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.