I’m about to tell you something crazy: my job encourages me to take a 3-month paid sabbatical every 5 years. 😮 Are you ready to check out our job postings yet? Yes, it is an incredible company policy, and this experience would not have been possible without the full support of my employer and my teammates. I am so grateful.
To be honest, I didn’t have big plans for sabbatical, which started on Christmas Day last year. 2017 had felt like the year of big changes: our team grew to 50+, I helped create a new kind of WordCamp, I moved in with my boyfriend, we bought a condo, did a big trip to the UAE, and adopted a dog. All I wanted to do on sabbatical was take a bit of a breather and reset.
In the months heading into sabbatical, I had very little time to think about what I wanted to do. It was all kind of a frenzied blur of documenting tasks, final meetings with clients, and training up my colleagues. Then on the first day of sabbatical, I sat down and journaled. This was a was a slapdash list that I made right before I fell asleep that first night:
Let’s see how I did against this list…
- Meditate: I’m so proud to say that this is finally a habit, after I got started in 2015. I am currently on a 4-week streak, meditating every evening using the Stop, Breathe, & Think app.
- Go to dance and yoga class: I worked out at least 4 days a week (and the weeks I didn’t, I was skiing or hiking). By mid-February, my chronic neck and shoulder pain was mostly gone and I felt really strong. Also, in going very regularly, I got to know my instructors and they got to know me, which meant the classes (and their corrections for me) were much more meaningful.
- Write and be creative: While I don’t think I’m nearly as creative as I was in my early 20s, I did update this blog fairly often! I also took an 8-week standup comedy workshop which culimated in a performance. This class was an incredible way to make new friends, and put myself out there (in a fairly low-stakes situation). Our instructor was Kelly MacFarland, a professional comedian who was able to both push us, and support us, in our path to creating our “Tight Five Minutes” of standup.
- Do house projects: Sure! I painted the dining room entirely on my own. I bought a few pieces of furniture. I reorganized the basement and essentially finished moving in. Here are all the before and after photos.
- Volunteer: I started volunteering every week at the Immigrant Learning Center. Thanks to my incredibly supportive team, I’m able to continue volunteering a few hours during the workday even though I’m back at work.
- Get to know my neighborhood: I’m still fairly new to my neighborhood, and sabbatical gave me the chance to chat with nearby residents – whether at the dog park, coffee shop, or grocery store. I also got to learn the cadence of my neighborhood too, like when the intersection near us gets busy (right around 2:30 when school lets out, until about 7pm), when everyone walks their dogs on our street (between 5:30 and 6:30), and when to snag a weekday walk-in table at restaurants like Highland Kitchen (before 6:15 p.m.), or Sarma (before 5:30 p.m.).
- Travel a bit and ski: I traveled a tiny bit – enough to keep me from going stir-crazy, but not so much that I felt exhausted. We spent Christmas in Vermont, then in January went to Maine for a snowy hiking trip. In February, we skiied with a group of friends in Maine, and then I did a girls ski trip in Vermont. In March, we flew out to Salt Lake City to ski at Alta (this time, I didn’t hurt my knee).
Some other things that were not on the list:
- I spent a lot of time with our dog. This was pretty awesome, because we just adopted him in the fall and he was still adjusting to life with us.
- Cooked a ton. For Christmas, I got a Middle Eastern Food cookbook. Being able to go to the grocery store in the middle of the day meant that I had plenty of time to experiment with recipes, which was awesome.
- We had people over! We threw a few house parties and a handful of dinner parties which was so fun and thoroughly warmed our new home.
- I spent some time learning. I didn’t devote a ton of time to this, but I picked up my Chinese studies again to brush up my very rusty Mandarin. Discovering modern language-learning apps and websites was pretty eye-opening compared to my high school and college textbooks.
- I spent very little time in front of screens. Having such a complete digital break was wonderful. I got most of my news via NPR. I parked my phone in the kitchen overnight (no more checking Instagram or email from bed). My first week back at work, my eyes and my back ached because I wasn’t used to staring at a computer for multiple hours a day.
- We got snowed on a lot. It was a pretty darn snowy winter, which made for cozy mornings, awesome skiing, and some very fun Fritz-walks.
The absolute best part of sabbatical was being completely present for friends and family. Any time we spent together, I was totally there. I wasn’t rushing, I wasn’t thinking about anything else, I was just focused on the conversation and the experience. I got comments from family members that I was so much more communicative (texting and calling more) during sabbatical. Being more present with family and friends is a life change that I will strive to maintain in transitioning back to work. The other best part of my sabbatical is that my boyfriend and I got engaged :) We spent the last week of sabbatical celebrating with friends and family, which will forever be one of the most memorable and happiest weeks of my life.
… and, here are some more photos!