More than once, when I’ve told someone about my sabbatical, they’ve said to me, “Well, you certainly deserve it.” And every time I’ve heard that, it’s made me uncomfortable. I know I’ve earned it, but that’s different. Earning is transactional. A criterion is set, and you meet it, so you get your benefit. Company policy says I’m entitled to a sabbatical after 10 years of service. Since I’m almost at my 15 year anniversary of employment, yes, I’ve earned it. No question.
“Deserving” is more complicated. It’s got implications. It seems to say something about the relative value of my work, and the merit of it. What I hear in that word is that if I’m deserving, it follows that others are somehow less so. And there’s the root of my discomfort.
It’s not that I don’t work hard – I do. But who doesn’t? My dad often worked three jobs to help raise our family. My in-laws worked until disability forced them stop. And this is to say nothing of the thousands of colleagues and patients I’m connected to globally, for whom the idea of leisure time and relaxation are just that – a nice idea.
I’m really not trying to beat myself up about taking this time off. Honestly. But I am trying to continually remind myself that this sabbatical is not just a benefit. It’s a gift. To have time, to have resources, to have support and encouragement in this adventure – all gifts.
Other people are bearing the cost of my opportunity. That is something I want to remember, every day. And if I can remember that truth, and use each day in a way that demonstrates and celebrates that truth, then by the end of this sabbatical, I may be deserving.