As I say goodbye and good riddance to 2021, so, too, do I formally bid adieu to the sabbatical I had begrudgingly allowed myself to take for some indefinite period of time. When I first decided to indulge in this luxury, I naturally wanted to make good — nay, the best! — use of my time. A sabbatical, after all, isn’t a time gourd oneself on daytime Netflix shows and pretzels. To the contrary. Earlier in my career, I recall hearing legend and lore about others who had taken sabbaticals to accomplish such aspirational feats like writing the great American novel, trekking through Kodiak, or decoding mutated DNA strands, all while making it home in time for dinner and Parcheesi with the family.
And I harbored similar illusions for my own sabbatical: get calm, get strong, get right with god over a period of weeks and return to professional life ready for another tour of duty.
The time off felt awkward at first, like walking barefoot through a patch of mud: irresponsible and messy yet more than a little soothing. I don’t recall exactly what I did that first “official” day off, but it likely did involved lots of Netflix and pretzels because that’s what the first several days involve, waistline be damned! After all, we’re talking somewhere near the COVID-19 nadir. But I did eventually manage to incorporate more traditionally productive endeavors: discarding expired post-it notes from my desk (“administrative tasks”), trotting around the neighborhood while texting my wife, “what shall we have for dinner?” (“Fitness & nutrition”), and alphabetizing each genre of my vinyl collection (“mental health & spirituality”).
I’d like to believe that the time off left me feeling recharged and reinvigorated, ready to tackle the next professional challenge, whatever that might be. I wish I could report that this sabbatical renewed my respect for the grind and the toil and the highs and lows of professional life. And I really wish I could report that my sabbatical felt sufficient, at least for another decade or three. I wish I could claim all of this cause it would help me feel like less of a schlub.
As my local barfly-philosopher often reminds me, “hope springs eternal!”
The reality is none of this feels true. My desk and office still look like a huge middle finger to Marie Kondo. I’m no more fit today than when I began. I’ve no Great American Novel or one-person play or confectionary TikTok video, even, to show. And my vinyl collection remains a studied example of chaos theory.
Truth is, the bit of solitude and quiet I enjoyed have left me longing for even more of it because it has helped me remember a few important things:
- My passions and interests are far broader than my professional life to-date has reflected.
- I’ll likely never feel like there are enough hours in a day.
- Slowing down feels. So. Damn. Good.
I am, of course, happy for this much clarity because, despite the countless Netflix shows and pretzels consumed, I think renewed clarity is productive.
It took me several — like, at least five — attempts at sitting to write this all out before it crystallized into anything remotely cogent. It probably didn’t help matters that, soon as I punctuated a poorly written sentence, my immediate inclination was to grab a de-tuned guitar, or review the dated post-its on my monitor, or play another stack of disorganized vinyl.
Or grab the remote and pretzels…
This sabbatical business ain’t so bad after all.