I havent worked for about 14 months. No, I'm not unemployed. I have taken a sabbatical from my job. The word sabbatical comes from the Latin word sabbaticus or from the Greek word sabbatikos. It may even have its origins in the Sabbath as a day of rest. I'm not really sure which, but I dont think it is important enough to be of concern or pursued any further. Perhaps if I were not taking my "day of rest" I would seek the truth about how "a day of rest" became a year of rest, but that would be contradictory to it's purpose -- to rest.
Of course one doesnt really rest on a sabbatical. When you take a sabbatical you do something different from what you normally do. The fact that you have a choice in what you do rather than being told what to do is a critical difference between work and rest. Anyone who has taken a week or two vacation and gone to Europe, Disney World, Yellow Stone National Park or some other "vacation spot" can attest to the fact that when they came home they were hardly rested. Many people come home early from vacations so that they can rest before going back to work.
Being in the 14th month of a 15-month sabbatical, I am starting to feel like a condemned man with one month left to live. It has confirmed an old observation of mine that the longer I am away from something I have to do, the less I want to go back to doing it. This is probably the real reason why most company policies prohibit employees from taking more than two weeks vacation at any one time. The idea that any one employee is too valuable to be gone longer than that is a sham.
Some folks have suggested that I have been away from "reality" for too long, and that going back to work will be a big "reality check" for me. Reality is "...the quality or state of being actual or true," and it is true that I have to go back to work, so I can see their point. However, I am now convinced that my "reality check" was getting away from the narrowness of my working life long enough to put it in a broader perspective with millions of other lives, life styles and opportunities.
In a previous career as a pilot, I often looked down at the world below me as I flew from hither to yon, and saw myself and my role in life as a rather insignificant part of the world around me. For the last 14 months I have lived a totally different life style and have traveled around seeing much of what I once looked down at from 37,000 feet. They are two entirely different perspectives that bring me to the same conclusion -- that I, like most people, was caught up in making very insignificant aspects of my work important to me and to others around me. This behavior in craftsmen creates quality output. This behavior in organizations creates bureaucracy and bad politics.
I happen to work in a large organization that has both bureaucracy and bad politics. Like most organizations, it is filled with competent and incompetent people -- most of whom are busy creating importance and meaning in the many insignificant aspects of their work lives. In the process they are making themselves and/or others around them miserable, and making Scott Adams (Dilbert) rich.
As I approach the end of my sabbatical, I try to project myself back into the work place that I left 14 months ago and do some scenario building. How will I fit in? How will my new perspective mesh with the petty bureaucratic politicking that I am so familiar with and loath? I think that before doing each task, I will ask myself: "Is this really important, and does anyone with a broad perspective really care," while many of my colleagues will be asking themselves: "Is this going to make me look better, advance my career or get me promoted?" I can see myself saying things like: "Lighten up." "Who cares?" "Back off." "Take a sabbatical." I can also see myself being fired. But hey, with my new perspective, it is all insignificant anyway.
(Written towards the end of my sabbatical in 1996)