How I Failed Sabbatical and Regained Some Little Bits of Me: Thoughts, Reflections and Notes from #sabbatical1819
[A Story in 10 Slices]
The Set-Up and the Let-Down
In May of last year, I left the directorship of the RIT MAGIC Center and MAGIC Spell Studios, just at the tail end of readying the new building (that I had led the design and development of), which if you had asked me even a month prior if that was a thing I’d be doing I’d have probably laughed. These are the ways such things can turn: new directions, new ideas, and different ideas about how to get them done. I won’t go into the hows and whys of that here or anywhere else, but what I will say is that at the end of it I was given a year of administrative leave to do with what I wanted. I had several people remark to me how lucky I was to have this opportunity. At the time, I felt anything but lucky. I will describe the following year mostly in terms of ‘slices’ because there is no sense in telling it chronologically, because in many ways it didn’t really progress that way at all, and slices is more apt to how I see it — I felt cut off and cut apart, removed from not just the few years I spent building the building, but from the institution that had been my home and my hope for 20 years.
Yes, astute viewers will note that I began my faculty career at RIT in August of 1999, and so I suppose by the numbers I will end it just a month short of 20 years. I was also a graduate student there and taught while I pursued my degree, so in that sense it’s more than 20. It was a long time. Along the way I built 2 world-class degrees (MS & BS GDD), modified another (NMID), created minors and hybrids (Minor GDD and Game Design, BS/MS bridge), founded the School of Interactive Games & Media and served as the inaugural director, and founded the RIT MAGIC Center and MAGIC Spell Studios, again serving as inaugural director. And somehow built a building. I also engaged with a lot of really cool and fairly large-scale research projects, like Preserving Virtual Worlds I & II, Just Press Play, MUPPETS, and a lot more, that are often forgotten because they are overshadowed by the big administrative efforts. All-in-all a very strange experience and probably not what anyone might envision starting out. And of course, I did this not as an individual, but as a person that led a team, by recruiting and empowering faculty and staff, by working directly with our students, by enmeshing myself deeply in the culture of the institution and the people that lived there.
And yet there I was last June, staring at a letter granting me a year of leave. I remember feeling confused about what, exactly, I would *do* as a faculty member, and got the standard response of ‘a combination of teaching, research, and service.’ It was up to me, but it would be more teaching and less research given that I had moved my academic tenure home to art and design the year prior. I was baffled, and kept asking for direction — I’d spent 16 years meshing and melding my goals and objectives with that of the university, ever since I was an assistant professor, really, operating in partnership with various administrations and senior personnel, and was now supposed to find for myself a new direction for impact and engagement, whatever it might look like. Take a year. Figure it out. Good luck. The only thing I felt in that moment was trapped.
Slice 1: Motivations
It’s not really possible to describe how afraid I was in that moment. I worried about how I was going to support my family given salary reductions. I worried about whether I would be able to re-establish a career for myself that was something that even felt enjoyable. I worried about how I would seem like a failure to professional colleagues, friends and family. I frankly felt like a failure to myself. And I was keenly aware of how privileged I was, how academics insulates us from many of the harsher realities of what this might look like in the corporate world. I suppose in that sense I really was lucky, although it was still pretty hard to feel like it. (Academics can also be fairly brutal in the way we tear at each other, at the culture of ‘peer review’ and what we do in its name, in the inescapable insecurity so many of us feel behind the scenes. If you don’t believe me, try to explain the academic job search process to anyone in the commercial sector…)
I read a bunch of articles on how we shouldn’t define ourselves by our work, and they only made me feel worse — it’s pretty hard not to define yourself by your work on a campus where the entrance is dominated by the thing you literally built. Everyone I know that works in a creative field has some piece of themselves invested in the things they make, every educator I’ve admired is passionate about their work to the point where it becomes a part of their daily existence and thought process. I read a bunch of articles on how to take a sabbatical and they all said things like ‘don’t do anything for 3 months’ and this sounded like a sentence in purgatory. Take a vacation, they said. Use this time wisely, you won’t get another one for 6 or 7 years — relax! I’d never taken a sabbatical in 19 years, but the sabbatical literature didn’t seem to apply to ‘you’ve spent the last 15 years being an administrator, designing programs and buildings, now go back to the classroom and do something else.’ Yes, I’d done some amazing teaching during that time, including the production studio class in MAGIC that gave rise to XBOX games and other notable successes, but I was meshing my teaching with my administrative work and the role of the center and studio, not divorcing it from everything else I was doing. I honestly, at that moment, thought hard about quitting — I don’t mean quitting my job, I mean giving up. I mean using tenure not for its protection of academic freedom and ability to act independently but just as a card to check out. Show up. Teach class. Go home. Volunteer for no committees, engage with no functions of the university, essentially just ghost through university life as if it didn’t really apply to me anymore, because it felt very much like it didn’t.
