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Saturday and Sunday
December 3, 2010

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Does everyone know what a sabbatical is? I had heard the word but wasn't very familiar with it until recently. I read a newspaper article about a trend among young professionals taking them. From what I gathered (meaning: Wikipedia) a sabbatical is any extended absence in a person's career in order to achieve further understanding. Sounds pretty simple, right? It's a chance to take a break from your professional life to learn or develop a part of yourself in a different scene or capacity. It's a fact-finding mission, and basically the opposite of a vacation. A vacation is a break from your daily routine to rest and relax; a sabbatical is a break from work to work on something else. After reading about sabbaticals, I wanted one. I didn't deserve one, and to be honest my whole professional life has been a series of little sabbaticals.

In the modern sense, a person takes sabbatical typically to fulfill a very specific goal, like writing a book or traveling for research (I got all of this from Wikipedia, too) but the word sabbatical comes from the Biblical Sabbath, which is the origin of the present-day practice of "the weekend", Saturday and Sunday (regardless of whether you believe it or not, I think we're all familiar with the concept of a higher power creating the world and then taking a break after a few days). Since college, I've never really worked a job for more than a few months. I always get nervous that this will look like job hopping when I send someone a resume, but lucky for me contract work is more and more common, especially in this economy. One of the only negative side-effects of going to a good liberal arts college was my exposure to a lot of great subjects, from film to journalism to anthropology and so on. This made me want to try a lot of jobs, and when I fell into the habit of being "freelance" I was given the chance to do just that; to try a lot of great subjects. Every time I finished a job I was left with the knowledge that there's even more out there I haven't done. When I did some further research on people my age taking sabbaticals (again, I knew I wasn't actually going to take one, but I needed something to do the Wednesday before Thanksgiving because, like most people, I didn't get much actual work done that day), and that's when I learned the word came from the idea of the weekend, and the weekend is basically a sabbatical from the week. It's a chance to stop working and do something else, not necessarily relax but catch up on other aspects of your life, which seemed so obvious I was bummed I didn't realize it before.

Like anything else in life, a sabbatical can be broken down to simpler terms. It doesn't need to mean working in an office for seven years and then traveling to Europe for six months of study. It can mean working in an office for six days and then traveling to Minneapolis to go to a museum. Or a library in Kansas City. Or a bar in the suburbs. The point is to have a point. To have a goal. To not just randomly wander but to come up with a plan that will leave you better educated at the end. You don't need a degree at the end of a journey or scars on your hands, you just need to achieve enough to motivate getting out of bed tomorrow. You need to change it up enough that it doesn't get stale. You need to move on just far enough that you don't forget to come back.

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