By Anndee Hochman
Rodger Broadley took a literal trip down memory lane.
To mark the 25th anniversary of his ordination as an Episcopal priest, Rodger spent a four-month sabbatical re-visiting significant places from his past—his childhood home in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, a remote ski lodge in northern Vermont, the Benedictine monastery in Austria where he’d spent his junior year of college—and taking old friends out to dinner.
“The theme, “he said, “was to see if I’d grown up. I connected with half a dozen friends from high school and college whom I hadn’t seen in years. What a gift! I ended [my sabbatical] at the ocean, in Cape May, New Jersey, praying and sitting and jumping in and out of the water. I felt this sense of completion. It was wonderful to feel that I’ve carried my past with me in a way that has really nurtured me.”
Few people have the time or means to journey through their personal histories in such a tangible way. Rodger, 58, was supported during his sabbatical by a Lilly Endowment grant for clergy. But in midlife, many share that yearning to review, re-evaluate and re-connect.
“In general, every time people hit a birthday that ends in zero, it’s a time of reckoning,” says psychologist Judith S. Beck, president of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research in suburban Philadelphia. “A decade causes them to think about the last ten years and the next ten years. People also have times of reckoning when there’s any major life change. It may be when they become empty nesters or when there’s some kind of health, relationship or work crisis. Those tend to make people start a period of reflection.”
Whether it comes at 50, at 60, at retirement or when the first grandchild is born, that reflection is often laced with questions: What have I accomplished? What do I regret? If I’ve lived more than half my life, what do I want to do with the time that remains? What would I like to change? What must I learn to accept?