My Sabbatical: A personal update I

I’m on a long sabbatical. From academic subjects, from school activities, from stress, and so on. At least, in part. My school gives all the Y4s (the final year in some if not most secondary schools here) a semester-long break from intense studying and a hectic schedule by squeezing our 2-years’ worth of content from Y3-Y4 into 1.5 years, and pushing our final exams earlier back to July. That’s over and in the past, regardless the result, leaving us to concentrate on three things they highlighted: Choice, Identity and Relationships. Sounds exciting, no? They let us choose international courses (exchange programmes), work attachments, and local courses (beatboxing and other cool stuff), and I already went for my work attachment leaving plenty of time to plan my own activities. Truly it is a blessing to have this opportunity. I’ve used the time in a number of ways including improving my baking, improving my fitness (nature reserve hikes, exercise park trips, etc.) and other pursuits (some of which have failed). The fitness venture is ongoing as I have more or less successfully raised my maximum pull-up count from 4 (a ‘D’ grade for my age) to 7 (an ‘A’ grade). Will continue to improve.

A plateful of mint-lavender shortbread (cookies?).

A plateful of mint-lavender shortbread (cookies?).

So what else am I planning? It’s already past the mid-way line of the 11-week sabbatical, and so far I’ve been rather accomplished, let alone the few goals I haven’t really gotten to doing, like learning Greek (it’s still Greek to me) and (consistently) writing a little fiction I’ve been on forever.

Choices… ever so vast, robust, and uncategorizable. There are indeed places where ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ do not suffice; the amoral, opinion-based, or preference-based kinds of choices. Decisions that some people take on their own, others search for the wisdom and counsel of men and/or God. Personally, I do not regret the choices I have made because they are sometimes ¬†necessary, sometimes reasonable, sometimes a leap of faith. My choice to partially isolate myself from the social tangle, to take a step back and perform self-critique, was necessary. My choice to spend myself in the pursuit of higher knowledge and things the world would disregard and call foolish was reasonable, and perhaps utterly important to me. My choice to be open to the possibility of joining an arduous trip to two remote villages in another part of this world (hence the fitness training intesified with hikes and such) was a leap of faith.

Identity. I find many word bloggers are largely of some particular kind. Not to generalise (inductively) but to conclude (deductively), that it is indeed like this. That people are driven to reflect and look inward often can be scrutinised from the poems, the posts about their passions and interests and hatreds, their observations, and so on. Their worldview, character, values are apparent all at once, or maybe slowly. I have come to know what kind of a person I am, given the reduced boundaries on my life now – with the time to focus on different things, what have I chosen to focus on? Choice reflects identity, identity impacts choice. Some choices change identity, especially a repeated deviation from what one usually chooses. These two are so close. I hate going in-depth about my own identity, where many of us can get slightly squirmy. But I for one am learning more about me. And that is important. To learn anything best you ought to learn about yourself first. Temet nosces.

Relationships. The final highlight of the sabbatical. Close to my heart too. What do we have to say about this? It permeates culture and bone. The world revolves around relationships, and the whole world is involved in relationships. Some relationships involve the world. But the prominent ones in our lives are less large-scale. Oh, how shattering, how beautiful! How broken, how pristine, how fragile, how delicate! To reflect is to be aware the next time I delve into this world of interact-connect. To avoid devastation, is a hardly-walked and narrow path. To soar is to have realised how, in the very first place, one should relate to relationships. The meta-relationships, indeed. And personally, I have faith that another more important relationship of all relationships, once mended, is the ultimate catalyst for the healing, building, strengthening of the rest. It is the relationship marked by love and sacrifice. One I will have to learn from.

Relationships change our identities much more powerfully than do choices. Our relationships and our choices are stronger as mutual forces, an unstable equilibrium, constantly morphing and tugging at each other. The triangle as a whole is a grand level of action, energy, unpredictability, like a triple-carbon 60-degree angle. We all learn control in different ways, but as for me, I learnt to take my hands off it. I submit and acknowledge, “I don’t know anything about how to do things right. Help me, Lord.”

I dread the returning to studying more intensively for just one exam everyone’s gotta sit for. National, in fact. But meanwhile, let’s just (in turn) sit back, dive deeper, look back, take another path, search for treasure, look forward. A time and season for everything. This season will soon pass for me but I trust a plan for greater things lie ahead.

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