The 'petite mort' of time off
Were this fall semester like any other, I would be just about now standing in foyer of the Student Center with a cup of coffee in my hand as colleagues milled about chatting before the buzz-kill of the first-day meetings. Most would also be silently fretting over the list of things they have yet to do before classes begin on Monday. This year isn't like that, however.
After 24 years of teaching I'm on a sabbatical. And it's at once wonderful and disquieting.
For the next three months I can read, study and write with nary a stack of ungraded assignments or a committee meeting in sight. It should be intellectual paradise, yet it seems so odd not to be facing a semester's worth of the familiar rhythms, stresses and challenges.
Ask retiring colleagues what it feels like knowing they won't return in the fall and they often say, "Ask me then. That's when I'll know." I mean what is a sabbatical but a little foretaste of that first fall semester of retirement (from whose bourn no traveller returns)?
My plan all summer has been to treat what would be the first day of classes as the first day of work. That's the idea anyway. We'll see.