Reflections

Impatience

I was having lunch with a friend the other week, and we were both discussing major life decisions (you know, as one does over lunch). 

At one point, he gently reminded me, “You can be … I don’t know if this is the right word — impatient.”

“Impulsive?’ I replied.

“Sure, impulsive.”

I guess both words are appropriate. I’ve been known to be both. I can’t really pinpoint where these traits came from.

Maybe it’s my control freak nature, where I need to have things done my way and I need them done now!

Or maybe it’s this thought I’ve had since as long as I can remember that I am going to die young. I have no idea where this prediction came from. I’m not particularly unhealthy or reckless. I guess I’m just morbid.

And these days, while I feel like I’ve been able to temper both impatience and impulsiveness when it comes to my actions, they still constantly plague my mental state.

Impatience, in particular, has been a pretty nasty demon lately.

“Why haven’t I found my new career path yet?!”

“We’re behind on getting the apartment completely redone before the baby arrives.”

“I need to get x and y and z done by the end of the day or else I’m a complete failure!” (yes, this is where my mind goes sometimes…ok, A LOT of the time)

And while these insidious thoughts do pop into my head often, one thing I will say that I’ve gained from this sabbatical is the ability to talk myself down from the anxiety a lot faster than I could before. I just try to remember a few things:

Most deadlines are of my own making

When I started this sabbatical, I thought it would take no more than a year. But here I am, approaching the one-year mark, and I’m nowhere near knowing what I want to do next in my career. 

Granted, when I found out I was pregnant back in March, I already knew that this sabbatical would last longer than I had originally planned. But part of me thinks that even if a baby wasn’t in the picture, there is a real possibility that I still wouldn’t have known at this point what my next career path should be.

And that’s ok. 

There is no hard and fast rule that says this sabbatical has to be just a year. That time period was pretty arbitrary, actually. 

I guess in my mind, a year seemed like a period of time that others would be comfortable with; it felt easy to explain. But another big goal of this sabbatical is to divorce myself from this need to have others’ approval.

Some things just take longer than you expected

I’ll start with a simple example here. We are repainting our apartment, and this afternoon, I thought I could quickly get our hallway done because it is so small. That would give me time to get the living cleaned up and rearranged. And quickly get this blog post drafted and published.

But alas, the hallway painting took much longer than I thought it would. Doing all the prep work was more difficult (and thus, more time-consuming) than I anticipated. And while the hallway is small with less area to paint, it has a lot more tight spots to get into, which slows down the painting process. To top it all off — I ran out of paint, so I couldn’t even finish the job!

It’s not that I executed this task poorly per se, it’s just that I had unrealistic expectations.

I think I’m experiencing something similar with my exploration of interior design. I’ve been taking classes since January and have been working as a design assistant for a couple of months now. Surely, I should know by now if this is a career I want to pursue. Or at least be leaning one way or the other. But no. I find myself still firmly on the fence — neither persuaded nor dissuaded. So, I’ll take my time and keep going until I know for sure.

It’s ok to change the plan

Remember that apartment revamp I wrote about? Well, the original plan was to do a major purge of all our stuff, repaint the entire apartment, and build out custom storage in almost every room.

But life got in the way. And things just took longer than I expected (see point above).

So, I really had to look at the entire plan and split it up into the “must haves” and the “nice to haves”. For example, we must have the living room repainted and rearranged to make space for the baby stuff and to better host all the visitors we’ll have. But the entire kitchen can wait until after the baby is born.

And, of course, my whole sabbatical plan has changed since becoming pregnant. Baby prep has eaten into time that I could have dedicated to career exploration. And, of course, I’ll have to pause my career exploration altogether for a while after the baby is born.

Sometimes, you just need to forgive yourself

Every now and then, things don’t get done as fast as I originally planned because I simply got too tired. Or lazy. Or I haven’t followed through on steps I should have.

But you know what? At the end of the day, you have to cut yourself some slack. Because it’s not the end of the world! (Pre-sabbatical Laura would gasp in horror at that statement).

I’m not saying I want to let myself get too lax or stop setting challenging goals for myself. I just don’t want to spend so much energy beating myself up if things don’t work out the way I had envisioned.

At the end of the day, I have to remember for whom I’m doing all of this. It’s not my peers who I used to work so hard to impress. It’s not my friends. Or my family. It’s simply … me.

Interior Designer, Reflections

On the Job Learning

I’m wrapping up my fourth week at my part-time job as a Design Assistant with Susie Novak Interiors. It’s amazing how time flies!

