Today is the big day. It’s my first day back at work since my three-month sabbatical. It feels like it’s been an eternity since my first day of vacation in November, and yet it also feels like it’s been years since I’ve logged into my team Slack or dove into the world of ICANN.
Though I celebrated my six year anniversary this past October, the three month sabbatical is a perk you receive after five years at Automattic. The idea is to not work at all. It’s three months, entirely for you, to renew yourself, to focus on new passions, to use the time however you’d like. As adults, it’s not an opportunity we get often.
Prior to logging out of everything back in November, I had written out a list of things I wanted to accomplish during my sabbatical. See, I’ve never been very good at doing nothing at all. Even as a teenager, I’d be up and out of bed by 7am on the weekends. My mother, who’s a master list-maker in and of herself, was disturbed during my college years when I would write out the exact hours I would do my work, rest, have lunch, and so forth.
First, I wanted to learn how to sleep. I’m a terrible sleeper. I wake up at 6am naturally, no matter what time I go to bed. I always wake up in the middle of the night. Once I’m awake, that’s it. I’m awake for the whole day, no matter how tired I am.
I absolutely failed at this. I still woke up at 6:30am most days, 7am if I was lucky. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. ✕
Secondly, I wanted to learn Portuguese. I’d been working with a private teacher for a few months, doing just one lesson per week. For the first two months of my sabbatical, I increased our lessons to four hours per week, which helped a ton. While I still need to build my vocabulary in Portuguese to truly express myself, my comprehension is almost 100% now — except for when my brain is fried post-WOD or when it’s so hot I can’t even think in English — and I’m able to express myself smoothly, albeit not perfectly. ✓
Third? I wanted to boost my training and compete in a CrossFit competition. For a while, I was worried it wouldn’t happen. Since Gustavo also does CrossFit, it was important to me that we compete together. We communicate well — you’d hope, wouldn’t you? — and since I knew we’d be competing in Brazil, I wanted to have a partner I could speak English with if I was confused about an instruction in a pinch. Unfortunately, most competitions here don’t allow for mixed gender teams so we were searching for quite some time. Finally, we came across the Double IG Challenge which was an amazing experience. We didn’t place well, but I feel so much stronger and so much more aware of my weaknesses. ✓
Also related to CrossFit: I wanted to organize an OutWOD in Rio. OutWOD is an awesome organization that puts on CrossFit events in various parts of the world to fundraise for local LGBTQ charities. I first started talking to them way back in November, and now our event is set to go off this upcoming Saturday, February 10th at CFP9 Casa Shopping. The proceeds are going to go to Casa Nem, which is a local organization that has a safe space for gay/queer/trans/travesti folks in Rio. Fingers crossed, everything goes smoothly on Saturday (which is the heart of Carnaval — hopefully we get some participants in costume!) and I’ll have something to write about. ❏
Lastly, I decided to write one poem a day for about fifty days during my time off. I’ve done poetry writing challenges like this in the past and decided to give myself another one on a spur of the moment. I’m glad I did because I ended up writing enough to self-publish my first poetry book, something I’ve wanted to do for years. ✓
When I started my sabbatical, I was worried that I’d enjoy it too much. As in, not want to go back to work. Yet, the closer I got to my re-start date, the more I felt excited. (And anxious!) I missed my teammates and I was curious to see what they’d worked on while I was gone. There were so many projects in the works; I wanted to know what changed, what stayed the same, what we’re planning for this year, not to mention the social aspect. After all, I work with some amazingly smart, kind, funny people.
I’ve spent most of the day catching up. So many emails, blog posts, P2 posts, Slack channels, requests, pings, etc. It’s a lot of information to download, but it’ll all fall into place soon enough.
Coming back, I feel inspired to find a new rhythm and a new approach. Experiment. See how I can fit all the things I love into the day while still allowing room for creativity. It’s not easy, but it’s even harder if you keep doing the same thing all the time without looking at what’s going to make you be more effective, for yourself and others, in the long run.
“You have to balance your passions, not your time.”