In just under 2 weeks I will be heading into a 3-month long sabbatical. This is an incredible gift that everyone working at Automattic gets every 5 years. I took my time taking it, but as it approaches I am very ready for this opportunity.
Plans have a way of changing
When I first began planning my sabbatical it was a while ago, it feels almost like a different me in a different world. My original route was to use it to springboard into nomadic living. I planned to travel somewhere remote, not take a laptop and recharge, consider where in the world to settle. The universe though it seems had a bit of a different view of how my life and sabbatical would go.
The past year and a bit has seen a lot of changes in my life and perspective as a result. Travel began to be less of an option for myself and my partner due to health limitations. Loud messages were becoming increasingly clear that nomadic life for a while just isn’t possible. I booked my sabbatical with reduced plans and an acceptance mindset. What had begun as hazy big nomadic dreams had distilled, little did I know the universe had another card to play.
When the world changes, you have to adapt
Not a single person I don’t believe hasn’t been impacted in some way by Covid-19. Whilst my work hasn’t changed, the world has and what we can do as a result narrowed. This is an interesting time to take a sabbatical, but as I approach it I realise for me it’s the right time.
My plans for this time had already adapted, which means adaption really even more wasn’t that problematic. The limit on travelling turns out to be a gift as I can’t wistfully think of the sabbatical I once wanted, it wouldn’t have been possible either.
The first real break
This sabbatical is not just the first time since I began working full time that I will have taken such a break, which is a couple of decades now. It’s the first time I’ve taken a significant break from WordPress as a project in a very long time.
Even before my current role in Automattic, I was a contributor for many years in my spare time. Before even WordPress, I was an avid contributor to other open source projects and communities. One thing I plan during this sabbatical is a break completely from WordPress contribution. Whilst it’s an incredible project for me as it’s now my full time role, this gives me an opportunity to take time away and come back with a refuelled perspective.
So, what am I planning to do when I remove work Slack, email and begin on June 10th my sabbatical? I’ve jokingly begun referring to it as my ‘sabbartical’, because I plan to see what if I can I create if focus fully on my art. I studied art and after trying to make it as a full-time artist, fell into design and out of a passion for art over the years. It still runs through me but as the years have rolled on I have created far less art and feel I’ve moved pretty far from my soul there. I want to see what happens when I focus fully on it again, this feels like a great opportunity to do just that.
As all my plans have changed, I began to think about how I could create an art space for this. I had planned to rent a studio space, but even that fell through due to lockdown, so now my office is going to become my art space. I have even begun changing the space, adapting it from work to create a tiny, but needed space for growing artistically again. I haven’t had a studio in decades, so this is a huge step.
Journalling the experience
I want to take this opportunity to write and create art every day. During art school you’d fill sketchbooks for each term, each project working on. I am bringing those back for my sabbatical, these will chart my journey in sketches. I hope by rekindling my sketchbook practice to ignite something I used to hold so dear.
As far as writing goes, I have brought a journal to use and hopefully continue to use. After being digital for so long and that being my work world, I am making a conscious decision to daily write in an offline journal. A great deal of what I am going to focus on during this sabbatical will be offline, although some art created will likely be digital and I do plan to hold myself accountable by posting my art.
As the time has rapidly approached there are a few others things I plan to do apart from make art every day. Here is a starter list I am using as a framework to plan around. I’ll note that for me planning is important for this as I function better with a structure.
- Yoga and meditation every morning. I have a practice of this already so it’s about continuing and really focusing on keeping this going without work.
- Read every day for at least 30 minutes. I have quite a reading list planned and want to write about each one to hold myself to reading.
- Complete at least 4 masterclasses.
- Practice guitar at least 10 minutes every day. Starting small, building up into a habit.
- Blog at least once a week. I miss writing so want to fix that and I certainly have a list of things to write about I never got around to.
Above all else giving myself time to be
Most importantly, I want to give myself time each day to just be. I’ll be taking a break from a lot of communities, even those not directly related to work. I want to focus on my world a bit, see what happens with less sound in it. This will include using lists on Twitter and allowing myself to disconnect more than I have ever done.
Being able to take time like this at a time like this, it’s a gift and I am incredibly grateful. We are all processing so much and I want to use this to process my own situation, the world situation and be gentle on myself. My big ideas have distilled, but I am now aware they are what they need to be for me right now.