Tag Archives: writing

In Gratitude for My Sabbatical

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller, on school truancy

“They’re giving you time off for good behavior?” – A former colleague, upon learning of my plans

A sabbatical. Three weeks off, and then a week away at a work-sponsored conference/retreat. A full four weeks out of the office.

To be sure, I checked my email ten times a week and kept basic marketing functions going, but for no more than a day each week, on my own schedule, as if my employer were my client.

Everyone deserves an extended break in the midst of a loyal, long-term commitment to an employer. Sabbaticals, I am realizing, are a thing outside of academia. Some forward-thinking employers (with more staff and resources than mine) offer paid sabbaticals of 3-4 weeks to employees in addition to their paid vacation, and after only 7 years of employment.

It inspires loyalty while giving staffers space to nurture passion projects, projects that can enhance their skills. There’s space to pursue exciting new ideas and scratch creative itches without needing to leave the company.

It also staves off burnout, kindles creativity and self care, and refreshes an employee’s thinking. I needed a reset for sure, and I was damn lucky to have the vacation time banked up to get paid for this.

So what did I do? Let me get it down quickly, before the bliss evaporates completely.

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Yoga, 3-4 times a week
I found a favorite new teacher at Twisters, stretched with friends, and spent happy hours on the mat at Tara.

Andreasz-communications.com
I set up a website. It ain’t gorgeous, but it is presentable and gathers my portfolio together neatly for those who might hire me for freelance gigs.

Weekly lunch dates in Center City
I miss the life of the city, and I miss dates with Randy. I was able to connect with both, spending my morning writing at Elixr, running Center City errands, and then lunching out with my hubby.

I wrote, a lot
I wrote blog posts for this little rag, for Andrea Sz Communications, for Spotted by Locals, the Untours blog, Private Access Journeys and a couple clients. I banked up content to share throughout fall.

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I volunteered
I worked for Project HOME, writing a profile of a brilliantly inspiring resident of theirs. I helped Weaver’s Way. And I volunteered at Robin’s school for the Book Fair, cashiering for my first time since college.

The beach
It was only for a long weekend, but Strathmere was a wonderful chance to spend time with my family, and to take long sandy walks and think.

I celebrated Septivus
That includes my birthday, Robin’s birthday, and our 15th wedding anniversary. I had space to honor our family milestones, enjoy my favorite month, plan celebrations, and ease us into the school year.

The B Retreat
I capped it off with the B Corp Champions Retreat in Toronto, a party of progressive business thinking, deep and thoughtful conversations, art and ecology, music and wine, and all in a glorious city, in a sane country.

These four weeks gave me time to digest the enormity of this fall’s relentless string of tragedies: natural disasters and man made carnage; I had time to feel the appropriate sadness. To let it sink in.

I also enjoyed long walks, lazy Sundays reading, off-peak errand running, tweeting, beers with friends, stalking paintings on Chairish, and discovering new spots in my city.

I would urge anyone who can to take a sabbatical, and to use it as such: not just as a staycation, but as a time to reset, build skills, nurture your mental and physical health, and take on personal projects that feed your vocation.

Use your talents for good. Reconnect with your gifts and your calling. Revel in the doing.

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The Power of Words

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A new year, and words have produced results!

December was a month of action around here, of packing and unpacking, of moving, of painting and remodeling. Of transformations, tiring work, tangible physical results and visible transitions. No time for journaling or blogging or any of my usual word play. Too much stuff to get done!

It was refreshing for someone who spends most days in front of a screen typing away, pushing well crafted communications out into an indifferent world, with little to show for each completed project. A sale. A blip in web traffic. An email reply from a reader. Six likes. A share. Tweet. Tweet.

Then January happened.

Our house hit the market on a Friday afternoon. I’d spent time honing the language of the description with my realtor, though I knew the photos were more important. We had put in the labor to clear out the house and hired expert help to refresh and beautify it.

Still, I felt the rich community of the block was its best feature, far more important and enduring than the stager’s trendy hexagon end tables. I wrote a concise essay on the warmth of my neighbors, our memories of block parties and fire pits, and the texture of that special block. My realtor planted it at the open house that Sunday and distributed copies.

By Tuesday we had an offer. We sold our house in less than a week, and to someone we felt was a good fit.

Sadly, that same day I got news of a dear friend’s passing. The founder of my company, the man who hired me 20 years ago and changed the course of my life, left us that day. His contributions to the worlds of responsible business, economic empowerment, fair trade and sustainability will live on for decades. My respect for him is bottomless.

I quickly published the obituary I had written for him in anticipation of this moment. (He was 91, after all.) It was an assignment I’d been honored to take some months earlier, approaching the task with diligence and earnest respect rather than sadness. That brief biography may be one of the most important things I have written.

I also wrote announcements of his death and disseminated them to clients, staff and friends.

As people from around the world shared their memories and condolences, and as we grieved together, I was struck by how many people thanked me for my obituary and my beautiful words about Hal.

My words helped honor the man in the manner he deserved, beyond what his family and newspaper reporters could offer. And my writing provided comfort to readers who loved and grieved him as I did.

For the first time in a long time, I remembered just how powerful good writing can be, how articulate words can change minds, soothe loved ones, connect people and tighten communities. I felt a sense of my own power as a writer and felt grateful for my gift of language, my ability to encourage, persuade or comfort with well chosen words.

I watched the president’s State of the Union address with a new enthusiasm that week, eager to let the speechwriters’ soaring rhetoric elevate me. Wanting to join them, to turn my pen to civic matters. The world needs our crisp prose to inspire action and light the way of progress.

(Watch this space.) Write on!