I meant to write about how my sabbatical/gap year is going much earlier - it’s been almost 4 months now - but never got around to it. I’m definitely enjoying my break so far, but I didn’t realise how much I needed a break until it started. When I wrote about leaving my job I did mention I wanted rest, but also liked the appeal of having more time to spend on hobbies and other things too. I think I underestimated how much rest I needed. Now that I can actually rest during the day (well, sometimes), it’s clear how much rest/sleep I must have been sacrificing in order to work full-time. If I had continued to work over the last few months, it would have really taken a toll on my health. I’m glad I left when I did.

I don’t miss working at all. I was expecting to experience a sense of emptiness at suddenly not being able to open my work laptop and be amongst the familiar codebase I’d been around for so long, but I haven’t thought about it at all. In fact, I’m still finding it difficult to do any kind of coding without getting very stressed. Early on, I tried going through the fast.ai tutorials and hated it. Nothing to do with the course itself; the course is great, and it’s a topic I’m interested in and motivated to learn, but coding the exercises wasn’t enjoyable, just frustrating. It’s like, the negative aspects of coding really annoy me, and I don’t find any joy or reward in it. I think this is probably lingering burnout, and it’s still going to take some time before I recover from it and actually want to code again.

Another thing that surprised me is how little “free time” I’ve had compared to what I planned for. I already knew that the concept of “free time” is kind of a myth; I believe you have to make time, and can make time for anything if you try, but I didn’t realise how many other things compete for time besides work. Also, there are many days I’ve had to look after our children, due to school closures, illness etc. I’m at least glad that I’m able to do this fully now, without worrying about work. For the first month, our son was down with flu pretty much the whole time. And now it’s a coin-flip whether he’ll sleep through the night or not. Many days I’ve had to wake up at 2-4am to put him back to sleep, which means I need to sleep the next day. I’m sure it will get better once he’s a bit older, but it’s really been difficult, and I don’t know how I could have coped with the lack of sleep while working full-time.

I really overestimated the amount of things I’d be able to do. I drew up a schedule for myself with morning/afternoon activities for each day, kind of like a school timetable, but it quickly became clear that I wasn’t going to stick to it. It took me a long time to shake the feeling of “work-mode” where I’d feel guilty about not being productive and chasing goals and so on. But I’m OK with that now. I realise I work better when I’m focused on one thing. Often that means sacrificing time on other things, but I think that’s always the case. Making time always means making compromises - perhaps spending less time cooking or going for walks or whatever - but there’ll be other periods where you can catch up on those things at the expense of others. It’s better to be aware of this and rebalance periodically than try to achieve a perfect balance of spending exactly the right amount of time on everything.

This post has been sounding pretty negative so far, but there’s been positive surprises too. First, taking a break has been way less scary than I thought it was going to be. I hardly miss having an income. Of course I did prepare and set aside enough cash so that I could do it, but I’ve realised I wasn’t as tied to my job as I thought I was. It’s given me confidence that I can (and should) take breaks from work again in future. The world isn’t going to end. It’ll be fine.

As far as what I’ve been doing so far goes, here’s some of the things I’ve done:

  • Spend a lot more time with family
  • Play a lot of games. Finished Baldur’s Gate 3, played Cyberpunk 2077, Cyber Hook, Hades, Wild Rift, Monster Train, and some retro games. I got a Powkiddy RGB30 and a Steam Deck for Christmas, so there’s still so many I want to play!
  • Game development. Mainly I’ve been going through this Pico8 tutorial by Lazy Devs Academy. This has been a lot of fun, and the only kind of coding I don’t mind doing at the moment.
  • Learning guitar. I’ve been learning since May last year and although I made a lot of progress in the first 3 months, I’ve been struggling with weird nerve pain in my fingers that put a limit on my practising. I still love playing though, just wish I could do it more.
  • Did some volunteering with Beyond, a local charity serving underprivileged children and families.

Out of everything I’ve tried learning so far, I’ve found game development and guitar to be the most enjoyable, so I’m going to continue focusing on those for now. I haven’t had the mood for any work-y side-projects yet, and I don’t plan on looking for work again at least until that happens, although I have several ideas for things to work on. Today I’ve got to do some chores, then it’s back to the pico8 tutorial (I’ll probably finish it this week) and maybe work on replacing one of my Wordpress blogs. Bye for now!