I’ve already learned so much — not just about the interior design business, but also about my preferred working style and how well a part-time job fits within my sabbatical plan.

Insights About Interior Design

My interior design classes have given me a good foundation on the concepts, theory and even art of design. However, it’s this job that has really revealed to me what it’s like to actually work in the field, particularly as an independent designer.

This experience has already been so fruitful, that I’ve started stressing to my classmates how important it is to get some hands-on experience in a real office. With just a few weeks under my belt, I’ve learned:

  • How much time is dedicated to each stage of the design process
  • Different ways of bringing on new clients and preparing sales & marketing materials
  • Project management and invoicing tools that work well for independent designers and small firms
  • The abundance of showrooms and vendors in this field and how to get set up with a trade account to get that designer discount
  • Different ways of charging for your design work and for purchasing furniture, furnishings, etc. on behalf of your clients

How I Like to Work

I’ve also reflected on the areas of this work that I particularly enjoy. I’ve really like sourcing inspiration photos and adding them to our Pinterest boards — it unlocks my imagination and creativity. And, of course, I’ve enjoyed drafting! That’s no surprise, given how much I liked my AutoCAD class. I’m learning a new program for drafting floor plans but have also been able to use my AutoCAD skills to mock up some room elevations and designs for a custom cabinet.

But beyond that, I’ve also learned a lot about my preferred working style: 

Right now, the hours of my job are set week to week, based on the other things in my schedule as well as the work needs for the business. And that has been great! Not only does it provide me the flexibility to accommodate the other activities in my life, but it also guarantees that my time is always put to good use. No twiddling my thumbs before the next task comes in or wasting time just waiting for 5 o’clock to come around. If I’m working, it’s because there are certain tasks that need to get done. It really makes the time go by quickly, and I end the work day feeling energized and accomplished.

I also realized that I like to have a clear to-do list but the autonomy to decide how and when I complete each task. And related to that — I need variety! It’s nice being able to switch from sourcing furniture pieces to drafting up a floor plan to working on sales materials to even getting out of the office to pick up samples from the design district.

Part-time Work & My Sabbatical

As I’ve alluded to earlier in this post, this part-time job has been a great contributor to the goals of my sabbatical. The key, of course, was taking on a position that was related to one of the careers I set out to explore.

In just four weeks, I feel like I already have a lot more insights into what it would really be like to work as an interior designer. And I’m determined to take this approach as much as possible with my exploration of the other careers on my list.

It’s also been helpful, mentally, to add this part-time job to my sabbatical repertoire. I feel a lot more accomplished — not only in getting stronger and faster insights into this career path and my working style but also in the fact that I’m bringing in money again. 

While I’m still not 100% sure if interior design is the right path for me, I’m confident that this position will help me figure that out more quickly.

Reflections

Another Perspective

This sabbatical has really centered around finding the career path I’m passionate about. So, it was interesting watching this TEDx Talk from career coach Ashley Stahl that actually cautions against putting too much stock into just pursuing passion. She talks about going beyond just “what you love” and finding “what you are”.

I’m not sure if I 100% agree with her take, but I do think it would be a good exercise to think about the three questions she posed:

  1. What am I good at?
  2. What do people tell me I’m good at?
  3. What’s holding me back?

I’ll be ruminating on these questions over the next week to see if the exercise helps uncover some new thoughts on the path of my sabbatical.

Reflections

Unplugging

My husband and I are off to Hawai’i today for our babymoon and a much-needed week of general sloth and eating way too much food. I’m determined to unplug this week with limited time online and little interaction on social media. I just need a little mental break from the craziness of this world. So much so, that I’m publishing this week’s post two days early so that I don’t have to worry about it during my trip.

Surprisingly, given how much of a workaholic I am and how I usually can’t stand being idle, I’ve actually always been very good about disconnecting (from work, at least) during vacations. I think part of it is that I’ve always gone out of town for my breaks, and I appreciate travel as a valuable and productive experience in life. 

But I know that a lot of people have a hard time completely unplugging, often finding themselves checking in on work email during their vacation and maybe squeezing in a little bit of actual work. So, for today’s post, I scoured the internet for some good tips on disconnecting from work during a vacation:

Declutter your digital space

It takes a lot of time to unsubscribe from emails you don’t care about, unfollow accounts that annoy you, and tailor your notification settings. The quickest way to have the same effect? Deleting the entire app. You know your problem apps; just uninstall them, even if it’s only during your trip or for a few days at a time. Turning your phone back into a phone is pretty liberating.

