Sabbatical Reflections: Month 1

I’m one month into my sabbatical and am forcing myself to write despite an annoying cut on my right index finger that hurts with every keystroke. This may seem miserable but it’s a glorious thing taken in whole. To start, I cut my finger while trying to peel fresh ginger. I’ve never cooked with fresh ginger before my sabbatical and decided to dive into some neat ramen dishes this week. This fresh ginger has taken on a new life as a “tea” of sorts too mixed with lemon and some honey. On top of this, the idea of needing to force myself to write makes me laugh. One of my fears heading into this time away from work was that I’d be itching to write write write. I’ve been amazed at how much that desire has faded. If I reflect on it some, the sheer amount of writing typically is driven by my passion on a topic. Being away from topics I’m passionate at with work and the now seemingly moral responsibility to share what I’ve found has drastically made that desire to document fade. It’s been a strange relief.

Related side note: I worry sometimes about giving into my more rigorous side when it comes to documenting and tracking. I could see myself having a near obsessive capacity to stick to something in a way that could be quite limiting and anxiety inducing. I’m very susceptible to tracking for the sake of tracking (activity over achievement) due to how motivating my brain finds it to be. This knowledge about myself has made me quite resistant to tracking. On the flip side, by not tracking certain things I can sometimes accidentally go overboard!

On the way back from a camping trip in Moab last weekend, I was talking to a friend about how surprising it was that I could so easily step away from my work identity. In talking it through, she remarked that it was likely because what I’m actually on fire about exists everywhere particularly in the “lifechats” I have with others. For me, it seems that it’s generally less about what I’m doing and how I go about doing it that gives me meaning, excitement, etc. This gives me great hope in my adaptability for the future. After being too tied to my identity as an athlete and suffering that loss in college in a ridiculously intense bout of depression, I’ve worked to be mindful about which identities I tie myself to. Having this space from work has proven to me that I can be extremely engaged in something without mixing too much of my ego, self worth, and identity into it. Obviously, this is just in a “light” way as the true test would be to walk away from it all permanently :).

I’m quite pleased with how my sabbatical has been thus far. It feels just right. As a reminder for myself and anyone reading, these are my themes for my sabbatical:

  • Spend as much time in nature and away from my computer as possible
  • Spend as much time with loved ones as possible
  • Do things that I’ll be happy I did 20-30 years from now

Thus far, I’m crushing the first two. Between a wedding weekend, a five day stint in a friend’s family cabin in Jackson Hole, and a camping trip with two high school friends, I’ve had my fill of community to the point of needing to retreat the last few days. Little makes me happier than pushing my lifechat limits. Tied to this, the ridiculously stunning nature I’ve been able to witness nearly overwhelms me. In the span of 24 hours, I got to witness the sunset, moonrise, and sunrise right next to Canyonlands National Park. I’ve spent hours walking beside stunning mountains and still lakes. I’ve had to give up trying to take photos of it all and have resorted to deep breaths instead.

The last goal is one I’m still noodling on in the best way. It feels like a partially fun thought experiment and partially imperative ask of myself. The biggest and proudest change I’ve made related to this has been cutting out caffeine. Currently, I’m writing from a coffee shop drinking a decaf cappuccino and feel very far away from the person who needed a cup every morning. Having slayed that monster, I’m starting to explore the idea of doing the same with my relationship with sugar. If you know me, it’s no secret that I have a massive sweet tooth. As I enter into month two of my sabbatical, this sugar demon is on my mind to tackle. Outside of pure behavior changes, much of the time spent in nature will very much be something I’ll be thrilled about having done 20-30 years from now when my knees won’t be so springy.

Looking ahead even more into month two, I imagine I’ll spend far more time reading and in community rather than pure, extreme nature considering I’ll be hanging out in Raleigh, NC & Des Moines, IA. I want to use that time to begin tackling an increasing number of books to push my perspective and to spend time thinking about what I want out of my life. My hope too is that I can regain my attention span and intense focus. I found both were trudging along by the time my sabbatical swung around and I’m keen to rebuild them. Finally, I’ve LOVED how my body has risen to the occasion over the last month and only want to continue to push myself there. I’ve missed being able to pursue physical activities not as an escape but as an act in and of itself.

Willpower has been a concept that has been woven into the thread of this entire experience. As my willpower put towards work zeroes out, I find myself with an ability to have more say over how I use the entirety of my willpower now. For example, cutting out coffee at first required loads of willpower but, without work, I had the willpower to use. Now not drinking coffee doesn’t cross my mind — it’s simply a habit. As my sabbatical moves forward, I want to keep capitalizing on this temporary willpower surplus to make steady progress into a healthier life mentally, physically, and spiritually.

In the spirit of keeping myself accountability and calling myself out a bit, the biggest puzzle piece left sitting on the table right now is my relationship with my “surrogate baby” identity. In this case, identity is the appropriate term and one that’s inescapable causing me to actually need to embrace it more (you’ll notice this stands in opposition to my feelings around work being tied to my identity). I’m not quite sure what form this takes and I’m letting myself have time to figure out how much I want my sabbatical to rub up against that part of my life.

In other news, I got an email today that I might be a possible marrow match for someone through Be The Match. I woke up to an email, call, and a text. As soon as I publish this, I’m off to call them back. I must pause at this point and remember my co-worker, Alex Mills. He is the reason I signed up on March 6th, 2019 (my 26th birthday) after he died from leukemia. Fingers crossed I am fully matched up and can help someone else in honor of his legacy.

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