Shhh. I’m on Sabbatical.

I’m in love with Ted. Or rather, TED,  a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. I first met TED when I clicked on a link a friend had posted on Facebook (see earlier post “The Danger of a Single Story”), and we’ve been seeing each other ever since. 

1370_253x190My latest TED crush is Stefan Sagmeister & his talk “The Power of Time Off.

Stefan is a designer who had done work for such uber-famous/cool folk as Lou Reed and the Rolling Stones. He also has this funny idea–every seven years, he shuts down his design studio for an entire year to pursue creative projects. He realized that, even doing work he absolutely loves, without creative breaks, he eventually becomes bored and uninspired, and his work risks becoming boring and uninspiring.

Think about this: we generally spend 25 years learning, 40 years working, and finally 15 years in retirement.

Stefan decided to make a 5 year withdrawal on his retirement years, and intersperse them periodically into his working years. I think this is f*ing brilliant.

If I had the magical superpowers to grant just one big gigantic monumental change in our nation, it would be to give every single citizen a paid one-year sabbatical, at least once in their life. (If I had two, by the way, and just for the record, I’d totally do some serious mind erasing on every teenage boy, to cleanse them of the idea that it is any kind of cool to walk around with one’s boxers on display, pants clinging for dear life somewhere below their collectively exposed asses. Nobody wants to see that shit. Are you with me?)

But back to my grand sabbatical-ing of this grand nation. Consider: it’s no secret that those who have the least amount of money tend to donate a higher proportion of their earned income to charity. And it is furthermore no secret that clearly these are folks who are scrappy and know how to stretch a dollar, something our country needs more of at the moment. They are also smart and creative. And artistic. And supporting families. And educating the next generation. And involved in their communities, willing to pitch in, to lend a helping hand, to do things with their time that make other people smile. They’ve lost jobs. They can’t get access to health care because they’re unemployed, or because they live with same-sex partners whose health plans they are (ridiculously, outrageously) not allowed access to. They get it. They don’t just know what kind of change is needed, they live it. Everyday. I want to waive my magical sabbatical wand over their heads. I want to hear their ideas, see their passions take shape. Right now there are a handful of–but egregiously too few–organizations who are making work like this possible.

I propose that our combined inventiveness and ingenuity, unique to each person and their passions, could collectively bring about some serious, serious change in this world of ours. Not to mention make individuals feel respected, supported, listened to, and generally kinda happy. AND. Perhaps most importantly, shift the whole way we think about “work,” re-center it so that it is in balance with other things like family, creativity, spirituality, learning, et cetera.

Who’s in?

Okay, I’ll start…I’m officially on sabbatical…

When You Let Go of Everything, You See What You Really Have

So, I recently took a big leap of faith and quit my job. Now, “leap” sounds all fun and spontaneous…but in reality it took a good 3 or 4 years of soul searching, working through doubts, therapy, meditation, and self-help books. What I realized was this: the things that I was doing not-for-money–mentoring, teaching, volunteer work, traveling to interesting places like Rwanda, Turkey, and El Salvador, writing, curating a reading series and editing an online journal–were the things that I truly enjoyed and wanted to do more of, and were also things that could generate income if I put my mind to it and placed a little faith in the universe. 

What I found surprising (but in retrospect, not) is that the trade-off of giving up a decent, steady salary in exchange for the freedom to set my own schedule and pursue my own projects was, instead of being terrifying and scary, in fact joyous and liberating, and the kindest gift I’ve ever given myself. And when I shifted my thinking from “My god, how am I going to pay my rent!?” to “Wow, if I just focus on making enough to pay my rent, I can make a lot less money, and I’ll be totally fine.” I knew that I would be okay. I’m pretty scrappy when it comes down to it, and I’ve been supporting myself since my first paper route job at the age of twelve.

And then it became fun to think of expenses I could strip out of my life. I needed to do this in order to make this work. Goodbye monthly unlimited metro card; hello walking everywhere. Goodbye Netflix, hello watching free tv online. Goodbye, fancy groceries; hello minimalist cooking. Goodbye meeting friends for dinner; hello meeting friends for coffee.

One of my current self-help guru crushes is Wayne Dyer, who gives this advice: Whatever you don’t have, you don’t need. If you’re alive, congratulations, you’ve already proved you can live without it, whatever that new shiny thing is that you feel you must have. 

When you let go of everything, you see what you really have.

So that’s the history behind why I’ve started this blog. I’ve committed to spending less and doing more. I’ve committed to finding time to write. And hey, this blog is free, so it fits my current budget. So. Welcome. Thanks for taking this journey with me.