Saturday, December 22, 2012

On Sabbaticals

MTG and I were in the car this evening talking about something I would once normally have blogged about (the universe being a computer simulation in somebody else's universe--maybe I'll get to it sometime soon) and I remembered with fondness the act of blogging. Then I went and read some old comments and remembered the pleasure of the whole experience--the presence of a virtual intellectual community and the discussions that went on.

I may or may not be, at heart, an academic, but I came to a true love of ideas and of thinking them through and writing about them too late in life to really become one. It's not that I was too old to go (back) to graduate school, but that by then I had gotten used to, you know, not starving or living in a crappy apartment with a bunch of other starving academics, and finally not having the best-case-scenario result of my life pursuit be a series of one year posts at the University of Northwest Indiana at Gary. So, in any case, I never became one and it went onto the list of things that I did as a hobbyist while I made a living at my day job. As, it happens, almost all of us almost always do.

One of the ways my life has, however, been like an academic's is that I've been lucky enough to have sabbaticals. I took about six months off working in my early-mid 20's and another few months at age 29, and now another one again here ten years later, which has so far lasted nearly a year. In the first one I didn't accomplish a whole huge ton. I learned to program in PERL, which now that I think of it might be the single most profitable skill I have ever acquired (I'd listen to arguments about my math degree also, but following this thread will take me too far down the rabbit hole. I frequently feel a sort of kinship with David Foster Wallace--I think of things while writing about other things and then I want to write about those things before getting back to the thing I was writing about originally. Besides, it turned out my original point was invalid anyway. First sabbatical: highly successful). I could make similar arguments about the second, I guess: I made an album and in so doing learned how to make one in the modern way that one does, and that skill has followed me around since.

This third one has been really, really great. It has reminded me of a thing I know when I'm on sabbatical but forget when I'm done--one is on sabbatical not to refresh or recharge in order to go back and continue to do what one was doing. One leaves to do or create something new such that oneself is changed. One never returns from sabbatical. Whatever one returns to is something new. The one who returns is someone new.