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.

Reflections

Milestones

This is my 52nd blog post. And having published two posts each week since the start, that means I’ve been on my sabbatical and keeping up this blog for half a year!

This achievement got me thinking of other milestones I’ve hit during this sabbatical:

But in addition to looking back, milestones are also a good time to take stock, look ahead, and think about how I want to continue on in this journey. Some new things I want to tackle in the next six months:

  • Do an internship or part-time work in one of the careers areas I’m exploring, in order to get real-world experience.
  • Take on at least one freelance gig so that I can better understand that process.
  • Put together a business plan for at least one of the many entrepreneurial endeavors I have in mind.
  • Create my acting website.
  • Overcome technological limitations to plan, shoot and edit my first full film.

Another big change moving forward: for the time being, I’m going to scale back my blogs to once a week, every Friday.

I find that I’ve gotten to the point where my exploration of careers is now more in-depth and drawn out. This means I don’t always have new discoveries multiple times a week, and I’ve often found myself digging for blog post ideas. I hope that by switching to once a week, I can dedicate the time to writing more thoughtful and meaningful posts.

So with that … see you next Friday!

Reflections

Workspaces

Yesterday, I went to go work at my husband’s shop. Well, not work for them, but just to use their space to get some school work done. This is the large warehouse where I filmed the Christmas presents DIY video. I had a couple projects to work on for my interior design classes, and I wanted a bit more space and better surfaces to work on than what is available at home.

The drafting table at my husband’s work was perfect for my floor plan assignment.

It got me thinking about workspaces. What do I want in a new workspace? I definitely have thoughts and opinions about what I don’t want, based on previous offices. Ironically, it seems the higher I went up in my career, the worse the workspace got.

When I first got started as a development assistant at a nonprofit, I had my own cubicle. It wasn’t fancy by any means, but it was nice having walls and a lot of desk space. It helped me concentrate on the tasks at hand. But as I continued on in my career, I found myself more and more in open office spaces.

Open offices seem to be very trendy, especially in the tech world. Companies tout bullshit, like: they are trying to foster an open culture. But really they’re just trying to save space and money. These workspaces make it very hard to concentrate, and at my last job, I found myself often booking conference rooms or finding a quiet corner just to have some peace and quiet.

I really loved working at the shop yesterday. I was comfortable and got a lot done. The day really flew by! Part of it was probably the type of work I was doing. I was working mostly with my hands and not so much on a computer. But I think it is also the environment. First, I had large workspaces where I could spread out my supplies. Secondly, I was surrounded by creative projects — sets here, props there. I could feel the energy of creativity and imagination.

Obviously, my future workplace will depend a lot on the type of work I choose to do. But I think I will want it to be something different from the traditional office workspace. Much like I hope to have variety in the type of tasks I do, I hope there is a variety in the workspaces I use. Maybe I work at a standing drafting table for some of my tasks, then I move over to a larger craft table for other assignments, and then maybe I’ll move over to a traditional desk for some quick computer work. And it would also be nice to change up locations every now and then.

All I know is that I don’t want to be just stuck sitting at a desk all day.

Reflections

Update: Sabbatical & Career Exploration

In reality, I don’t really have a — just more of a general direction (or directions!) I want to head in.

It has been almost six months since I started my sabbatical and embarked on this pursuit to explore nine different careers that have always piqued my interest. I wanted to take some time to reflect on my experience so far.

Thoughts on Careers

Video Producer

I had quite a few opportunities to learn more about video production. I worked on a full film shoot and got a great filmmaking 101 overview. I even tried my hand at making a couple of videos on my own; however, limitations with technology prevented me from completing the projects.

In general, I find it more energizing working on these videos projects as part of a larger team. Doing the video shoots on my own got a bit overwhelming and eventually became a slog.

There were also pieces of filmmaking that I discovered I really enjoyed — writing and set dressing. I’d love to see how much opportunity there is (at least in this market) to specialize in those areas.

I don’t think becoming an independent video producer is the path for me. However, I could see myself enjoying working as part of a larger video production team.

Web Developer

Web development was the first thing I tackled during this sabbatical. I already had a little background on web development through my past jobs, and there are a ton of free online resources to learn more about the craft.

I went through training on freeCodeCamp. While I found the lessons helpful and easy to get through, when it came to the end-of-unit final projects, I found I didn’t have much motivation to get them done.

I just don’t think that web development provides the creative outlet I’m looking for in my work. While I could see myself doing it for a portion of my job, I don’t think I would find it energizing doing solely web development work.

Content Creator

This is the area of my exploration that has been the most varied because content creation can cover a wide array of media and outlets. While I initially put this career on my list with video in mind (inspired by my favorite YouTube channels), it’s actually been the podcast and this blog that has given being the most insight into the full lifecycle of a content creator.

I look forward to continuing on with the podcast. Once again, it’s been really energizing to work on that project because it’s a team of us. While we all have our special focuses, we always pitch in to help one another and do what it takes to get the job done.

I’m also interested in continuing my exploration of writing. I want to look into some more freelance writing work, particularly freelance blog-writing work. I think the tone of blogs better fits my writing style over more formal, business writing.

Furniture Upcycler

I have not yet explored this career path; it’s definitely the one that will require the most resources, both time and materials. However, through my exploration of interior design, I’ve already been thinking of expanding and/or pivoting this from furniture upcycling to furniture design and production.

There is a market out there for custom furniture, and it can be quite lucrative. My husband and his colleague have the resources and skills to build the furniture, while I could help organize the business, marketing and sales side.

Real Estate Agent

I also haven’t touched this career yet. I have doubts about how much this career would fit in my lifestyle because the schedule could conflict with my theater schedule.

