taking leave

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Draw close, AMTpals, for Anonymous in Whitehall needs our assistance:

I am a mid-level functionary in Her Majesty’s Government who is about to go on a ‘sabbatical’ to recover from various mental health issues.

Although I’ve been open about this with my closest friends, I can’t face the endless questions from my family and people at work about why I am suddenly going to disappear for six months. Being a faceless bureaucrat I am rubbish at creativity, so have failed to come up with a believable cover story that won’t need much work (or elaborate photoshopping of holiday photos) to maintain once I return.

So answer me this: how can I explain disappearing for six months without tying myself in a Gordian knot of lies?

Anonymous, you already answered your own question: ‘sabbatical’. What more do you need? That’s an academic-sounding term for ‘six months of sitting around in your pants watching Netflix’*. When you say ‘sabbatical’, nobody is going to then assume you spent that time doing something exciting, otherwise you would have told them about that exciting thing. (Even though Netflix IS exciting. It’s like a plane’s seatback entertainment system IN YOUR OWN HOME!)

If you really require an alternative, then there’s the old standby ‘gardening leave’. Which is shorthand for ‘Don’t ask’. Also, Anonymous, I wonder whether you might be worrying unduly that your absence will be remarkable: even without the mental health issues to deal with, many government employees need to GTFO every so often.

Readers, if you have relevant experience that can help Anonymous, please share in the comments.

*AKA “Self-employment: the low patches”.

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