My husband Nico is a professor at Hunter College, a part of the public university system in New York City, which means we’re rich by most standards in the world except for the one where we live. In our hometown of Brooklyn, his job and mine as a writer make us rich in time and freedom, except that it often doesn’t feel that way.
I say to our two kids, Esme, who is eight, and Roman, who is 5, “Hurry up. We’re late!” at least twice a day. We are always rushing from one place to another: school, work, after school activities, dinner, playdates, PTA meetings, Block Association meetings, community meetings, dinners with friends, the occasional evening out to a movie or friend’s reading or a performance. It’s a good life for which we are very grateful and it gives us a lot of joy, but we often feel too busy to really appreciate it and each other.
I worked with a life coach for an article who suggested that if I could better manage my time, I could fit in everything I wanted to do. I even joined an online group where people would post their schedules for the next day and then follow with how well they did in sticking to it. A typical schedule might start:
- 5:30 am wake up
- 5:35 drink water and take vitamins
- 5:40: meditate
- 6:00 yoga
- 6:30 wake up and bond with kids
And so on… I tried to make my schedule a few times, but I wasn’t even disciplined enough to put aside time to make my schedule, which meant I was pretty hopeless in following it. My typical day looks more like:
- 7:00 Hit the snooze on my phone
- 7:15 Read email and facebook posts in bed
- 7:30 Make coffee, harangue the kids to get up
- 7:45 Make lunches, harangue the kids to eat breakfast
- 8:00 Eat breakfast standing up, harangue the kids and husband to get dressed
Ad so on. So if I couldn’t manage my time better, I had to give something–or everything–up.
Every seven years, my husband gets a sabbatical year. Derived from the sabbath, meaning a day of rest, the year gives professors the time for research and writing and working toward the publications necessary for tenure. Since Nico has a new book coming out and is the early stages of researching his next one on globalization and human rights, we decided to give up our lives in Brooklyn and spend the year abroad where he could some of his research in person. After much back and forth, we settled on traveling through Africa and Asia where we will homeschool the kids (with the blessing of their teachers at their progressive public school in Brooklyn, NY who view this trip as the mother of all field trips).
For my part, I am looking for a chance to shift my perspective on my own work–to write without any particular ambition for my writing, other than to satisfy my own need to articulate something. Our aim for this year is to broaden our kids’ perspectives (and our own) beyond our life of relative privilege in Brooklyn, to spend time together as a family away from our phones and Ipads, our meetings and writing deadlines, from our routines and ruts, and pretty far out of our comfort zones. We want to learn about how other people live, have adventures, make new friends, get to know each other in a different way, and grow as individuals and as a family.
Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher, observed that “thought is an idea in transit.” I think change is experience in transit. Whatever happens, we won’t be the same people at the end of this trip.