Sabbatical ’11 aka Sabbatical ’10 rescheduled

Back in December 2009, my company’s CEO made a pretty shocking announcement at our annual holiday party. For everyone who has been with the company for 10 years or longer, he is offering a paid one month sabbatical. It requires that the employee take the time off all at once and that it is a time completely disconnected from the company. No email, no phone calls, no coming to the office for any reason. At the time, I had been at this company for 9 1/2 years. The only other people who had been there longer was the CEO/founder and our president. (Actually, this fact is still true today. 11 years and counting!)

Needless to say, it was quite the surprise to everyone in attendance. All I could think about was “wow, in 6 months I’ll be able to take a whole month off from work! What should I do? Where should I go?” So the process of vetting locations began. In the spring of 2010, I was pretty well set on going to Iceland and Prague. I even had gone as far as purchasing my tickets for the flight there and back.

Fast forward to the first week of June. Due to some staffing changes in my department that saw a programmer leave us and us eliminating another position within the course of a week, I was down from a full department of 6 to 4. My conscience wasn’t able to let go of the responsibilities of running IT given how busy we were and the fact that we’d be down to 3 people for a month. So, of my own volition I decided to cancel my trip originally scheduled for September 2010 to a date in the future. During that summer, a lot of other things happened, such as finding a new programmer (who’s working out great by the way) and me deciding it was time to make some roots in my current hometown and purchase my first home.

After the dust settled, in the fall of 2010 I began again the planning of taking my trip in spring of 2011. In early November, my most senior developer gave me his two week resignation. At this point, I again rescheduled my trip, but thankfully I hadn’t purchased tickets just yet. I began to wonder if this trip would ever become reality for me. Thus began the long search to find another programmer.

Fast forward a few months. We are back to a team of 5 as of a couple months ago and things are looking good for me to finally go in mid-September through mid-October. The planning process for what to do, where to stay, etc., will be going into full effect very soon. I will be sharing some thoughts as I prepare myself for the longest period of time away from this job, and really anything else, since my teen years. I’m working to learn and fully appreciate what this sabbatical can be for me personally and how I can make the most of this opportunity. Come back here for more reflections in the next few weeks.

Living for the After Party

I’ll admit it: I enjoy being the guy who’s there when the party wraps up, being the last person at the office who locks up and turns off all the lights, or the last person who goes to bed once everyone else has fallen asleep. It’s that window of time of lingering, of simply being, where something unique is in the air.

It’s a peaceful moment that can last just a few seconds or several hours. At a party or any large gathering, there comes a point at the event where being around so many people becomes mentally and emotionally draining. I may be having a great time, but so much (usually surface level) social interaction wears me out. But if I can make it through to the end, when most people filter out of the room and I’m left with a smaller pool of folks to interact with, I find a new energy to draw from. The group gets smaller, the necessity of “working the crowd” and typical empty chatter falls away and you’re left with the after party.

The “after party” is that time where you can stop being the entertainer. You’re no longer making sure you said “Hi!” to everyone. The primary purpose of said event is done. Your responsibilities are completed and you fall back into a place of just being yourself. You take that time to soak in the day, to revel in the presence of the friends around you that are just chilling out in that snippet of time. People are more willing to open up and talk without rushing, to go deeper into a conversation, and be there with you. I love these spaces because they can come and go so quickly, but are ever so rewarding. There’s a lightness to the air, an unexpected joy and appreciation for life that lingers, that’s impossible to create by choice.

Next time we’re at a party or some sort of large gathering together, don’t be surprised if you notice me really starting to break out of my party shell as the event progresses and the crowds thin out. It’s in that after party time I find I can truly connect with others and enjoy the atmosphere and appreciate the relationships with people who are there.