Starting the School Year: Sabbatical Edition

I’ll spare you the apologies for not posting since January — the spring semester, like most spring semesters, was a blur of personal and professional obligations. Since I knew I’d be on sabbatical for the 2022-2023 academic year, I allowed myself to schedule as many things as possible through August. I don’t intend to let my sabbatical stand in the way of graduate student milestones (so I will still be doing some university work) but getting as much wrapped up as I could felt good.

And now I’m at the start of the school year but without most of the commitments and responsibilities I carry through the fall. I thought it would feel great. But instead it feels scary.

Yes, scary!

Before I go on, I want to acknowledge that having a full year sabbatical is an infinite privilege and I truly believe that *everyone* should get paid time away from work to reflect, refresh, nap–whatever they think will bring some balance and peace to their lives. I’ll continue to advocate for that within Purdue for staff and non-TT faculty. This is written so that I can process a part of my academic world and how socialized I am to the world of work.

As a Capricorn sun and moon (if you follow me on Twitter you know that astrology is my jam), I love to work. I get a lot of validation from work, and it’s something I’m pretty good at. But I also need a break. Last year, I chaired several college-level committees that conducted some intensive initiatives, conducted research, had multiple publications, and not to mention also provided ongoing support for graduate students in various stages of their academic careers. Like I said, I love the work but I’m tired.

So imagine my surprise when I realized that I’ve spent the better part of the last few weeks in a low-level panic over being on sabbatical.

It first manifested itself into a fear that I wasn’t prepared for the start of classes. Every time I did something last week I’d internally pause and go, “But classes aren’t ready!” before remembering that there are no classes to get ready for. Now I am trying to create rules for my email, while stressing about missing emails (and furiously checking the Do No Read folder). And I look at the writing I want to do this semester and it’s all “there is no time to get this done!!” I feel very behind on something that hasn’t really even started yet.

Given that I’m usually the person reminding folks that the work will always be there, that almost all emails can wait, etc etc — I am curious (with a dash of mild concern) about my body and brain’s response to sabbatical. Yes, it’s only technically day one. But I think it also indicates how conditioned I am to the fall semester pace. Even as I write this (which is on my to-do list!) there is a sense of urgency around “getting everything done.” I do think that these feelings will temper over time and hopefully be gone at the start of the spring semester, so I am looking forward to that.

I do have lots of goals for sabbatical and one of them is more consistent engagement outside of narrow academic spaces. Expect more discussion here and hopefully I’ll share some new initiatives. Definitely going to make the most of this well-earned gift.


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