The hardest questions I’ve been asked since I got back are things like: “Where’s the money I leant you?”, and “What was the highlight of your trip?”. Sometimes the last question has just been shortened by some of my time strapped colleagues to, “Highlights?” It’s hard to say really, not least because I don’t consciously measure how much I was enjoying something relative to something else. But more than that, the whole point of going away on sabbatical was to do something quite different to what I was doing when I left. So one highlight might be the day I left work, and the feeling of joy, relief and release I experienced. Another highlight might be the fact that heaps of people from work came to buy me more drinks than I knew what to do with at the worst pub in Hammersmith when I left work.
But more than these things, the highlight was the whole trip. Sure, I did some things that were more fun than others, but they were all highlights, compared to what I do in an office from x to y every weekday, and some weekends. But people don’t want to hear that, especially if they’ve been sitting in an office from x to y every weekday, and some weekends, while I’ve been mutilating forests and waking up next to piles of vomit and people on strange beaches.
What takes getting used to then, is that after seeing people you haven’t seen for 6 months, and perhaps catching up, you just return to the desk, and sit working for hours. And everything seems strangely normal, and familiar. Not that much has changed in some ways, and the worst part is that you fear that you might not have changed either. All those different experiences might have been for nought. You find yourself having to make the same kinds of decisions that you used to, worrying about the same petty things you used to. It’s a conscious, and challenging effort to try to think about what you’re doing, and avoid falling into the same routines, and to put into practice some of the plans and ideas you had while away.
I’m not planning on going out tonight. Maybe I’ll take the opportunity to learn a foreign language and bake some more bread.