My my three months of leave are coming to an end. It was a wonderful luxury and a necessary break. I thought I would do a little update on how things are going and what might be coming next.
I had every intention of diving right into the question of "What do I do next?" as soon as I got free. This turned out to be a really bad idea. I was in no state of mind to explore writing or coding or teaching or anything. What I needed was a recovery - not a restart. I quickly figured out that this summer needed to be about doing nothing - not about figuring out how to spend the next few years of my life.
Doing nothing turns out to be harder than I would have thought. Going through the process of figuring it out starts to teach you some things about yourself. In my case, I realized that I am a problem solver at heart. I'm always looking for problems to work through in my head. This can be a challenge when your aim is to do nothing. I started off my break by waking up at 4 or 5AM every morning with some grand new idea pulsing through my brain. While it was nice to know that I haven't totally burnt myself out over the last 25 years, it wasn't exactly helping me relax and recharge. Eventually, I was able to apply my inner problem solving drive with some more focused, break-friendly activities. This included family roadtrip planning and execution (2900 miles over 3 weeks!), cooking, cycling, gardening and deck refinishing. These were all rewarding experiences that allowed me to destress while still keeping my brain from spinning up on bigger questions.
It turns out I also love learning things just because I'm curious. I completed a MOOC on complex systems that was run by the Santa Fe Institute. I've been sharpening my technical skills on a range of personal projects like this blog, a mail server and programming projects. I was able to dive into a number of books. (I'll be writing another post on my reading.) I even bought a guitar and have started to learn a few chords. The NSA news has inspired me to learn more about privacy and security. And, I've dug into what and how to eat better. When I'm in this learning mode, I feel that sense of 'flow' where hours can go by without my noticing. It needs to be an important part of my future.
Finally, I discovered that getting control of my time is as important to me as I suspected when I started this journey. Learning and solving problems happens best when I am doing it at a pace that is comfortable and blends with my need to be attached to family and community. Just being at home for 3 months where I can be around my wife and kids almost constantly has allowed me to reconnect. I have been able to feed my need to learn without the drive of deadlines or the distraction of constant interruption. It has allowed be to be very productive and very relaxed at the same time. It has also allowed me to slow down and get more depth to my thinking and more intention in my actions.
I still don't know exactly what I'm going to do next. But, I will be working through it from a much better place. I have a stronger sense of self and a much better idea of what drives happiness for me. That is information that I will keep front and center as I move on the next phase of this journey. More specifically, I return to Rackspace in a couple of weeks and begin crafting a role that works for both of us within the above goals. There is clearly an opportunity to do that to the benefit of everyone involved. I'll continue my work as a member of the OpenStack Board of Directors and put more energy into the OpenStack community. I'm also planning to renew my graduate studies in Computer Science at UTSA in the fall.
Going forward, it's all about putting myself in the 'luck stream' while keeping firmly anchored by a strong sense of what 'lucky' looks like for me.