“…Life is a gift, which we are called to use to build the common good and make our own days glad.”
These lyrics from the Unitarian Universalist (UU) hymn “For All That Is Our Lives” are etched into my heart and literally tattooed on my skin. They reflect my lifelong mission to make my corner of the world better for my having been here and to create my own happiness. Toward the latter commitment, I will soon begin a 15-week journey across the U.S. to see what there is to see, to meet people, to meet other UUs, to breathe in nature, to be surprised and little scared, and to shake off the non-stop pace I’ve maintained for the past 10 years. You can join me on the journey by subscribing to this blog and following me on Instagram (@uu_circuitrider).
This trip is a possible because I’ll be on sabbatical from my job at the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), for which I serve as the Our Whole Lives (OWL) Program Associate. In that capacity, I manage a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum co-published by the United Church of Christ. I am also an adjunct professor of human sexuality courses for Widener University and a trainer of education and healthcare professionals. I supervise candidates for AASECT certified sexuality educator status, and am a partner in the New Jersey Center for Sexual Wellness, counseling to teens and adults who need sexuality education they cannot access elsewhere. I’m Mom to three young adult daughters, a middle-aged Golden Retriever, and a young cattle dog. You’ll read a lot about Bella, the cattle dog, in future blog posts, since she’s coming with me on my journey.
My sabbatical is a much-needed occasion to put the bulk of my work on pause. I’ll still write, supervise, and counsel via Skype, and I’ll have some speaking gigs on the road. But I won’t be sitting at a computer most of the day; rather, I’ll hike, explore, meet people, relax, and write poems and meditations.
I’m taking a “no plan plan” approach, i.e., I have a general route and a few known destinations, but there’s room for the unexpected. I know I’ll sing at worship and run a healthy relationships workshop in Brevard, NC; I’ll preach in Houston, TX and in Surrey, British Columbia; and I’ll offer free sex and relationship advice at Camp Unite 2019, the first national women’s camp out. I’ll take you with me on a private tour of NASA, to a horse farm in Arkansas, and on a week-long loop around Colorado and New Mexico with one of my daughters. You’ll see off-the-beaten-track parts of Oregon and get a behind-the-scenes look at the UUA General Assembly of Congregations in Spokane, WA (I’m taking a week-long break from sabbatical to work). You can peek in on my experiences in St. Louis, Detroit, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Fairfax, Atlanta, Laramie, Nashville…not in that order, but those are a few of the places I’ll be at some point. You’ll meet people who share their stories with me, including my dad, when I visit him in Washington. Throughout the trip, I’ll share photos, observations, poetry, reflections, and long-haul travel tips.
When I started planning this trip over a year ago, I called it a coddiwomple, which is an old English word meaning, “to travel purposefully toward an as-yet-unknown destination.” The term has deeper meaning as my departure date nears. I know where I’ll begin and end geographically, but I have no idea what how this journey will change me. This coddiwomple is a life reset that I enter into with purpose, intention, and with a little dog as my co-pilot.
Happy trails, Melanie