Source: https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-tips/how-to-unplug-on-vacation

Turn off your push notifications

You’ll be far less tempted to check in if there’s nothing new and exciting calling to you.

Source: https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-tips/how-to-unplug-on-vacation

Set up a smart out-of-office reply

When you set up the vacation auto-responder message on your primary work account, write a message that helps you avoid the dreaded backlog that typically awaits your return: let your correspondents know that you may not review all the messages you receive in your absence, and that they should email you again after X date if they need a reply. As a courtesy, provide an alternate way of addressing their issue more quickly, such as contacting your assistant or colleague.

Source: https://hbr.org/2014/07/the-right-way-to-unplug-when-youre-on-vacation

Assign a gatekeeper

Find a co-worker to notify you in case there’s an actual emergency at work. Give this person your hotel phone number only. And, heck, let it ring if you want.

Source: https://www.birchbox.com/guide/article/15-tips-for-truly-unplugging-and-rebooting-while-youre-on-vacation

Leave your work computer behind

You probably don’t need a computer on vacation at all, but you might want to bring one (or a tablet) for watching movies, researching things to see and do or to spontaneously book a hotel somewhere. But leave your work computer behind. There are too many temptations to check email in the morning, get a head start on a project or even pop over to Slack. Remember, the point of vacation is to disconnect from work, so leave the computer behind and you won’t have the option to open it.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/24/how-to-disconnect-while-on-vacation.html

Ask your travel companions to hold you accountable

The people with whom we share our vacations want to spend time interacting with us, not listening to or watching us interact with our technology. If we need help dealing with technology withdrawal during that first day or two, we can make a pact with a friend or spouse to swap cell phones, so no one gets distracted.

Source: https://www.wordrake.com/blog/six-steps-help-unplug-enjoy-vacation


Until next week. Aloha!

Reflections

Permission to Deviate

So, it’s Sunday, and I’m just now getting around to writing and publishing my weekly blog post. It’s not that this week was particularly busier than normal. Partly, I just forgot to get to it on Friday. And even when I remembered about it earlier today, it just wasn’t a priority task at the time.

So here I am. Sunday evening. A little more than two days later than I normally publish my weekly posts, and I’m just now getting to drafting it.

And you know what? I feel ok with it.

Very early on in my sabbatical, I wrote a post about appreciating detours and accepting when I decide to reroute. At that time, I had been beating myself up for not following the stringent plan I had set for my sabbatical. It took writing that blog post to calm myself down and reassure myself that I was allowed to deviate from the original path.

And so, it’s interesting to reflect on my reaction today. I usually post on Fridays. This week I didn’t. And it doesn’t really bother me.

In fact, there have been a lot of changes in plans that I’ve found myself readily accepting, even when in the past, I would have seen these deviations as failings. A while ago, I scaled back from two blog posts a week to just one. We’re probably going to move our podcast to monthly instead of bi-weekly. We had a house project we planned to finish this weekend but realized we’ll actually need two weekends to get it done (which will push back the schedule on our other house projects).

Past me would have had a lot of anxiety about these changes in the plan. I would have told myself it was a sign that I wasn’t working hard enough. That I wasn’t good enough. But now, I find that it doesn’t bother me as much.

It’s not that I’m getting lackadaisical. It’s just that I’m not letting changes in plans be a reflection of my ability or success. In fact, I take pride in being able to reevaluate my plans and trust my judgment to reroute, when appropriate.

I’ve noticed a lot of changes in my outlook on things during this sabbatical, but sometimes they don’t become apparent until they’re put to the test.

Reflections

Getting Antsy

It’s been 8 months since I left my job, and well, as the title of this post suggests — I’m getting a little antsy.

I don’t think I know how to be idle. Now more than ever, I find myself desperately trying to fill my day with tasks and projects. I’m sure some of it is pregnancy (is it too early to be in nesting mode?). Some of it is probably due to anxiety over money and feeling like I need to overcompensate for not contributing financially. And, of course, there’s that part of it that is just my personality and always needing to be working on something.

When I was working full time, I think it was easier for me to come home and just chill out (though, with theater, that didn’t exactly happen all that much). It felt like I had earned that time to relax. I guess right now, it’s hard for me to have that same feeling. Even when I spend all day at class or my internship or cleaning the house, I still find myself just needing to be busy, even in the evening.

What’s really difficult is knowing that, due to the baby, my return to work will actually be a lot later than I anticipated. But because of the baby, my urge to go back to work and start providing again is stronger than ever — despite the fact that I’m still uncertain about my next career path!

