I'm Blah, or, Sabbatical is Almost Over

Goodbye, long mornings on the front porch.

Goodbye, long mornings on the front porch.

I’m almost at the end of my 15 month sabbatical, and I have to tell you that I’m not handling it particularly well. I remind myself that I’ve had more time off in one year than many workers do during their entire careers.   I remind myself that I have a job – and one that I’m both trained to do and that I’m good at.  I remind myself I have almost-ironclad job security.  I remind myself that my job (with its 9 month contract) still has more flexibility and autonomy than most jobs.  I remind myself of all the amazing, hard, rewarding and challenging things I’ve done – and thought – during my sabbatical.

Yet still, I whine.

My chiropractor – a wise, wise man – commented that a lot of it has to do with the rhythms of work, that even when you are gone for a few days, it’s hard to get back into the swing of things.  He advised that I be gentle with myself when I return.  Absolutely – and now my challenge is to find ways that don’t involve copious amounts of ice cream and/or alcohol.

His comments got me thinking about the rhythms of work that existed before I left.  Over sabbatical, I started seeing how dysfunctional some of my patterns were.  Here are a few:

  • Saying yes to almost everything, because saying no might lead to closed doors or alienated colleagues and maybe the possibility of not getting tenure
  • Operating as if work had first dibs on all of my evenings, weekends and other free time, thus letting everyone else’s priorities come before my own
  • Berating myself for not accomplishing everything on my to do list, because if I didn’t do everything I wanted & planned & dreamed of doing, it meant I was a failure

Much of my work dysfunction stems from the same place as most of the other dysfunction in my life: Deep down I think I’m not good enough.  So I have to try super hard to please everyone and do everything so that everyone can see that I am, indeed, good enough.

This is an old wound and a persistent one.  It’s one that plagues a lot of people.  And it’s one that can go to hell, although that’s easier said than done.  (Even as I write this I have an irrational fear that people I love will reject me after reading my thoughts, because they’ll think I’m dull, boring, inarticulate, stupid, [insert low self-esteem descriptor here].)

Even though I haven’t fully healed that wound, I do know that the challenge facing me in a few weeks is not only getting back into work rhythms, but getting into new ones.  Sabbatical gave me a new sense of my own authority.  It’s almost as if, at age 37, I am finally becoming an adult – independent, autonomous, one who is a player in her own life and not just a passive recipient.

I have some plans and ideas to put in place when I return to work, ones that I hope will establish a healthier relationship with my workplace.  Basically, live like I – and my plans, dreams, writing, life outside work – matter.  Because they (and I) do.

I’m still going to need a whole bunch of cookies for those first few weeks, though…

6 thoughts on “I'm Blah, or, Sabbatical is Almost Over

  1. After even just a summer, I totally relate. Some very wise words, I am going to post this post above my desk. I need to have a better balance this year!


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