Some words or concepts seem stranger and less clear the more I think about them. Recreation is one of those words. On one level, we all know what it means. It is the thing you do to relax and have fun after work. I do several things for recreation: walk, bike, jog, listen to music, read, do leatherwork, draw, etc. But some of these things take real work to do, especially if you want to do them well. Take leatherwork, for example: working in my shop does a lot to clear my mind and refocus myself. It can also be a lot of work, especially when my “real work” is extra demanding of my time. In that situation, my leatherwork recreation becomes my leatherwork work, and it doesn’t have the same therapeutic value.
Clearly we all need recreation in our lives, but it seems to change depending on the situation, at least it does for me.
Recreation is also to create again. A new beginning with a fresh start. How do we know when we need a new beginning or at least a change? That is tough, especially when you are happy with what you are doing.
I have always loved new things and new challenges. This is one reason why I love travel and also why it is almost always easier for me to design a new thing to make out of leather than repeat something I’ve done dozens or hundreds of times. But there are also times when I love to work on the same thing I’ve made hundreds of times, because it can be more contemplative than when I need to figure out every new step. I suppose that this is a bit like yin and yang: repetition and perfection vs figuring something new out. They both have value, and they both seem important at different times. Maybe recreation is that balance.
I’ve had 19 very happy years at my current “real work”, a professor at the University of Florida. I’ve been doing interesting things, sometimes figuring out something new and sometimes doing something I know well like teaching a particular lecture and refining it slowly over the years. I’ve been fortunate and thankful for the time at UF.
I now have an opportunity for recreation in the sense of a new beginning. I’ve accepted a new job at one of our football arch rival institutions, the University of Georgia in Athens GA. This was unexpected, and I wasn’t looking for a change. However, now that the change is happening, I can feel the excitement once again of new beginnings, of the ability to create again. I’m even starting to think about new projects that I had not considered for many years; my horizons have expanded.
It is especially hard to think about a major move like this when you are happy and content. One bit of advice that I received while I was wondering what to do with a possible offer was that “if you are 80% happy where you are, don’t move”. That is an interesting concept, probably true, but very difficult to measure! What is 80% happiness? Is it the same as 20% unhappiness?
I ended up following my heart and gut feeling. As the situation at UGA became more and more defined, it reinforced my sense that it was the right thing to do, despite the fact that it completely turns our nice stable life into controlled chaos for a while. But chaos and change are kind of fun, especially after 19 years. Everyone needs a shakeup now and then!
What do you think?