It’s been a strange feeling to deal with. And I guess my coping mechanism is writing endless to-do lists that keep me busy all day.

But I worry about burning out.

I’m not sure what the solution is. I may look into working part time, to at least have the satisfaction of contributing financially, even if it’s just a little. I may actually need pencil in relaxation activities on my to-do list. And yes, I probably need to seek out some professional help.

But I’m determined to not let this urge to go back to work and provide financially deter me from the whole point of this sabbatical — to find a career path that’s creatively fulfilling, speaks to my passions and energizes me.

Reflections

Isolation

I’ve experienced a roller coaster of emotions during this sabbatical: excitement, fear, thrill, anxiety, inspiration, doubt, pride, depression. But one feeling that has really become prominent over the last few weeks: loneliness.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I think the feeling has been there, lingering. I think it was probably there even before I quit my job.

Embarking on this sabbatical is a very individual, singular journey. Even the way I approached this exploration in the beginning was independent and insulated. I learned web development on my own through online courses rather than, say, doing an in-person bootcamp. Exploring content creation through this blog is an autonomous task.

There were highlights of exploration through teamwork and a feeling of togetherness. Having a friend guide me through video production. Working with my husband and friends on the podcast together. But those project have slowly slipped away.

My approach to interior design was a welcome change. I took classes and shared my exploration with a room full of classmates. But with the school being so far away, it didn’t leave me much time to form many close connections. I rushed to my car right after class each day to desperately get ahead of traffic. And I didn’t go to many extracurricular events or club meetings because of the distance.

I think a lot hit all at once over the last few weeks that has made my loneliness so palpable lately. It’s been a while since I’ve been in a play — usually a built-in family for me. The semester ended, so I no longer see the couple of people I was close to in class. And a really close and important confidant left my life.

I’ve been keeping myself busy. I always do. I started work on a new podcast. I took on a summer internship. I’ve spent hours sorting through the clutter in our apartment. Those who know me well are very familiar with how utterly inept I am at taking a break. I tell myself that it’s because I don’t like feeling idle or unproductive. But I’m realizing that I also keep busy to distract myself from bigger issues.

And the moment I slow down — even for a little — it hits me. And that’s what happened yesterday. The aftershocks of my long and recently magnified isolation sent a tidal wave my way. I was pummeled by feelings of emptiness, reminded of what I’ve been missing, of what I’ve lost.

And, of course, because I don’t really have anybody else around (to take it out on?), it culminated in a huge fight with my husband. You might be taken aback by me “airing out my dirty laundry”. But I always said this blog is the place where I can speak my truth, and this is something that is affecting me.

And I’m not sure how to pull myself out of it right now. Some upcoming things will naturally help. I start rehearsals for my next play tomorrow. And summer school starts next week. But I fear those are temporary fixes. Distractions.

I started writing this post thinking that the point would be that this feeling of isolation is just further proof that my next career path should be something where I get to work as part of a team. But it feels bigger than that. So abysmally bigger.

Maybe I just needed to (figuratively) shout these words out into the ether. To see if the voices reverberating back are just my own echo. I need to reach out into that dark expanse to see if anyone reaches back.


Reflections

Ups and Downs

Even during this sabbatical, when I’ve generally felt happier, more energized and less anxious, I still have my ups and my downs. And this was a rough week.

I felt tired and low energy. I questioned my path and if I’ll ever find the career I’m passionate about. I worried about money and the baby and if I’m taking too long to go back to work. And on top of it, I had a falling out with one of my best friends.

I’ve had a hard time sleeping. I haven’t been able to eat much. I’ve cried until I was too exhausted to cry. And I’ve been utterly crippled by this sense of emptiness.

I naïvely thought, perhaps, that by the end of this week, I’d be blogging about that self-help book or method that helped snap me out of this funk. But every time I picked something up and started reading, the words quickly blurred and my focus was a million miles away.

Then I reminded myself that depression, anxiety, and heartache are not things that can be solved in a week. So I gave myself permission to grieve, to fret, to lie awake and overthink.

Today, I simply give you something that provided me a little comfort this week (which funny enough, I did come across in a self-help book):

If—
by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too.
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make a heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Planning, Reflections

Unexpected Changes

This past weekend, I made a pretty big public announcement: I’m pregnant!

