was the same thing last year, and the year before.)

My mind is tired. The stress and hard work are taking their toll. For anybody who’s never been to college that might think it’s easy to be a full-time student year after year, not so! it’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, continually. I don’t have the best track record in the world either. I have many ambitions and dreams! I’ve followed through on a few of them. But I’m suffering, and I just need a good, long sabbatical. Like- 2 years. I’ll be able to get a “hardship deferral”, so that’s not a problem.

And if I’m honest, part of me doesn’t care if I never return. I’m just So. Burnt. Out. 

Josh is very supportive of this executive decision. It means that I won’t get my Bachelor’s in 2016, but I miss the clouds and my photo-walks and my editing and my guitar playing and my dreaming and I miss the wondering of what the next day brings!

If I have to smell the air of indifference one more day I’m going to break. I’m watching the world spin from under my microscope and I get to be part of it when I go to the store. Yay! It’s not enough. I’m dying inside and I can’t let myself turn into an old, predictable, flaccid curmudgeon! So I’m counting down the days before I’m set free of this academic cocoon.

Today, I was sitting at a red light. I surveyed the scene and it was flat and dull. Cars turned and moved and sat and beeped and it was all very “normal”. I didn’t feel the least bit inspired by anything and felt stale inside. And then I realized why. My “photographic eye” has been asleep for months! When I’m actively taking pictures, daily, then I’m burning with fire inside- I’m alive. My eye is sharp and keen- like a hawk- and it’s quick and I see shots everywhere. I hear stories everywhere. People “speak” just in their gestures and I’m the storyteller, or, my camera is.

Today I was looking at the world through non-photographic eyes and it scared the crap out of me. As I’ve said before, school is choking the artist in me, and I have to do something different for a while. Besides, I want to focus more on my writing. Poetry, memoir, who knows? It’s yet to be explored and that excites me. :0)

But more than anything- I want to take pictures again and wander around with my camera- lost in the moment. That sounds like Heaven…


20 responses

  1. yvo

    School is a grind. no doubt about it. I’m glad I got my masters. but mine is IN art. I was Making ART and studying art. You are truly a brainy chic, maybe even a genius, but if this studying is squashing your creative aliveness, yes take a break and live! You make the rules and modify as you see fit. Love ya!! xx

    October 17, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    • Did you say genius? Ahahaha….you’re far too generous (and amusing!) Y. But- I totally thank you for the kind thoughts. :0) Yes. LIVE. To stare at a blank spot and think about absolutely nothing- ecstasy! Have a great weekend. 😉

      October 17, 2014 at 10:53 pm

  2. brittainj

    Good decision !

    October 17, 2014 at 9:25 pm

  3. very nice processing

    October 17, 2014 at 10:20 pm

  4. I think it is probably the decision you have to make. The ultimate goal is to be happy and you actually have many tools in your toolbox for that, and the right people/family around you. I understand what you wrote about sniffing the “air of indifference” and wanting to keep your soul away from that tepid environment—and also how doing what you love invigorates you and the world around you. Online I am constantly seeing people asking for, and giving, advice on how to get back to writing, how to set one’s self up to write or do art, or whatever. It’s backwards in most cases—you don’t set yourself up to do art by getting things exactly as you need to do art; you do art (writing, photography, painting, whatever) and THAT sets up the rest of the world for you.

    October 17, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    • You’re so right, Jeff. I think the academic persnicketiness is getting to me. It stifles me! I know it’s “academically correct” to keep oneself emotionally muted (to a degree, overall) but it drowns me. The sterile, silent, clinical “coldness” of it all is eating away at my soul. I thrive with next to nothing and make art out of everything, practically- see it, hear it- taste it, always. But school is an art KILLER. Unless, of course, you’re studying art. ha. (Or “the arts”, etc.) There’s no room for creative expression in Neitsche’s, Kant’s, and Marx’s world! I’m not sure I’m loving that world anymore. ;0) As a writer, and fellow artist, you understand me completely, I appreciate that, and thanks for sharing your insight here. x

      October 17, 2014 at 11:43 pm

  5. hey there, had to post on this because so much of our lives seem to run in tandem; I’ve also deferred my course for a year. So I know how hard a decision it is to make, and the conflicting mix of relief and hesitation once you’ve finally decided. I really hope it works out for you and I think it sounds like the best choice x

    October 18, 2014 at 5:32 am

    • Yep. We do have an awful lot in common! I think it’s important to also realize that for us to even be taking school on to begin with is a) monumental b) insane and c.) semi-heroic, given our particular battles in the past.

      I know it’s much the same with you in that it can seem like our mind is its own war sometimes. Even soldiers get a break from the battlefield, eh? So yes- it’s the wisest thing to do at the moment. No need to be a hero!

