So I thought I’d take a breather from work in 2020 to reflect my life and figure out how to spend the remaining half of my professional life. In hindsight (thank you, useless as always) I should have self-medicated myself into a year-long coma like the protagonist in My Year of Rest And Relaxation by the brilliant Ottessa Moshfegh, but haven’t – yet. Here’s what to expect during a pandemic sabbatical.
You will not turn into a meme.
Not like you haven’t done extensive research on this one. Watched “Anne with an E” on Netflix to get inspo for cosy knitwear to wrap yourself in as you arrive in the Scottish moors to hibernate for a couple of months to finalise writing the novel. You have practically tasted the leisurely brewed morning cup you’ll sip while greeting bambis and other Scottish wildlife that frequently make an appearance at your porch.
This will not happen.
You will quickly realise that life does not miraculously change just because you stop working.
You’ll beat yourself up for not having properly planned your time off.
Then you’ll realise, with glee, that plans mean shit during pandemic anyway.
You return to your current 9 to 5 of getting upset about complete strangers’ wrong opinions on the internet.
You will believe every meme, though.
You have fantasised about having the time to try out the breakfasts of the champions and the complicated morning rituals of the fancy people.
Now you would have the time to meditate, write morning pages, stretch, dry-brush, read novels at cafés and juice vegetables until the universe is out of kale.
Instead you think it better to start every morning by scouring for inane inspirational quotes on instagram before you get out of bed – just to have something positive to hang onto for the rest of the day.
You’ll ‘like’ “If cauliflower can become pizza… you, my friend, can do anything“, both because it’s spiritual and basically qualifies as having a green smoothie for breakfast.
You will think about work more than ever.
It was supposed to be a refreshing shower for your brain, for once giving it a rest from work.
It will not be thus.
Work is the only thing you’ll end up thinking about. You will think about why you left it, why you are no longer doing it, why it was good, why it was bad, where to find it, when to find it and whether you’ll find any ever again.
First you’ll be delighted to bump into former colleagues in the nearby park. Then you realise the daily larking around with picnic-baskets is them working from home.
You start hating your former colleagues.
You stop going to the park.
You will not rest, ever.
It doesn’t matter how serene you manage to hex yourself during the day. Every night will be a nightmarish rendition of either The Shining or The Exorcist.
Nevermind peacefully falling asleep to your favourite Florence + the Machine -ballad. You will find yourself wide awake at 4 a.m., covered in cold sweat, gnawing at your knuckles because you realise you just mail-ordered two limited-edition Hermès lipsticks and have
a) no salary,
b) no reason to wear lipstick because there’s nowhere to go (also compulsory mouth covering -rule) and
c) shit for brains, clearly.
There are no exceptions to this.
You will learn some, but are not sure exactly what.
You will not learn an awful lot, to be honest, and some of it might only come in handy much later. Some you might realise only much later.
The former micro-manager inside you will eventually admit defeat. If your apple cart used to fall over when the tram was 10 minutes late, take my word: life will raise the bar considerably higher.
You’ll start to amuse yourself with people who imply that they have ‘control’ over their life (as opposed to your haphazard situation, which, in defence, is only partly of your own making).
You are convinced everybody thinks you’re a loser because you don’t have a plan.
You might have a plan, but you’re convinced it’s a terrible plan.
You’ll realise you don’t care what everybody thinks about you.
You’ll realise everybody is too preoccupied with themselves to pay you any mind.
You have angst before socialising, because you have nothing to show for your sabbatical.
Pandemic silver-lining: you don’t have to socialise.
You will not write a novel.
My sabbatical is ongoing. Any of the aforementioned can still change. Ask a cauliflower.