I just completed three months of sabbatical at Automattic and rejoined work last week. It’s been one of the best life experiences I have ever had and it changed my life, my perspectives, and even me, as a person!
The very day I joined Automattic, six years ago on a warm summer morning, I read about the sabbatical benefit in one of our internal documents. I was excited knowing that I could take three full months of (fully-paid) leave from work, once I complete five years here. The possibilities of what that entailed excited me. Since I had not had the privilege to travel a lot at that point in time, most of my sabbatical dreams revolved around travel. I pictured myself venturing on a Neelakasham Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi-style bike trip from Kerala to Tawang, revisiting Kasi’s and Suni’s OG-bike trip from the classic Malayalam movie. I dreamt of renting a car and partaking in a road trip across the United States, visiting all 50 states in one long trip OR saw myself backpacking around Europe. For a brief fleeting moment, I even pondered recreating a motorcycle journey undertaken by a certain Mr. Ernesto Guvera and his pal Alberto Granada through the heartlands of South America!
When it was time for my sabbatical in June 2022, I would do none of these things.
It is interesting how the passing years change your perspectives and thoughts. Though in my case, the change in my perspective came only a few months back, in April-May 2022, as I spent my days cooped up in a lovely hotel room in Barcelona, Spain, under quarantine for COVID-19. When you are thousands of miles away from home, in a strange land, where people speak a different language that bears no resemblance to yours, away from your loved ones, and alone… and feeling sick, that changes your perspectives. It was a hard reset for me. In between bouts of coughing, sneezing, fever, and long naps; I found myself lost in thought, pondering, reminscing, reflecting, day-dreaming…
- Why do I do everything I do?
- What is my purpose?
These questions kept coming back to me. As I closed my eyes, I could see the faces of my wife, and our three cats – as if they were right beside me, in bed. “Come home soon!” they all told me in unison. That was my moment of clarity. I realized, that more than everything in this world, my loved ones – my small family, meant everything to me. Spending time with them helped me grow and blossom throughout the years. Their love and care for me were my fuel. When I would take time off from work for several weeks, I decided to spend it in a way that would bring me with the most joy: with my loved ones, and with myself. 🙂
I will not bore you with the details of what I did for my sabbatical, but I will tell you that it was truly the best three months of my life. I saw myself getting copious amounts of rest, sleeping for eight hours every day. Reading lots of books. Meditating. Journaling. Spending time with my wife and my cats. Meeting some of my closest friends. It was everything I could ask for, and more. Even as a person that is passionate about work, I shut myself off everything work related, even social media (barring Instagram). I found myself in deep rest. Relfecting at all my life thus far, thinking about how my life ahead would look like. I found my attitude changed, towards the positive. I saw own psyche undergo a positive transformation. I realized new truths about life, about my own self. What my place was in this world, and in this universe, and what I should keep going for the rest of my life.
Three months sped by before I knew it. Before no time, it was mid-September, and time to get back to work. You would think that spending three months away from work, would make one detest or loathe getting back to work. On the contrary, as I approached the end of my sabbatical, I eagerly counted days until it was D-Day. It has been a week since I returned to work, and I couldn’t be more excited! If you have read this blog before, you may know that I have a special emotional connection to my work. I really enjoy it, especially seeing the impact of what I do. As I returned to work, I feel even more energized and encouraged to keep doing what I do best.
My sabbatical reminded me that one needs to pause in life, to spend some time and look into themselves. Because when we keep running this giant race called life, you never know when you will trip and fall down.
My travel plans are still on! I work for a distributed company with an open vacation policy. I could travel wherever I want, whenever I want. 🙂
Glad to hear about the positive impact your sabbatical had on you, Hari.
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