Monday, September 8, 2014

Advice for coming back from sabbatical

I found lots of advice out on the internets and interwebs about going on sabbatical, and how to make sure your time is fruitful and productive, and how to make the sabbatical work for you.

What is lacking, however, is advice on coming back from sabbatical.

I am back from sabbatical. Unprepared. I spent a year on sabbatical organizing my time carefully, filling the hours and even folding the minutes into tiny packages and parcels, wrapped and labeled and crammed into the smallest corners of the days so I could work around Time Zones and Public Transit and School Holidays and be productive in a way that was fitting for a sabbatical, even if I remained stressed out.

And now? Today? My time has been hit by mortar shot. It has exploded! Splintered into thousands of tiny particles and scattered, and I cannot collect all the ideas and events into reasonable wholes. I don't even know where to find them. Isn't there anyone out there who can give advice on this?

I went from no teaching responsibilities, to teaching two classes, and sixty lovely students, and two continuing graduate students and four or five new undergraduate researchers and an untried grader. And I need to manage them all! And a new postdoc. The different groups all need their own meetings. And so do the elementary school children, whom I said I would continue to entertain mathematically on Saturdays in that grant of mine that was funded back when life looked very different. And if I'm entertaining those children, strangers, then surely I can entertain my own son and his peers mathematically at for just another hour each week. Surely?

And yet --

Where is the advice on going from a place where no one knows you, and no one expects your help, to returning to a place where everyone counts on you, and knows you'll step up and take the tasks that were yours back when you remembered how to stand on one foot with your eyes closed on top of tall buildings while patting your head and rubbing your tummy?

And the ideas! The sabbatical ideas! Where are they supposed to go now? Now that they have been cared for carefully over months, and encouraged to grow and develop and sing? And now that the cupboard where they were carefully grown and managed has exploded, and they have burst out and run amok around the building? Every few days I find another one huddling in a corner somewhere, making messes on the carpet or shredding the curtains. One idea that was almost a paper two months ago, I don't even recognize anymore. What am I going to do with it, now that I don't have the time to groom it and paint its toenails and teach it to play checkers? It has not gone away, just because I am back from sabbatical. If anything, it needs more time now than before. But the time is in shredded pieces. Where is the advice for the care and grooming of ideas once the sabbatical has ended?

Where is the advice to the person who used the sabbatical advice well, but returns to find herself only human? And lacking?

I will write my own advice, to myself.

Self, here is my advice. Take deep breaths -- it seems you'll need them. Keep the calendar open at all times -- you will need it. Smile. Work early mornings. Exercise. Lean on other people, when you can. And wait three weeks.

Just three weeks.

By then, either you'll remember how to swim again, or you'll have drowned and it won't matter.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Second first day of school

I found this photo on my phone, and had to post it.

This is Jonathan on August 19 2014, on his very first day of school this year.

Kind of.

It was technically his second first day of school, his first first day of school this year having been the 29th of January, which looked like this.

We also have a couple of pictures of the last day of school in 2014, from 29 July, although these were only Jonathan's last day of school, not his friends' last day, so more bitter than sweet.

The above photo is of Jonathan and me, walking home from school through the park in Melbourne for the very last time.  And here is Jonathan that same walk, with his dad.

You can see from the photos that it was clearly winter in Melbourne. I guess the sweet part was going from winter in July, above, to summer in August. Which is lovely.

To prove that summer in August is lovely here, I offer one more photo from my phone.