February 2020 Blog Archives

Money Can't Buy Happiness

4 February 2020

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 1. 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 problems.

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.


  1. The other problem is a Princeton study found that up to a certain income level can contribute to happiness. ↩︎

My Year Off is Over

3 February 2020

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 back.

What Day Is It?

2 February 2020

This is one of many blogs that I wrote during my year off but never posted.

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.

Empty Canvas

1 February 2020

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.