Wednesday, June 1, 2016

On Sabbaticals

Sabbatical is one of the nicest perks of academic life as a tenured professor.  In April, there were a lot of electrons released about "meternity leave", that is maternity leave without the baby. Anyone who has ever had children realizes that what Meghann Foye (author of the novel about a woman who fakes a pregnancy to get a maternity leave) really wants is a really long vacation, which is truly an opportunity to rest, rejuvenate, and have time to think (unlike maternity leave, which is anything but restful, though both involve taking a long break from work). It was kind of annoying, though, how my family (all non-academics) assumed that I would be on vacation for a year. Kind of like how people who actually needed parental leave got annoyed at the premise of Meghann Foye's novel.

A sabbatical is not a really long vacation, though it can be as beneficial as one. During my sabbatical, I was more engaged in some aspects of my job then ever, while taking an extended break from others. Unlike on vacation, I still had responsibilities to my students, my department, and my University (when I go on vacation, I do not work other than checking email). I still had deadlines and paperwork and bureaucracy and professional travel and loads of other things to do. The main benefit of my sabbatical was in taking me out of my normal life and normal routine, enabling me to think about my research and my career in a different way than I ever would or could without it.

After I turned in my tenure dossier, I then had to play catch up on all the work I had pushed aside, while waiting an entire academic year before finding out the final results of my tenure decision. None of that was particularly helpful in recovering from the massive stress and overwork in my push for tenure (described in a previous post).  My sabbatical following all of that both helped me recover and reignited my interest in my research and teaching. The opportunity to step out of my regular life and go someplace else for a short time broke up all of my normal rituals and gave me the shock of an abrupt change that enhanced and restored my creativity.

I am really grateful for the opportunity to take a sabbatical, since the grueling schedule I fell into in the chase for tenure was unsustainable and unhealthy. A change in location let me reset things in my daily routine to something more reasonable. But I still did lots and lots of work while I was gone!

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