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A Sacred Pause: How My Ancestors are Inspiring My Sabbatical

By March 28, 2024April 8th, 2024One Comment
Wooden Scarbble tiles that says "Pause, Breathe, Resume".

Photo by Brett Jordan

In April, I start the first 3-month sabbatical in my career and, people, this is BIG for me.

Like many of you, I don’t come from people who “take sabbatical.” My people barely took weekends. Not by choice, but rest in this way was not a possibility in their lives.

So a lot of complicated questions are coming up for me as I embark on this journey. Who am I to deserve this opportunity? What makes me special? How will I honor this gift of time? Just like most of you, I am simply doing the best I can with the life I have before me, so I’m humbled by the enormous privilege of getting time off when I know there are so many people working around the clock in our society who can’t even get basic paid leave when they need it.

I want this sabbatical time to open me up to the conversations, spaces, and people I have not been able to be with

I know I’m not the only leader experiencing this very real challenge. Maybe you face this struggle too, navigating complex emotions about time off and rest. Maybe you come from a working class family, or maybe you come from a family where overwork was expected and rewarded. In our hyperproductivity-oriented culture, our work is never enough, and at times a misguided urgency-centered mindset in movement spaces often amplifies that relentless drumbeat until we feel like we can’t stop, even for a moment, no matter how much our bodies and hearts crave it.

And I know it becomes even more difficult to navigate this idea of rest in this moment of political expediency, conflict, genocide, fear, existential threats, and internal strife within our organizations and movements.

But as I get closer to the beginning of my sabbatical, I’m starting to understand that these complicated feelings of anxiousness and discomfort about taking a longer period of rest right now are just that – feelings. Very real feelings stemming from my own history and the systems around me, yes, but they are not reality.

So, what is the reality? The reality is that creating space for restoration, for others to lead, to expand my own views, to learn and grow in other ways than being in my role at Rockwood are all critical to a strong and resilient organization, and a strong, creative and resilient me. If we think the only way to be helpful is by producing all the time, working all the time, then we miss something about how important having generative space is to allow us to come up with new, expansive ideas and approaches. And if we don’t believe in our own wellbeing, rest, and restoration, then we risk damaging the people closest to us by limiting our team’s ability to reimagine and recreate our world for the better.

So even though my feelings about this sabbatical are complicated, I’m going to make this road by walking it. I intend to look up as I stroll through my neighborhood, to visit a few different neighborhoods, and drop by a community center here or there. I’m planning to do some volunteer work with my kid at the local food pantry, where I can shift my perspective by being in relationship with new people and in a different posture with my son. I’m going to travel, including going on safari in Kenya with my family, and having a conversation with BIPOC creatives in the Netherlands about collaboration, power, and leadership.

This is a long way around to say: I want this sabbatical time to open me up to the conversations, spaces, and people I have not been able to be with. In this way, I hope my sabbatical will honor my ancestors and the communities where I grew up in DC. I hope this time of restoration is a future they would have wanted for me, one that allows me to do work they would have believed in in a way they would have honored. I know my sabbatical rests on the foundation of their tireless work and sacrifice, and for that reason, I will strive to cherish every languid morning, all the time spent with family and friends, every new thought from my no-longer-exhausted brain. I will cherish every moment.

With deep gratitude for those who came before me, modeling this way, and for all the Rockwood team members from board to trainers to staff who are making this time possible, I will celebrate this adventure and the gifts it gives to my life and my leadership.

See you in July!

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