13. Hiatus – One Month Retrospective

Pictured is the stained glass I made in my class

This is Monday of week 5 of my hiatus. Things are going well. I’d like to explain why I wanted to take a hiatus, what I wanted to get out of the time, and give a general update.

I’d gotten burnt out at work. This was partially due to covid fatigue, working from home is great in some ways but low social interaction, not seeing friends and coworkers and so on really dragged on. The months of October through December were exceptionally busy for my team at work, and we were seriously understaffed. The way I described it to myself and others at the time was that by december i had been doing work that was at the same time boring and stressful, for over a month. We’ve since beefed up the team significantly, and while that was really great to see and be a part of, I was at the end of my wick.

I like a lot about my job, I love my coworkers, I think we work in an interesting domain that’s quite action packed, and I have a high-ownership high-knowledge role on my team. I’d joined the team at an early stage of growth and since things have expanded so significantly I was in a tech lead role of speccing out projects, mentoring new devs, reviewing code, all while expanding existing systems and writing my own code. That’s at least how January and February went. October through December was more of a story of barely staying above water, fielding urgent feature requests from teammates without having time to optimize the overly manual processes related to getting those features implemented. Things have gotten a lot better since then, but like I alluded to above, I was tired. I’m still tired.

In total, it’s been a lot: My dad is sick with cancer, my girlfriend was halfway across the world for 3.5 months, all through the stressful work times. Covid drags on. Work was high stress for months. I’d been moving around and hadn’t had a permanent place to live since moving out of my NYC apartment in July 2020, either staying in subleases or at my parent’s place. It all added up.

So I asked for a six month hiatus. Work was extremely supportive and understanding. I was surprised! It’s unpaid leave, but still we don’t have an official policy for it. Sometimes you get what you ask for.

My goals for the hiatus are to rest, to allow myself to slow down, to do art, to spend time practicing guitar, to indulge in flights of fancy, read what I want, write what I want, to see what grabs my attention and pull on that thread. To write it all down.

I signed up for a stained glass class, a basic drawing class, a pottery wheel ceramics class, and guitar lessons. I’m still doing my Fireside Project volunteering. And I’m spending time with my girlfriend and family and friends.

It’s been going really well! My schedule still feels really packed, to be honest. The stained glass class ended, and over time as ceramics and drawing classes end that’ll leave more empty gaps. I plan to keep doing guitar lessons, and at this point I think I’ll stick with ceramics for a bit longer too.

It’s really nice to have physical creative outlets. Very very different from code as a creative output. I still feel like I’m learning the tools and getting a basic understanding of how to get the results I want, especially with ceramics. You have to learn how to do what you want in order to be able to do what you want, otherwise you just try to do things and aren’t able to do much. Less abstractly, if what I want to do is make a bowl that looks a certain way, but I don’t know how to get anything to look like a bowl in the first place, I can’t do what I want. Embodied learned skill is a prerequisite for creative liberty.

Guitar is like this, but in a way such that the outputs aren’t physical. I’m really excited about getting to the point of being able to noodle around and improvize and ‘express myself’. Gotta learn how to, first 🙂

All of this is very different from writing code. I have no programming projects right now. Sometimes I think of some ideas, and I try to write it down. But overall, really enjoying not writing any code. For now, at least.

One of my goals has been to try to allow myself to not plan for the future, just for a brief moment of time, to not have to make any decisions about where to live or what to do. A friend told me that “It’s okay to slow down”, and that’s really resonated in my mind over the last month. This palladium post too.

I’m grateful for the good Berkeley weather. For my loved ones. For my art. For my economic flexibility to be able to take unpaid leave and not be strapped for cash. For myself for giving myself this chance to take rest and slow down.

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