Sometimes Dragons

A Summer 2021 Sabbatical

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I am taking a month off starting today.

Usually I hesitate to take more than a week of PTO at a time. Perhaps this is part of my socialization into the American workforce, or a remnant of the days when a week or two of PTO was all I could hope to accrue at once. Maybe it is a vestige of my time in academia, when any breaks from teaching were dedicated to (often multiple) part-time jobs or finishing whatever conference paper, journal article, dissertation, or book project was next in my queue. Or perhaps I just fear what my inbox will look like upon my return.

Lucky for me, my RedMonk colleagues (who are both brilliant and kind) gently pushed me to take a nice chunk of time off after watching me teeter on the edge of burnout during some very long weeks earlier this year (clearly not all of it caused by work, because gestures to all of 2020 and what we’ve seen of 2021). I respect all of my colleagues, and value their individual advice. However, when it is not just James or Rachel or Stephen advising you to do something, but James and Juliane and Marcia and Rachel and Stephen–when it is your company that is reminding you to take care of yourself and your family ahead of work–you just take their advice. And then you are grateful that you are in the privileged position to be able to take time off, at a place where you are vehemently encouraged you to do so.

And so today marks the first day of my full month off. Going back to my academic roots, I’ve taken to calling my break a sabbatical. While it’s not close to a sabbatical year–or even a sabbatical semester–the terms “vacation”, “leave”, and “PTO” don’t quite feel right (n.b., there is a “once every seven years” component to some definitions of “sabbatical”, and the last time I did something similar was in 2014 when I took a few weeks off from my primary job to finish my doctoral dissertation). Of course, one of the consequences of using this term is that some of my academic friends have asked me what sabbatical projects I plan to tackle. The short answer: I am going to do whatever it takes to get as far away from burnout as I possibly can. I am going to spend time with my family and friends, and help them with whatever they have going on in their lives. I am going to run–a lot. I am going to figure out how to operate in my community after so many months inside.

Of course I still have a lot of stuff on my to-do list waiting for me when I get back. But the very prospect of a sabbatical has made me look forward to (rather than dread) these tasks. I have things to write–lots of stuff about tech, but I also want to think through concepts like burnout and writer’s block and how I’ve been processing both. I have a lot of filming on my docket: some conference talks and webinars, but also some more RedMonk videos. I am getting very excited about actually attending an in-person Monktoberfest and perhaps getting to see some of y’all without a mediating webcam. Most importantly, I am already looking forward to getting back to future conversations with my excellent colleagues–even more than I am dreading the state of my inbox–after having followed their excellent advice and gotten some rest.

View of Barnegat Bay (NJ) with rock jetty and sand in the foreground

I hope that everyone out there keeps healthy and safe (because it is still 2021), and I will catch up with y’all in August. And if you are actually reading this during summer 2021, RedMonk is hiring–so consider joining us!

One comment

  1. KellyAnn,
    I am happy you got some deserved holidays, but I can’t stop the feeling that something must be wrong, very wrong in US to be thinking that a month off is something strange… and even call it a sabbatical !

    I am from EU, currently Finland, but Italian born, and I can assure you that in EU at least three weeks off is the norm and most people will have a one month leave during summer time. By law companies are mandated to require at least a two week break to employees in summer time.

    I am an exception and usually have 8 to 12 weeks of holidays in a year, but this summer, being ’21 and having had to shed some travel in 2020 I just had two months and half, i.e. 12 full, continuous weeks, of summer holidays with family (limited by the extent of summer holidays at kids’ school)… I spent traveling from Finland to the southern tip of Italy and touring Italy and some EU countries on the way down and up.

    Note I am not a millionaire. I am just a very senior tech guy that makes a good living and has decent funds apart, so it is something many people could do, if they wish.

    I am happy that your colleagues have been looking after you and helping you take care of yourself, but it would probably be better to engineer the work system or at least your workplace in a way that is (more) human friendly! After all without well functioning humans there would be no healthy company !

    One last point: you remember people that RedMonk is hiring. Great, but after what I wrote you and despite the kindness of your colleagues taking care of you, do you think the prospective of a place where you maybe get a week off looks really interesting?

    With love, Roberto from EU.

    PS As I see this as “madness” from an EU perspective (and I feel that US people sometimes think of EU as a decadent place), I would like to understand how it is seen on another perspective.

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