I knew it had been a while since I’d written, but I didn’t realise just how long – ye gods. Well, here I am, on day three of what I’m calling my sabbatical, but what is really just a year off. Just flicked back to my previous post to see how much I actually wrote about it and I see now I was quite vague about what I was going to do. I guess at the time I didn’t really have the full sense of what it would entail, and even how it would feel.
Taking a year off’s not exactly like a huge holiday, as might be expected. It’s more like a massive social experiment, with your own life as the subject. It’s easy to suppose that certain preconceptions you had about yourself, pre-sabbatical, would hold fast – but as you might suspect, it’s really not the case. And while some things are becoming apparent even now on day three, I have the feeling that only as the days and months pass by will I start to change.
Sorry – that sounds pretty waffly. I’ve just been doing some freewriting and I’m still in that mode, I’m afraid. Well, to get a little more concrete, here are a few of the things I’ve been thinking about over the last three days:
Structure. The first thing, I think the most important thing, is structure. Nothing worse than structure, right? Especially seeing as you have taken the plunge and decided that’s exactly what you want a break from in the first place. Well, I don’t know about everyone, but I really do want to make the most of my time off, and losing track of the days, and even what I did three days ago, isn’t what I had in mind. For a little while I actually thought of making myself a timetable, but it was a little too work-like for me (and I want to keep some sense of fun about the whole thing). So instead of rigorously booking things in I’ve made a point of noting down what I do during the day, in my little week-per-page diary. Nothing big, just stuff like: Jeremy & Megumi’s for dinner. Morning pages. Met Katherine for drinks. Made pasta. Work on short story. Letter to Colette. At a week’s glance I can see what I got up to. It makes me feel like I’m not bumming around so much, even though what I’m doing is enjoyable. But for the record, the things that are non-negotiable in my day are:
- morning pages
- a walk (min. 30 minutes)
- teeth/showering/getting dressed (probably should have listed that first)
- some sort of chores (lately I’ve been trying to keep the dishes load down, which makes me sound like a slob, but really, we’re just two people in a house with no dishwasher. When we were both working sometimes a day or two might slide.)
Pressure. Yeah. I didn’t think I’d suffer from this so much, but even on day three self-pressure is really rearing its ugly head. I went for a big walk yesterday, and felt really tired when I got home. I wound up spending the afternoon on the couch, knitting and watching, er, Buffy reruns. In the evening I had really wound myself up, thinking all the useless thoughts: you slob, you’re wasting your time, I knew it, this year’s going to be all about you watching TV and going insane with boredom, frittering away your big opportunity… etc. etc. etc. I really am going to have to work hard on making sure I don’t beat myself up too much. After all, one of the reasons why I wanted to take the year off was so I could decompress a little, so I could daydream and shake loose. Yeah, ok, so it’s Buffy, but it was only day two, you know? And one day in a sea of a year isn’t much – especially considering I could easily spend a day at work last year just bumming around when I had no work assigned and I was waiting for a project to pop onto my radar. Anyway – be realistic about the pressure you put on yourself. The purpose of the year off is to work on stuff you didn’t have time for when you were working, yes – but also to enjoy yourself and relax.
Anyway, I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this post – it’s hardly meant to be some definitive guide to taking a year off, but I’ve found it interesting anyway. One thing I thought I’d be suffering from was a lack of social stimulus. But it’s been nice emailing people when I actually have time to write a more well-thought-out response, and I even wrote a letter to my sister in the UK this morning. Plus when I do catch up with friends, I think I take it much less for granted, and feel more present in the conversation, which is pretty cool.
Anyway, it’s time for a cuppa and maybe a snack. I’ll tune in again soon!