I’m back in the US from living Europe for 4 ½ months and I am energized and exhausted at the same time. The past week has been a jet-lagged frenzy of unpacking, catching up with family and friends, and personal reflection.
In sum, I feel really good. I am grateful for the opportunity to travel and for the people who have been generous with their time and views, and for everyone who made this trip possible. Which is also why this blog suffered a bit – I was nearly constantly going somewhere and meeting someone! Nothing to complain about there.
I did the majority of this trip solo, and it might sound strange but the confidence that you get from traveling alone is a lesson in confidence and leadership. You are responsible for all your decisions and you will feel the consequences of them too, but as inaction is not an option it forces you to take those leaps, no matter how large and small. Things that seemed essential to your life when you are at home in your comfort zone become non-existent or less important. You learn to adapt and absorb because you have to. You learn to pause, but not cease.
The value of pause was among the best understandings I gained from this experience. People underestimate pause, taking it for hesitation or uncertainty. While that might be true in some circumstances, a pause can be used skillfully as a part of a process.
Music, for example, embraces the pause. It can control the actions of various actors in a performance in order to guide the tempo, create a certain mood for the audience, and serve as an instructional tool.
- Fermata: extends a note or instructs a pause until signaled by the conductor.
- General Pause or Long Pause: used for longer durations at the discretion of the performer or composer that “interrupt the normal tempo of a composition.”
- Caesura or Grand Pause: “often a sudden stop in the performance with an equally sudden resumption of sound.” Metrical time is not counted.
- Breath Mark: directs a vocalist or instrumentalist to take a breath, but not intended to interrupt the tempo.
Pausing to develop an idea. Pausing to choose the right words. Pausing to realize you chose the wrong words. Pausing to listen. Pausing to observe and consider. Pausing to enjoy. Pausing for weakness. Pausing for strength. Pausing to communicate. Pausing to let others be heard. Pausing your expectations. Pause to allow the world to infringe upon your space.
Pausing doesn’t mean you stop doing something – it is a temporary (and focused) halt before moving again. The results of that pause may result in continuance, a change in direction, or a return.
My time as a Fulbright-Schumaner was in itself a pause from my norm. I was placed in foreign worlds that enabled me to focus on interesting people and places that contributed and strengthened my understanding of my research. There is so much I have to follow-up on professionally, and I will get to all of it, with appropriate pauses in all their glorious forms.
But personally speaking the pause has been an enriching lesson that there are periods of time that are necessary to stand still. There is a time and place for everything as a popular saying goes, and the pause is no exception. Too often we forget that recognizing opportunity usually takes the form of a Eureka moment where you disengage yourself from the norm, for just a moment, to see it.
So let us pause, for tomorrow we begin anew.