I've been back from my career break for a couple of months now, and it seems like a good time to reflect on the experience, and particularly on coming back.
When I first returned I people expressed surprise that I'd came back at all, and then sympathised that I had to come back. However, recently I've started to hear more direct questions like "Have you settled down again yet?", "Have you got that out of your system?" and "Does it feel like you've never been away?". The answers to these questions are, in order, No, No and No.
There's the denial phase. This involved floating above the job rather than engaging with it and spending lots of time talking to people about what I'd been doing, usually in the guise of finding out what they had been doing in my absence. This phase lasted for a couple of weeks, at the end of which I probably annoyed people sufficiently with my penguin anecdotes for them to start to wish that I was about to go off and spend a bit more time with them.
|The Joys of the Commute|
|Shetland - the nearest Wilderness?|
The career break has given me both a long glimpse of the real universe, and the time and space to think about how to best to appreciate it. When I’m in the office I will carry on thinking about the day job, but when I get out into the real world I expect to leave the office far behind. My plan for the next few years is going to be about how I can balance (or re-balance) the time I spend in each of the realities.
UPDATE: 10 months after return. I have finally decided that it's time to look seriously at rebalancing so that there can be more real world and less office world. At the start of January I resigned from my job at The Open University, and I'm due to finish there at the end of March. Exactly 12 months after I got back from the Temporary Escape. So in the spirit of the rest of this piece. Phase Four. Escape.
And I've added a Plan B post - my thoughts on what happens next.