While this new development isn’t a complete shock (without going into too much detail, Ryan and I have been in a “not trying, not preventing” stage during this sabbatical), it was a bit unexpected … to be expecting (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

And though I shared this big news with the world recently, I have obviously known about for quite a while. One of the first things that crossed my mind when I found out — what does this mean for my sabbatical?

No plans are set in stone (nothing really is), but here are a few early thoughts:

It may be even longer until I go back to work full time

I know this seems a bit counterintuitive — “you have a baby on the way, you guys need to bring in more income!” And to a certain extent, there’s a lot of truth to that sentiment. Babies are expensive. And on top of that, there’s the whole health care issue.

But here’s my counterargument: If I was willing to take time off for myself, to explore my passions and what’s the right path for me, why wouldn’t I do the same thing to spend time with my child? And why would I rush back to a full time job I don’t love and put myself in that miserable state again. Not too be too hippy about it, but I don’t want that negative juju around my baby.

But I might be more focused about my career exploration

Not long ago, I was writing about my doubts on interior design. I had found that I wasn’t dedicating as much time as I thought I would to my class projects. I took that as a sign that I wasn’t passion enough about it. I doubted whether or not I would continue my studies, and I was ready to flitter to the next career path.

But a switch got flipped as soon as I found out I was pregnant. I focused my time and energy to my classes and found that, when afforded those mental resources, I really did enjoy my interior design classes. And on top of that, this program provides a great foundation on knowledge and a clear pathway to make connections and enter into the field.

I’m not saying that I have 100% chosen interior design as my new path and given up on the other possibilities. I’m just determined to spend more time, energy and focus to this exploration (as well as any other future paths) before giving up on it. So, I have already registered for summer and fall classes.

I’m determined not to let this derail me

It’s a common tale: plans get put on hold when you have a baby. And what we really see all too often is: plans get put on hold indefinitely when you have a baby.

I will tell you this now — I am NOT giving up on finding that career path I’m passionate about. Yes, it might be a slower and longer journey than I anticipated. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to throw my hands in the air and just go back to the same old boring marketing work I was doing before just because it’s the safe and secure decision.

Because more than owing to myself, I owe to my child to set an example for them. To show them what it means to live a life of passion. Of fearless exploration. Of hopeful risk. Of audacious dreaming. Of determination and ambition that refuses to be shackled by the “normal” path, social expectations, and practicality.

Reflections

Small Victories

I was straightening up my bedroom yesterday and going through a pile of old stuff when I came across a tiny notepad.

Now, I have a penchant for collecting small notepads and journals, so I expected this to be yet another blank one I had yet to use. But when I cracked it open, I was surprised to find there was already some writing inside.

I peered down in amusement at the pages of bulleted notes, and quickly I remember what I had used this notepad for.

At the beginning of 2018, I made a number of New Year’s resolutions. I kept them small and manageable; things like “do Duolingo lessons every day”, “read a little from a book every day”, “no electronics after 9 pm”.

And another resolution was to write down my accomplishments for the day, each night before I went to bed. They didn’t have to be big things. They didn’t have to be anything life-changing. They didn’t even have to be things that others would consider accomplishments. They just had to be the things that I was proud of.

There were big(ish) things like:

  • Did a long walk at Point Isabel.
  • Organized all of the jewelry, purses and accessories for my Out of the Closet donation.
  • I did a mortgage loan application and got pre-approved for more than I thought.

But there were also the small things:

  • I took the recycling out by myself.
  • I called my dad.
  • I put together a nice outfit.

Like many of my resolutions that year, the exercise didn’t last long. I don’t quite remember why. I probably just got busy. I perhaps forgot to do it one night and the habit was broken.

But I do remember that when I was documenting these small victories, I felt good about the day I had just gone through. It was a peaceful, positive way to end the day. And it’s got me thinking that it might be a good activity to resurrect.

There have been weeks during this sabbatical when I felt like I didn’t accomplish much. Like I haven’t made progress and I’m no closer to discovering the path that’s right for me. I mean, it’s not every week you work on a film shoot or launch a podcast.

People say it’s a good idea to write down the things that are worrying you or stressing you out, right before you go to bed (and yes, I should probably take up that practice, too). But I think there is also a benefit to reflecting the things I’ve accomplished that day – big or small.

These things won’t always be related to my sabbatical. In fact, there will likely be quite a few days when my accomplishments are solely centered around personal, family or creative goals that have nothing to do with my career exploration.

And yes, there might be days when I forget to do this exercise altogether. But I don’t want to let that derail me from taking more time to sit back, reflect, and appreciate the small victories.