Sabbatical: Weeks 3-12

Yeah, you read that correctly – consistent blogging hasn’t been my forte for the past few months. Life got in the way, which I guess is the point of the sabbatical. In fact, I suppose you could say that the sabbatical has been my forte for the past few months.

So because headers make the post look cool…

Sabbatical Recap

When last I left you, I had slipped into a pretty deep sabbatical lifestyle. Rest and relaxation to the max. #hammocklife #rosélife #beachlife etc…

Somewhere around week 3, I relapsed. A quick Slack message to BiskoPop and an issue reported. Just like that. Then another. Old habits. I felt pretty bad afterwards. To be fair, they were just bugs from using the product, so I justified it as being a good OSS Citizen, but if the point was to distance myself from work, I was failing, and it was surprisingly easy to fail.

The final count.

So I distanced myself from the computer. I gave up on weekly updates and only signed in to share pictures of Orvis or to update my sabbatical count. I biked a little, ran some more, and went to the beach with Orvis and Meredith almost every day for a couple of weeks. I threw myself into renovation plans, and then I threw myself into the renovation.

Meredith’s stepfather, Ed, came down in August, and for a week we worked at a crazy pace from 6am to 9pm every day. Ed is a 63 year-old construction machine, made of iron, and requiring little to no fuel or rest. I am a 31 year-old web developer, soft and pudgy, and requiring 3 square meals a day (not including snacks) and 8+ hours of sleep a night (not including naps). The generational divide was clear, but thanks to a shared love for 4 hour history podcasts and singing Jimmy Buffet lyrics off-key, we managed to knock out a huge chunk of work without knocking out each other. We tore out the plaster and lath ceiling in our living room to match my office project from a few years ago, opened up a doorway, removed the wall between our old laundry room and dining room, and installed a nice large window in our newly minted breakfast nook. After a week, Ed returned to “real work” on the farm and I returned to a more manageable “Cain pace” to finish plastering the beams, doing the trim work, and building a new bar cabinet in place of an abandoned stairway… the project still isn’t done.

Peppered in between house work, I managed to squeeze in so much more sabbatical living. Meredith, Orvis, and I took our annual trip to Vermont, and then tacked on trips to midcoast Maine and Canada (a first for both Orvis and Meredith). We resumed our almost-daily beach trips, and my dad came to visit for a week of fishing – where in typical Cain fashion, we caught very little, but had an absolute blast doing it.

I blinked, and it was over.

Sabbatical Thoughts

I honestly don’t know where to begin. I guess the easiest is with a big thank you to Automattic.

Thank you, Automattic. Me

It is impossible to overstate how great of a perk the sabbatical is. For those of us not blessed with independent wealth, or that modern-day vagrant, #live[something catchy like ‘youradventure’, ‘authentic’, ‘free’, etc…] lifestyle of not caring, three months away from work, yet still having the ability to pay your bills, is a concept that’s hard to wrap your mind around.

Before my sabbatical, I had dreams of doing something inspirational book-worthy, like spending a month each in 3 different jobs – far from a computer screen – to “find my true calling”. I’m not knocking it, I just didn’t do it. When it came time to step away, I realized that what I wanted to do more than anything was to just relax, build something with my hands, and spend time with those that make me smile most. I did exactly that, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Orvis is getting old, and it’s a good possibility that he won’t be around for my next sabbatical. The time I spent on trails or at the beach, making memories with him and Meredith, is simply priceless. The days I spent with my father, standing in water up to our waists, watching fish laugh at with us, are days that I’ll never forget. I remembered that I can build things without code, and I can read things that aren’t on a screen. I slowed down on my walks, sped up on my runs, sat in the sun, and smiled. And I realized something…

There’s not a single thing stopping me from doing any of this every day of my life.

My biggest sabbatical takeaway is that I don’t need a sabbatical to take advantage of the things that are around me. I already take walks with Orvis – why not wake up a little earlier and head to a new trail? Maybe instead of rushing through lunch with Meredith to get back to Slack, I’ll take a minute to just sit and talk afterwards. I can think of more fishing holes within a 2 hour drive than I can reasonably fish in a season – if I spend a little less time on Facebook or [insert your distraction here] on Monday-Thursday, what’s stopping me from being in the water on Friday?

I’m not trying to trivialize work or the responsibilities of life, and I may be just burning bytes while waxing poetic, but if memories are the fruit of my time off, I should be doing everything I can to grow those memory trees in the time between.

I do see the irony in a 1,000-word post about creating less distractions, so this might be my last novella for a little while. I really just wanted a shortlink to share every time someone asks me what I did for my sabbatical for the next few days. So I’ll wrap it up with one more big thank you.

Thank you to Automattic for giving me this perk and the work/life balance to live it in the 5 years in between, to Matt for doing things differently enough to make it all possible, to my team for picking up even more of my slack while I was gone, to Meredith and Orvis for putting up with the #livesabbatical version of myself that didn’t shave or bathe and day-drank for 3 months, and to my friends and family that made so much of my sabbatical so very awesome – you know who you are (no, not you, Takashi).


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The real sabbatical anxiety.

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