I do like the flexibility the career could provide, and I do think I would have the talent for it. I’m not ready to remove it from my list just yet, but I don’t feel like I’m in a rush to get into it.

Interior Designer

For the last few months I’ve taken a couple of interior design courses, and I’ve learned a lot about the industry. There are so many paths within this field that one can follow. I’m not convinced yet that it’s the career path for me, but I’m definitely motivated to keep exploring.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I think getting some real-world experience in this field — through an internship or part-time work — will be key in helping me determine how energizing I find the work.

Major Gifts Officer

I haven’t gotten to this career yet either. I know that I would likely want to be a major gifts officer for an arts organization, and in the Bay Area there may not be as much opportunity as in markets like New York. Much like real estate, it stays on my list, but I don’t find myself in a hurry to prioritize this one.

Theater Executive Director

Now, this is an area I’m really interested in exploring. As part of my sabbatical, I’ve had the opportunity to be much more present in my own theater gigs, and I’ve also had the time to see more theater as a patron. I love the energy of being in such a creative world.

I would probably want to be an Executive Director (or Managing Director) of a small to mid-size theater so that I would still have a connection to the artistic work and not get too bogged down in just the business side of things.

Actor

I’ve had some off and on exploration of acting as a career. Obviously, I’ve done theater for years, and while it comes with a stipend, it is by no means a way to make a living (at least at the level, I’ve been doing).

I have done a little bit of paid video work, and I do want to pursue that more. I’ve also been considering bringing my theater work up to the professional level and pursuing equity status.

Other Thoughts

I’ve confirmed that, in general, I find it a lot more energizing to work as part of a team rather than independently.

I have also really loved how much more time and energy I’ve been able to give to my theater work during this sabbatical, and I’ll be looking for a line of work that allows me that same space.

Lastly, I will lean toward work that allows for some flexibility in the schedule and/or opportunities to work from home.

There’s a lot more left to explore!

Reflections

StandOut

I love taking personality assessments. I think a lot of people do. It goes to our desire to explain and understand ourselves. And it’s nice to find a category we fit into.

Back when I was working at Facebook, we all took this test called StandOut, which is designed to identify your strengths. During the assessment, you select how you would respond or react in a number of work and life hypothetical scenarios.

Based on your answers, you fit into various “strength roles”, and the results give you your primary strength role and your secondary one.

When I initially took it, I got:

  1. Stimulator: You are the host of other people’s emotions. You feel responsible for them, for turning them around, for elevating them.
  2. Provider: You sense other people’s feelings, and you feel compelled to recognize these feelings, give them a voice, and act on them.

At the time, I thought these descriptions accurately described the way I worked in the office and the type of things I gravitated towards.

However, the thing with this assessment is that your results can change based on changes in your own personality and how you work.

I was curious if my strength roles had changed since going on my sabbatical, so I took the assessment again. Here are my results:

Primary strength role: Influencer

You engage people directly and convince them to act. Your power is your persuasion.

When I first took the StandOut assessment, Influencer was actually a very close third when it came to the rankings of my strength roles, so it’s not too much of a surprise to see it up top.

Here are some interesting bullet points from this strength role that resonate with me:

  • You are, in general, impatient; but you are especially impatient when you know that a decision should be made. You see what will happen if we don’t act. You see around the corner, and so it burns you to think about what inaction will cause.
  • You are driven by the feeling of progress, and are acutely sensitive to momentum. You sense when it’s building. When it’s peaking. And when it’s gone.
  • You can be a charmer, and are good at winning people over so that they like you. You do this because you know that people are willing to do more for those they like. Liking is a powerful (though not the only) precondition for getting the other person to make a decision.
  • People sense your desire to move forward, and it comes across as self-assurance. Even confidence. Occasionally as arrogance. Sometimes you might even put others off by challenging them more than you should–meaning “more than they would like to be challenged.”

Secondary strength role: Advisor

You are a practical, concrete thinker who is at your most powerful when reacting to and solving other people’s problems.

I don’t remember where this ranked the first time I took the assessment, but when I read the description, I can definitely see parts of this that align with the things I like to do. For example, I’ve helped a number of friends talk through important career decisions.

Here are some of the bullet points that I felt most connected to:

  • You are a problem solver. You are not fazed by complex situations, because, when faced with a challenge, you break it down into its component parts. You are a sequential thinker, someone who excels at “delayering” problems, “unstacking” them.
  • You ask lots of questions because the answer can be found in the details of the situation. You are intrigued by the detail of other people’s plans, problems, lives. You are not voyeuristic–voyeurism is too passive. But you can be nosy.
  • You like distinctions between two things that seem quite similar. These distinctions help you know how to choose which path to take–“Take this one, not that one.”
  • You like being seen as the expert. You like being needed in this way. When people say to you, “You have such great insight. You give me such a useful perspective on my situation,” this is the highest of praise.

My ideal career?

Well, this is what the StandOut report said about my ideal career:

You are a superior salesperson, and the more competitive the field, the better. Outwit, outplay, outsmart: this is your motto at work. You will excel in any role where there is freedom, change is the order of the day, and where what you did yesterday is fast forgotten. For example, in law, you are the defense attorney. In finance, you are the market maker, the stockbroker, the “money gatherer.” In media, you are pitching the idea, selling the show, or even investigating the story. In real estate, you are the agent. In business, you are the entrepreneur, the one we send to the venture capitalists to secure the initial funding. Wherever you are, you are making rain.

It’s interesting because I have been in sales. I also have real estate agent and, in general, entrepreneur on my list of careers to explore.

Obviously, assessments are not the answer to everything, but it’s interesting to see patterns in your own behavior, how you react to things, and what types of things drive you.