Okay one is from 2019 but it was almost 2020 and it’s where my 2020 began
so it counts.
Every sunset is different. But occasionally a sunset stands out. Sometimes a
sunset changes from minute to minute. Other times it
continues long after dusk. One thing remains consistent: the sun will
always rise tomorrow.
I spent a lot of time with my parents' dog, Denali, in 2020.
Denali is an 8 year old Vizsla. He still has a lot of puppy energy. He loves to
run, sleep in, and paddle board.
One of the most useful lessons I learned on my year off was to live
presently; no matter what is going on, to be mindful of what I am feeling and to
listen to what those feelings are telling me. That skill was valuable throughout
2020 as I had to deal with lockdown and the nonstop stream of unfortunate news.
The entire year felt like my anxiety and depression Super Bowl. I’ve been
learning how to manage, learning how to sit with my feelings, learning how to be
alone and okay.
That doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult. Just look at what I let happen to my
facial hair. But I took time to enjoy the small things and even
learned some new things. And hopefully 2021 will bring slivers
of hope and progress.
At the end of our week in Moab it was time to pack up and head back to Florida.
Our first stop was Denver, to drop John off at the airport so he could fly home.
I spent the next few days driving back, stopping in Missouri, Tennessee, and
On day four in Moab I drove into Arches National Park. I didn’t hike any of the
long trails but I stopped by as many arches as I could.
In the Spring of 2018 I visited Storm King Art Center with some friends.
I’ve heard this phrase so many times but it didn’t really click until I took a
year off. The problem is that it’s much easier said than understood .
And to understand it I had to try to prove it wrong, in a way. I thought that
buying myself a year in which I didn’t have to work would solve a lot of my
I went to Europe for four months during my year off. It was a wonderful trip.
And yet I could still find myself at times feeling anxious, lonely, scared,
unsure, wanting to leave. From the outside it could have appeared as if I
had everything going for me.
What I really internalized during that time is that it’s not the money or the
things or the traveling that make me happy. It’s spending time with my friends
and family. It’s feeling fulfilled with my work. It’s sharing what I’ve
learned. It’s creating. It’s being outdoors. This trip reshaped my view of
money. I was able to see how far a dollar can go when you stick to the basics; I
never got tired of living out of a backpack.
The one thing that I could buy myself - if not happiness - was comfort. If I was
feeling anxious I could spend more money on a nicer place to stay. Not having to
share a bathroom, for instance, would be one less thing to worry about.
We all do need money to survive. And unfortunately too many people aren’t having
that need met. But for those who are chasing a dream of having x income or y net
worth or such and such car or that size house or this many boats, give yourself
the time to reflect on what makes you really happy.
After 15 months of not working I flew to NYC and started back at The New
York Times on 5 August 2019. I originally planned to take one year off but
because I love the summer so much (and not working was really great) I extended
that time by three months.
The decision to go back to work wasn’t originally one that I thought I’d make.
When I began my year off I really had no idea what I was going to do at the end,
but I didn’t think I’d be going back to a full time job. I considered getting
into consulting so that I could pick up work on my own schedule, but that also
seemed like a lot of effort that didn’t align with my longer term goals. Going
back to a full time job was the best balance of earning some money while keeping
my goals in sight.
My year off was a supremely positive experience. I went back to work with my
stress level at zero. It has risen some in the last six months but my new
perspective on life allows me to maintain a calmer state of mind than I would have
otherwise. I never got tired of not working. It was a wonderful feeling to be in
complete control of my days. I gave myself plenty of time to rest and relax, but
I also got to experiment in a number of ways. Experimentation is so undervalued
and I cherish my seasons of experimenting.
I would absolutely do this again and I would definitely recommend taking an
extended amount of time off if you’re able. I wish it were something more
available and acceptable for people who would really benefit from taking a step
This is one of many blogs that I wrote during my year off but never
As my year off progresses, I am inching closer and closer to being in a mental
state where I am taking each day as it comes instead of living in the future (or
the past). I am the most stress-free that I can remember being. I am wholly
healthier than I’ve been in a long time. Things aren’t perfect, but when are
they ever? I have made major progress in the areas of my life that I wanted to
improve by giving myself the time and space to do so.
I wrote this in my journal on 20 May 2018, a few weeks after my last day of
work (for context, I was at my family’s lake house and had not yet let go of the
need to be doing something):
One of my favorite things so far about my year off is that I forget what day
it is. I wake up without an alarm and begin doing whatever needs to be done
that day. Today I finished replacing all of the electrical outlets and light
switches in the house, then began wiring the ethernet cable that we ran from
the house down to the dock. I came inside at 9:30 PM - my feet covered in
mosquito bites - filled with a sense of accomplishment. I thought it must be
Wednesday, or Thursday. Maybe Friday. I opened up a calendar; it’s Sunday.
Tomorrow begins a new week.
Another favorite: One of the first things I did after my last day of work was
delete the morning alarm from my phone. This has turned the morning into a much
more pleasant time of day for me; I sleep until my body gets the rest it needs,
and I’m not being jarred out of bed to go do something. It is a great luxury.
On 12 February 2018 - three months before I began my year off - I wrote
this in my journal:
What I’m most excited for on my year off: what I’ll be able to do with the
empty canvas that is a day, a week, a month, a year without obligations.
I had only known work and school up to this point in my life. My weeks were
planned out for me. I could go on small trips with my few weeks of PTO or even
take advantage of the ability to work remotely. But being constrained to this
one thing for 5 days of the week was not sitting well with me. I felt a sort of
mental claustrophobia - this feeling of being trapped in a pattern of doing one
thing over and over while wanting to do many others.
I have always been somewhat career-driven so I put in a lot of time and effort
to get to where I am. But a break would be nice - a time to enjoy what I’ve
accomplished and figure out where to go next; a time to pull onto the side of
the road simply to stop driving for a little while. Weekends weren’t giving me
enough time for that.
The idea of being able to wake up and do whatever I want (or nothing at all)
felt like a weight off my chest. And even more than that, doing something for
myself without worrying about the reactions of anyone else felt liberating. I’ve
struggled with this worry for a while and have only recently begun to explore
how to reign it in. Taking a year off was part of that process.
The canvas of my year off is now full of colorful experiences. While painting it
I learned a lot about myself and what I want and need. It is a valuable piece of
artwork that will pay me dividends for years to come.