What I learned from my sabbatical

What I learned from my sabbatical

My last piece of content that I made was on June 9th, 2023. It was partially an essay about the end of Twitter and the end of Reddit but it also originally contained a section about me talking about how I was giving my newsletter another shot after some time off1. Then I stopped making things altogether.

The reasoning for my sabbatical has a couple points to it, one good and one bad, but I feel like I should elaborate on it. Partly in hopes to show the human side of creators online, and also in hopes that it can help others struggling creatively. This is what I learned over the past few months that I plan to keep with me going forward with my writing and other creative works.

Be kinder to yourself

I have spent my entire adult life living with depression. At times it feels persistent no matter the situation I’m in, other times it’s more cyclical. Regardless, I have times in my life where I can barely get through the bare necessities. When I’m in that situation, nothing seems to matter and I’m doing what I have to—rather than what I want to. It’s easy for me to put my creative projects aside, necessary even. It’s a double-edged sword though.

If I continue working on my creative projects it seems like garbage, drivelshit. Why bother putting that out in the world? On the other hand, if I stop working on things altogether I get more depressed because I lose my sense of worth. If I have nothing to work on, nothing to make, then I am nothing.

Eventually my proverbial ship rights itself and I’m no longer taking in water, which then allows me to pick back up where I left off. Rinse. Repeat.

How does the ship right itself? It’s hard for me to say really. Sometimes it’s simply no longer worth holding it all in, I need to let the negativity fall off me. Honey instead of vinegar and all that. Other times I hyper-fixate on a project and the toxic sludge that often bubbles up doesn’t have time to keep up with me. I once spent over four hours working on a website I built from scratch just to see if I could.2 Throughout that entire time I had no worries about whether or not it was “good.” I just wanted to make something. Eventually the project became too much for me technically and I put it down. It continues to collect dust on a Github repository of mine. That website never saw the light of day but it allowed me to be creative again and that is what allowed me to no longer wishing I could make something and actually making something.

Whether it is simply me being kinder to myself once in a while or allowing my ideas to break through the mold I feel like myself when I’m working on something creative.

Does this mean that the depression and hopelessness I felt was trivial in any way? Absolutely not, there is clearly something that needs to be worked out, but at least I am no longer stuck in the firm grasp of self-hatred. I can at least try and use my energy to make something.

About a year ago I watched Neal Brennan’s comedy special, Blocks and I think it’s a stroke of genius, and often a kickstart I need to start my next thing. What gets me is specifically the ending, where he comes to terms with himself and realizes that even through all that he has done to try and fix himself he reconciles with the fact he needs to be kinder to himself.

Is kindness going to be a serious solution to mental illness? No. But it can be the thing you need to make the next serious step to get better.3

Focus on what matters most

Another reason for me taking time off was actually because of some of the most wonderful news I could ask for: a pregnancy.

My wife is just past 20 weeks pregnant, our daughter is due in mid-March, and I get to be a father. While I’m beyond excited about what is to come, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I was also terrified. As we prepare more and more for our baby the more and more I feel totally and wholly unprepared. I’ve been trying to read more about what to expect, parenting advice, I’m even on parent TikTok now. I’m learning, but the unknown is what scares you.

Will she be healthy?

Will we have everything that we need?

Will we know what to do when “X” happens?

What if we aren’t good enough parents?

How do you clip a baby’s fingernails?

I still have another 18-20 weeks to continue to prepare but I’ve been told by pretty much every parent I know that the fear and constant questioning never ends. While I understand that, I do hope there are times where I feel like what I’m doing is right, or at least enough.

Parenting, as they say, doesn’t come with a handbook and you kind of just have to figure it out. I like to think that I am moving forward to make that happen, but if there is one through line that I have seen from parents talking about parenting, it’s nothing that you are totally prepared for and that it’s a ride you just have to experience yourself.

Making time to prepare the house, shop for the necessities, plan for the baby shower, and doctor appointments means time lost for writing, but I’ll happily forgo some writing time if that means it can allow me to do the things that matter for my future daughter.

What’s next?

I hope to have another issue out this time next Tuesday, then another a week later, and so on. Kind of make it a regular things I suppose. It will have essays from me, links to cool stuff I found online, a Substack of the week, maybe even some original podcasts by yours truly. Who knows! The goal for me is to press “Publish” each week on time and give you something cool to read.

More immediately, I have links to a few things that I loved this past week and Substack that I have become an instant reader on.

  1. I have since removed this bit as it now very apparent that I wasn’t ready to start making content again. ↩︎
  2. For those interested, it was a website that I wanted to emulate Web3 is Going Just Great but about Twitter and “Free Speech.” I made it shortly after Elon’s Twitter purchase but after I put the website down I learned about a similar site and never picked it back up. ↩︎
  3. For the record, I have had been in and out of therapy and am on a healthy and helpful prescription from my psychologist. Self-help can indeed help when you are hurting, but I am also a prime example of modern medicine also helping with mental illness. ↩︎