Tomorrow I will attend the first day of a two-day “retreat” at which my colleagues, bosses, and I will discuss the future of my institution’s business department. Which means, as much as I hate to admit it, that my year-long sabbatical is really, truly over.
Let’s get this out of the way: no one deserves a sabbatical, and I am hate-worthy just for being sad. Just as anyone who complains about getting tenure deserves all the hate email she gets, so anyone who dares to bitch about having to show up at the office after more than a year away deserves to be skewered in the worst way. That said…
I am grieving the end of a great year, which was both restful and productive (and partly funded by a grant). I did research and I walked my kid to school. I spent time in libraries and I enjoyed great coffee shops and restaurants. I wrote pages and pages of blog posts, articles, and book chapters and I binge-watched several television series. I attended conferences and I meditated and did yoga. I networked with people in the biz and I hung out with family and friends. I worked diligently, yes, but I also relaxed aggressively.
What I did NOT do was equally wonderful. I did not grade any papers or spend any time bitching about how the public school systems are not preparing kids for college. I did not argue with irritating colleagues or whine about my institution’s administration. I did not prepare for classes or feel put-upon for sitting on yet another committee. Because I moved all the way out of town, I did not even see anyone from work except on Facebook. In short, I did not have to persist in my professional persona. I got a break from being my usual self. I didn’t have any great epiphanies about what to do or who to be when I grow up, but there was at least time and space to wonder about that question and its related mysteries.
I wish everyone could have a “year off” from the usual routines, if only to realize that some other life is possible. Some other self is possible. We are different people in different situations, but there is almost no way to know this without actually getting to step outside ourselves. Maybe it’s just postmodern foolishness to think that life should be about developing a self that both feels authentic and doesn’t make us want to jump off a bridge, but hell, if one has the ridiculously gracious chance to do so, shouldn’t one make the most of it?
Rest in peace, sabbatical. I loved you well.