Sabbatical is Over (sigh)
August 24, 2016 6:14 PM   Subscribe

The only perk of academia that really panned out for me was the sabbatical. I earned a year without teaching or service and it was largely productive and glorious. It's over now. Not surprisingly, heading back to regular academic life sucks. Lots of things are exactly the same (my office still doesn't have windows and it still does have cockroaches) and some things are worse in terms of working conditions, colleague behavior, and academic bureaucracy. Please tell me what you did to make returning from sabbatical not feel like returning to prison after a glorious parole .

I know that sabbatical and a tenured position are pretty much the definition of privilege, but another five years in an underpaid slog within a struggling program in a mismanaged university just to earn another sabbatical is feeling grim. What can I do to make it feel less like returning to the same old, but worse, and more like" I feel refreshed and I'm ready to take on old challenges?"
posted by songs_about_rainbows to Work & Money (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Get a different job.
posted by Sublimity at 6:23 PM on August 24, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: What did you do during your sabbatical? If you worked from home, can you just do more of that? This is largely dependent on your department's culture, but in many departments a lot of faculty just come to campus one day a week and work from home the rest of the time. If you're tenured, you should be able to work from home at least a few days a week (unless you have a lab and need to do your research in that lab, but I'm guessing you do not).

I am also planning a nice trip at the end of the semester to celebrate being done. (I haven't even started yet and I'm already looking at the finish line eagerly!) It's something to look forward to. You might want to think about planning something for your own December/January break, assuming you do not have to teach during your winter session.

It may also be very helpful to start looking seriously for other jobs at places that are not as dysfunctional as your current institution, but (spoiler alert) academia is kind of the worst right now and while most places I know of don't have cockroaches, the bureaucracy and head-desk-smashing ridiculousness from colleagues over inane departmental/inter-departmental politics is not going to be much different anywhere else. Maybe consider a shift out of academia entirely, as many of us are doing?
posted by sockermom at 6:38 PM on August 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

you might want to either make this anonymous or take your real name off your profile
posted by goodbyewaffles at 7:25 PM on August 24, 2016 [11 favorites]

Best answer: All I can tell you is that EVERY academic I know who has had a sabbatical feels that way, even the ones who normally love their jobs. It's the equivalent of having a nice house in a nice city, but going on holiday to a perfect tropical island, and returning to find you kind of hate your house and city now and want to go back to the island. (In reality, you probably would hate living on the island full time, with its mosquitos and isolation, etc).

So don't make any big changes like quitting your job or changing your life right now. Wait six months and reevaluate your feelings. You might still feel this way, but then you'll know for sure that you need to make a change.

Meanwhile, reconnect with the parts of your academic life that you did love before your sabbatical - have coffee with the colleagues you get on best with, go to the seminar series or reading group you find most inspiring, visit your favourite library for some happy times in the stacks, etc.
posted by lollusc at 8:26 PM on August 24, 2016 [6 favorites]

Perhaps ask or look here on the CHE mid-career boards?
posted by lalochezia at 9:16 AM on August 25, 2016

Best answer: One of things I missed on sabbatical was meeting with students, both grad and ug. This was kind of possible (via the internet) but not as satisfying as sitting with a student and talking face to face. That was something I looked forward to!
posted by bluesky43 at 9:09 PM on August 25, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the ideas. The mid-semester trip and the reminder (that turned out to be confirmed by today's experience) that I like students were helpful.
posted by songs_about_rainbows at 5:46 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

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