And I remember distinctly moping around for about a month, dejectedly trying to read science fiction or binge on Netflix or whatever came to mind to just dull my brain into not thinking about anything anymore. The only thing I was actively doing at that point was working on Fragile Equilibrium because it still wasn’t done and I was stubborn enough to want to see it through (see Slice 2). And something happened in the run-up to July 1, when my leave was supposed to officially start. Up until that point I had dealt with this the way I deal with almost anything that hurts me truly deeply: I turtled, meaning I drew within my shell and shut out everyone and everything around me, trusting only myself to heal slowly in the darkness. I’ve had to do it more times than I can count, sadly. Maybe it’s what happens to an only child that moves around a lot, or who knows what else prompted the development of this behavioral quirk. I learned the lesson of relying on myself, even when I’m scared to death, but in ways that are not the healthiest at times.
In that run up to July 1, sitting inside my little turtle shell, I found a part of myself I haven’t touched in a very, very long time. Probably not since high school. I found the part of me that won’t bend, the most stubborn, angry, resilient, petulant part of myself that I’m not always proud of, but that is sometimes the thing you need to keep swimming when the rest of you wants to just sink to the bottom of the pool. And that part of me is a very, very dark place, full of sharp things and angles and calculation. It’s a place where you start using logic in ways that distance yourself from everything around you — including you, a kind of detachment that you start to ask yourself what you want and what you are willing to give up to get it. It is cold there.
I began to question everything: what if I didn’t go back to RIT? What if I left academia all together? What if I left everything behind and went rogue on a mountaintop? What did I even want out of life, and what did I want out of a career, and what did I want to spend my time doing? Would I be, as Bill Destler (the former university president that I worked with to make MAGIC) warned, bored and unfulfilled unless I was building something?
I decided I did like academia to a large extent, I did enjoy several of the colleagues I work with around the world and the friendships I’ve made through this work, I did like making games and creating art, and I did like teaching, but I also wanted the research career I had started to have and that I have created the structures and supports for so many others to enjoy. I did want to be a practicing artist again, in the truest sense. I decided I wanted to have continued and lasting impact with the things I made and discovered, and that I wanted to find new places and environments where that was encouraged though different means, and that were vibrant to me in their newness and difference from what I had already experienced. I decided I wasn’t done making things, and i wasn’t done learning.
I had the pleasure of reaching out to a few close friends who universally reminded me that what I had built was not a failure, that what I had done was field defining, and that others were only able to engage now because of the path that I had forged. They reminded me of the worth of my existing contributions when I needed it the most, but it took me a long time to get to a place where I could listen.
There is a song that I love called ‘Danko/Manuel’ by the Drive-By Truckers, which is ostensibly about the personalities and demise of The Band, being a travelling musician, and the aftermath of fame. There is a part of that song that reads ‘got to sinking in the place where I once stood’ and this had happened, I decided, to me. And I decided that I would not allow it to continue. I decided I would bend the world to fit the reality that I wanted for myself, something that 44 year old me was rather out of practice with, but that 14-year old me used to do every day, because at 14 confidence was never the problem.
Slice 2: The Game
Probably the first and most instantaneous thought when everything happened was ‘but what will happen to the game?!??!’ because that is what happens when you are knee-deep in something, it warps your focus as being the most important thing there is. We’d spent nearly 2 years in development on Fragile Equilibrium: An Action Game of Melancholic Balance (FE) by then, so watching it all crumble away would have been devastating. I was very fortunate that between myself, Brenda Schlageter, Chris Egert, Aaron Cloutier, Michael Cooper, Aidan Markham, Rowan Waring, Chris Robinson and a few others we managed to continue to make the game and see it through to completion. We launched the game in December.
That meant that for the first ‘half’ of my ‘leave’ I was still coming to work every couple of days, still meeting with the team, still staying up nights working on artwork and menus and promo materials, still engaged with the social media and websites and storefronts. Still on the Slack channel. But we got it done, and some of the students involved let me know how much it meant to them that I didn’t just disappear completely, and let it all crash. How could I? It was my work too, we were making it together. Fragile Equilibrium is available now for XBOX One, Steam, and is on Itch.io. I also published the extended artist’s statement in December 2018, from a hotel room in Miami where I was getting ready to show the game at an art festival.
It says something, too, about what I was going through that I made this game about seeking balance, about melancholy, about decay, about a beauty of things imperfect, about nostalgia, at exactly this time.
