Appreciating Detours

I’m two weeks into my self-imposed, self-sustained sabbatical — SISSS™ — and I’ve been beating myself up a bit. Sure, I’ve made decent progress going through the online lessons on freeCodeCamp to try out web development. And I’ve regularly posted blogs here, which contributes to my exploration of content creation. But I’ve had this nagging voice in my head, berating me for not doing more.

When I put together this plan, I imagined packing my day with online courses and interviews with people in the field and blogging 3-4 times a week. I pictured myself bouncing around three different career areas, balancing an even and rigorous exploration among them.

Read the paper, calculate things, write a note, check my email and update my app … all while having a flawless manicure. How hard can that be?

Instead, so far, I’ve really just focused on web development, and that has been limited to the freeCodeCamp lessons. And on top of that, I don’t dedicate my whole day to those courses.

So, you can see where I might be disappointed with myself.

But the question is – what have I been doing my time? Yes, there’s been the occasional Netflix binge and a minor crafting detour for a last-minute Halloween costume. But actually, the majority of my non-careeer-exploration time has been spent on my long-time passion – theater.

I’ve done theater, as an actor, as a regular hobby outside of work for pretty much the whole time I’ve lived in the Bay Area – so, about 10 years. And I should note that hobby isn’t really the right word for it. It’s more like a part-time job (aside from the whole making money bit).

Being in a play means you are dedicating 5-6 weeks of rehearsals – 5 days a week, 3-4 hours each evening. And then, there’s the actual run of the show, which can be anywhere from 3-6 weeks, 3-5 performances each week. And that doesn’t even take into account all of the time you dedicate outside of rehearsals to exploring your character, memorizing your lines and rehearsing your scenes.

Production photo of Five Women Wearing the Same Dress
Wait, you work all day and then go rehearse for 3 hours that night .. 5 days a week?!

And when you do 2-4 plays a year, while also having a full-time job, it can get exhausting. So, it has been so refreshing to have this extra time during the day to spend exploring my character and working on my lines for the play I’m currently rehearsing. It’s also been a welcome change  to actually have the time and energy to prepare for auditions and callbacks. I feel like I’ve been able to bring so much more to rehearsals and give much more depth to my character because of all the extra time I’ve had, not to mention the extra energy I have.

Crimes of the Heart product shot
Yea, that’s pretty much how I look after a week of rehearsal plus a full-time job.

And I think the fact that I’ve set theater as a priority during this sabbatical time is just as informative as any of my career exploration work. It tells me that whatever career I end up pursuing, having the time and energy to still do theater (even if just as a “hobby”) will be a top priority.

So instead of punishing myself for deviating from my sabbatical plan, I’ve challenged myself to really reflect on why I’m making that detour. Because it’s probably not due to laziness or lack of ambition. It’s more likely a signal to what I’m passionate about, what fulfills me, and what is a priority for me, not just in a career but in life.


A Note on Privilege

When I announced my sabbatical, I received a flood of support and praise. Two particular words were so graciously thrown around: brave and courageous.

But today, I want to focus instead on two other words: privileged and lucky.

In my first post, I noted that this blog is not meant to be prescriptive in any way. That is because I am abundantly and humbly aware that not everyone would even have the means to take a sabbatical like this.

I have been privileged to secure high-salary jobs that allowed me to save up as much money as I have.

I was lucky to find an inexpensive, rent-controlled apartment when I moved to Oakland — and probably privileged to have my rental application approved despite a low credit score.

I am privileged to be leaving a company who is so generously continuing to cover my health care plan for a little while longer after my departure. And even after that expires, I am privileged to have multiple health care options available to me and the means to afford them.

I am privileged to have the equipment I need — computer, internet, phone, car — to do this type of career exploration.

And I am so lucky to have a network of people who can lend advice, support, tips, and encouragement; who can connect me with the right professionals; and who can even offer support services for free.

I am not sure if it was courage, or just plain desperation, that sparked my decision to take this sabbatical. But it was privilege that allowed me to follow through on that decision. And I do not take that for granted.