Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year?
I’ve been given some pretty great gifts this year — not least, this amazing trip I’m on now; after nine fantastic days in Prague, I’m now in Dublin, and getting ready to go out exploring. The most important gift, however, has been my sabbatical.
Somebody stopped me when I said that out loud not long ago. “You earned this sabbatical!” he said somewhat indignantly on my behalf. Yes, it’s in my contract. It’s a term of my employment. And given the massive amounts of labor that go into fulfilling my end of that contract, it seems pretty reasonable to understand the sabbatical as something that I’m owed, just compensation for my service.
And yet. There are so many jobs like mine that don’t come with sabbaticals attached. Jobs in my category of employment at other institutions. Jobs in other categories of employment at my own institution. Good jobs, many of them, but jobs that make no provision for the periodic need of those who fill them to recharge their batteries, to learn something new, to bring what they’ve learned back with them.
So I can’t help but think of this sabbatical as a gift, which I am perhaps owed in some loose sense, but that I don’t deserve anymore than anyone else.
This time — the time to rest, to attempt to find some kind of balance, to think, to read, to write, to remember why I chose this profession, to discover what I want out of it in the years ahead, to contemplate what I want to give back to it — is an extraordinary gift, one that I hope I’m making good use of.