To anyone who does games development, they will know what a Herculean task a console launch is, and they will understand how at this point I basically thought my leave might just be beginning, six months into it. Of course, the game was plagued with a couple of problems, and we screwed some stuff up with the branding elements at first, so that meant work actually continued in bits and pieces well into March of 2019. But again, game shipped, and it got some great reviews, some great stream plays, and was accepted into a couple of art shows (see Slice 4). I am so grateful to everyone who helped me get it done, especially Aaron, who was also slowly separating from the university at this time. We still delivered a showpiece to MAGIC and RIT, and while those students didn’t all get the launch experience I might have originally envisioned, they all earned title credits on an XBOX game, with experience on a multi-disciplinary design and production team, and that counts for something as a resume item.
Slice 3: The Website
One of the very first things I did in the aftermath of leaving MAGIC was decide to move all of my personal stuff to a new website. The first and obvious reason for this was that I was hosting all my stuff on the MAGIC servers, and with the new building going up no one was quite sure what would live where in the long run, so I just figured I would need to do that. And then I got it into my head that my existing stuff didn’t really tell the story very well of what I had been doing the last five years, and if I was going to get out there and engage with people again in an academic context, I had probably better fix that. That all sounds somewhat logical.
What actually happened was basically neurotic. I decided to code the whole thing by hand, I decided to not use any templates or tools that would make it easier. I decided to drag out a ton of different projects and documents and resources that might one day be of interest to people. I wrote it in this semi-pretentious mode of third-person academic speak, but then included a few little quirks and pieces of humor to try and balance some of that. I’ve been updating it consistently all year long, while I try to ignore updating my CV. I made a website, to once again try and have a hope on the internet that describes what I do. And yes, I’m aware that in 2019 no one has personal websites anymore, they are all social hybrid gobbledygook. I still feel I got some good mileage out of making it, even if only to have the opportunity to reflect on some of the work I’ve done these past many years. If you want to peek at it, it’s at https://andyworld.io
Slice 4: The Academic Work
A part of digging deep this year was re-establishing that I could be active in my own research career. A piece of this was writing about what I’d actually been doing the last 5 years (since I mostly never had time to write about anything since we were rocketing along at a break-neck pace while trying to simultaneously design and build the new building). Another piece of that was establishing some new directions and interests, and I fell down the rabbit-hole of watching Twitch, of looking at development streaming, art streaming, and relating that to a lot of my prior work in games, art, and education. I had, as mentioned, a need to prove to myself I could be relevant again, that what I was doing and interested in was valuable in some larger context, and that I could once again function as a scholar in my own right. So I got busy. This past year I:
- Wrote a journal article on Hack, Slash & Backstab for a forthcoming special issue of the International Journal of Designs for Learning, and a have an accepted abstract for an article in the Journal of Games, Self and Society due in September.
- Co-authored a chapter on Splattershmup for the Learning Games 3 book that is due out this summer, and co-authored an accepted abstract for a chapter in a forthcoming title on games end education. I was also interviewed and included in another forthcoming work on games in the classroom from Springer, and also wrote some brief thoughts included in Dr. Lindsay Grace’s new book Doing Things with Games: Social Impact Through Play
- Co-authored two full papers published in academic proceedings, one at the Hawaiian International Conference on Systems Science (HICSS) and one at the International Academic Conference on Meaningful Play. The one from HICSS is invited to become a chapter in a forthcoming work.
- Showed Fragile Equilibrium (my game) as an official selection for Miami@Play in December 2018, curated and organized in collaboration with Filmgate Miami, and shown in conjunction with Art Basel 2018, and also showed FE by independent jury selection at the ICA Games “Ante-Conference” in May of 2019, sponsored in collaboration by the International Communication Association Games Studies Division, the American University School of Communication, the AU Game Lab, numerous other universities, the Higher Education Video Game Alliance, and the Entertainment Software Association. I also submitted the game to a few more shows, and time will tell on those submissions
- Co-authored 3 academic workshop papers, one at the Workshop on New Research Perspectives on Game Design & Development Education at CHIPLAY 2018, one at the 15th Annual Tampere University Games Research Lab Seminar, and one at the NCA Game Studies Preconference. The one from Tampere will be expanded and included in a forthcoming special issue of a journal
- Presented at numerous other colleges and universities (in addition to several through the work above) including the School of Communication at American University (twice), the Bern School of Informatics at the University of California at Irvine, the Entertainment Arts & Engineering program at the University of Utah, the Department of Visualization at Texas A&M University, the School of Communication at Miami University, and the Human Interface Technologies Laboratory at the University of Canterbury, and more
- Delivered the keynote address at ETECH 2019, and the Spinner Grand Rounds Lectureship at the University of Rochester Medical Center
- Presented at additional academic conferences, including the Media in Transition 10 conference at MIT, the Games 4 Change festival at The New School in New York City, and the Education Summit at the Gotland Games Conference
- Presented at several industry conferences including the Adobe MAX conference on work in Adobe XD and design, presented twice at the annual Game Developer’s Conference, once as part of the Education Summit and once as part of the main conference GDC program, and participated in the annual Adobe Education Leaders Summit
- Served as a judge at the Gotland Games Conference, and as a judge for the Games Education Day at the EKA University of Applied Sciences
- Co-authored two accepted workshop proposals, one at the Foundations of Digital Games conference, and one at the Digital Games Research Association 2019 (DiGRA)
- Co-hosted two events as president of the Higher Education Video Games Alliance, the annual GDC party wherein we induct the latest additions to the GDC Fellows, and the ICA Game Studies Ante-Conference at the American University Game Lab
In addition, there are several things begun this year that have not yet gone out the door, including 2 additional academic submissions, an upcoming panel at DiGRA 2019, an upcoming workshop in Norway, leading the workshops that were approved but have not yet occurred, presentation at another DiGRA workshop that is not mine on games, ruins, and nostalgia, and more.