      I’m glad to know that you’re doing the same. You’ve really been through the ringer lately! But I know that after your last “ordeal” (with a certain person I won’t mention), it can only get better for ya. 😉 Hang in there! And it’s always good to see you. xo

      October 18, 2014 at 6:55 am

  6. you have my complete support and admiration… and a wish that you get relief from the TMJ tout de suite!

    October 18, 2014 at 7:10 am

  7. I can very much relate to this!

    A few years ago, I applied to graduate schools for speech pathology, and I didn’t get in because the math on my GRE was SO atrocious. I took post-bac classes in speech and tried again the next year, but still didn’t get in. I really felt miserable all around. I knew it would be possible for me to get in somewhere, somehow, if I REALLY wanted it. Then I saw this quote “Life is about the journey, not the destination” and realized I didn’t want it anymore. At that point, I hated the journey. HATED it! I was so burned out and was pursuing speech because speech because I thought it would be a stable career that would allow me to help people, but I didn’t have an undying passion for it, (which I know isn’t the case for you) and I was starting to feel like I was missing out on the things I did have a passion for.

    You are brilliant in so many ways! I think taking time to live and let yourself be brilliant in your own ways for a while is awesome. I am behind you 100% with whatever you do!

    October 19, 2014 at 8:48 am

    • I think you totally stumbled upon (and then completely unearthed) the path to joy rather than being merely satisfied, Amy. And first, let me say that it completely SUCKS that you were denied a well-deserved place in grad school. You’re such a talent. But you raise a good point! It was destiny. You may have been the most miserable thing ever had you been accepted. Sure, it’d be a great job and you’d have the security of that, but then…would you really be happy in the end? You’re not the average Joe (or Jane)! You’ve got some extra tools in your bag. I think those of us who do are required to use them. Anyway, I’m taking your cue…heheh. I’m going to dig deep and try to finish out the semester. I think I owe it to my future self to leave that option open, but I need the solace and solitude of spending an afternoon with a tree- and marveling at its existence for hundreds of years in its silence. The wisdom of a freaking TREE. I’ve heard enough from Neitsche!

      I love you to death. :0) I appreciate your visit too. When I see your avatar- I immediately smile and it always makes me happy. You’re actually funny even when you try not to be! (That’s the effect you have on me, anyway.) Hope your day is a good one! xo

      October 19, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      • Thank you for always being so encouraging to me! I think you are right. There IS something to be said for spending an afternoon with a tree! Neitsche had a very wise mustache 😀

        October 19, 2014 at 7:36 pm

      • Haha…that probably saw a good bit of cocaine in his time I bet. 😉

        October 19, 2014 at 8:27 pm

  8. Hey girl! I don’t think there is ANYTHING wrong with you taking some time off to regroup and basically, just breathe. I know you have been working your ass off for a very long time. Sometimes, I feel we work so hard that we lose our direction or in some cases go in the wrong one because we are completely focused on one end destination. Art is a very important and beautiful part of you. If you feel that is slipping away, then that is a huge red flag to take a step back or slow down. When I go for a while without doing photography, I literally can feel myself suffocating. On my darkest days, I’ve taken out that camera and gone out in search of any subject that gives me hope. You have inspired me to see the world in a different way and not to mention guided me on which camera to buy. I owe a tremendous amount to you and your amazing vision. Do whatever you need to do to restore that, because it’s very rare. At the end of the day, anyone can go to college. Not everyone has the natural gift of finding beauty in darkness. In my opinion, that is worth more than any degree. 🙂

    October 20, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    • I couldn’t agree more with what you’re saying about art, Jen! And you know, I shouldn’t get the credit for you realizing your talent in photography and art: I merely fostered what I saw already there in you. You just needed the tool (a good camera!) and the realization that the talent was already in you. 🙂 But also, you were already a photographer! And I’ve enjoyed joining your (re)discovery of your art and passion and that’s contagious, because it flowed back over into MY yard and inspired me too. Thanks for that. ;0) You’ve got a fantastic eye for great shots too! I can’t wait until the semester’s over and I can go down to the river (in my pj’s) and fart around with a cup of coffee, foggy breath, the sunrise, and feel ALIVE again. 2 more months. 😉

      October 20, 2014 at 9:38 pm

  9. It seems to me you already have a Masters Degree in Hard Knocks. That’s something that those who followed a strictly academic background have trouble understanding. Listen to your body…it’s telling you something. And yes, you are a very talented photographer!

    October 30, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    • Yep. And my body’s telling me that it’s time to take a break! :0) Thanks for your feedback and unwavering support! x

      October 30, 2014 at 8:40 pm


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