So I’ve got this sabbatical year coming up. (Before going any further, yes, I know how privileged I am to even have the possibility to consider this). My job is guaranteed when I come back (hopefully in the school I was in before, because I would hate to go somewhere else, but there are many factors that make me think that it’s entirely possible to go back to the same school.)
This makes me think of a “sabbatical” that I took when I was around twenty-five. The economy was going well, I was working crappy jobs and those (like today) were easy to come by. I quit and came back and found new crappy jobs.
I’d put away money for a new apartment and security deposit upon returning, but my father had insisted that I phone him every couple of weeks or so during my voyage. This was before cell phones and I had to go to international calling places in Indonesia and Malaysia, and they cost easily a hundred bucks per phone call. My savings were eaten up by that, and I wound up having to borrow money from my dad when I got back. It was kind of his fault, so I felt less guilty about it.
The trip was amazing, but the most important take away was how stuck I’d felt before and how unstuck I felt afterwards. So many people I grew up with went from one emergency to another, one bad job to another, one trapped relationship to another. Very few people traveled anywhere for any length of time. Very few people ever really had time, and what time they had they filled up with television and video games and watching sports. Very few people were active in their spare time. A lot of people (especially those of us with crappy jobs) had two crappy jobs (which took up any spare time) or lived far away from where they worked (and commuting took up the spare time).
My solution to save money had been to live in a crappy neighborhood where the rents were cheap and it was best to keep your head down. I always called the police when I heard gunfire (just in case there was someone bleeding outside my doorstep) but I would just stay down below the windows, turn off the lights and wait it out. I was not courageous or wealthy, but I had time. (The police weren’t particularly courageous, either. They would come by, but a couple of hours later and call an ambulance if needed.)
I remember also that the first month of my first sabbatical was taking up with sleeping. I needed about two or three weeks just to not feel tired all the time. I remember being able to compare how my brain felt before and how it felt when I slept as long as I needed to. I became a happier, calmer person.
In the end, I ran out of money and went back to the States. Even then I had time. I went to visit my uncle. I visited a friend who lived far away. I took a drive-away vehicle to get (mostly) back to the Midwest.
Then I bought cheap, dressy looking cloths from a thrift shop and signed myself up for a temp agency. Within a few days I was back commuting and exploring the next thing I wanted to do with my life. But the time I’d been away had unstuck me forever. I moved to a new city. Then I moved to a different country. I changed profession.
I now feel this privilege of time stretching out before me. I have the day off today (it’s a holiday where I live) and I have this foretaste of having time once again, of un-sticking myself from the ruts.