Each and every one of these activities had some form of peer-review, most of them blind. I point this out because it means, to me, that there is at least some small measure of acceptance of the work I am doing as I claw my way back into a research career. (I didn’t list the rejections, of course, and those hurt worse this year than probably any other given all the other things going on.) I still don’t have the kind of productivity I would like given where I am in my career — I spent too many hours and too many cycles focused on administration, on structures, on creating environments that did lots of things for lots of people, but that in some circles don’t count for very much when you’re trying to describe your personal contributions. I frankly focused too hard on serving my home university, to the detriment of my own professional work and practice. As such, it is meaningful to me to have this measure of acceptance after just a single year, and I’m hopeful that this work will continue to grow and have meaningful impact within the field.
I am also so incredibly grateful for the support and encouragement of the various co-authors and partners with whom I’ve worked this year, they had to put up with a crusty, rusty researcher getting back into the swing of things, and I hope for their sake I’ve slowly gotten back some of those brain cells. Working with them has been one of the true highlights of the year, and I can’t express the depth of gratitude I have for their support, interest, engagement and belief in my ideas. Hell, I finally even learned to use Zotero. Go me.
Slice 5: The Travel
Another theme from this past year has been travel. Airplanes. Airports. Miles. Until this year, I always prioritized my travel in support of not just my own academic work, but the goals and objectives of RIT. Most of my travel was for fundraising and development opportunities in connection with the MAGIC effort, and prior to that it was in service to the School of IGM as director. I’d make sure I was at the big corporate conferences where our visibility could help get student jobs, and I spent a lot of time in California, Seattle, Austin, etc. for that reason. And occasionally I’d go present a paper or presentation but that was mostly targeted at these same kinds of events: GDC, MAX, PAX, FDG… I tried to double dip between my own research and creating commercial opportunities and connections for the program and for alumni. Layered on top of that would be some travel and advocacy work with HEVGA, which usually meant E3, G4C, and a couple of other events.
This year I decided to engage as a scholar again, but also to branch out and take on all the things I always said no to and didn’t have time for. Establishing (or re-establishing) yourself meant, to my mind, being present. This past year I visited New Zealand, Australia, England, Finland, Latvia, and Sweden, and will soon visit Japan and later Norway. In the US I made it to Miami, Boston, Salt Lake City, Irvine, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, and Washington DC. (I also visited my parents in Lexington).
In each of these, I got to see something I long wanted to see but never had time, whether it was the Center of Excellence in Game Culture Studies at Tampere, visiting the folks at RMIT in Melbourne, seeing downtown London for the first time, or discovering Riga. I got to hike in the Shire, I got to surf in California, I got to walk the wall in Gotland. I got to finally see how they do capstone class at EAE, visit the Game Lab at AU, see ‘The U’ for the first time. And in each and every place I connected with colleagues from all over the world, grew my network, met new people, made new friends, rekindled old connections, found support I could use and needed. I found a kind of zen in floating from place to place, in being exposed to all of these new cultures and ideas.
And it’s funny, perhaps that the most incredible experience of them all, the thing that stands out as the most transformative, incredible thing I saw or did was swimming with sea turtles and manta rays in Maui. Did you know a manta ray will mimic your motions? We danced. We danced under the water. I swam with a beautiful, incredible, inspiring 50-year old turtle, and how fitting that it should be a turtle given everything that has happened this year. I saw so many wonderful things this year it is almost overload, but I will remember this experience for the rest of my life and probably beyond it.
Slice 6: The Other Games
I earned airline status, and I made it to level 1902 of Candy Crush Soda Saga. These are probably related somehow. When I found myself really freaking out about the stress of everything and about what was or wasn’t going to happen, I played Candy Crush. Given the level count, you can probably infer how I felt a lot of the time.
I also, somehow, kept up with running for the most part. And I ran my fastest half-marathon ever, finally breaking 2 hours. I did this not at a race, not in a running group with other people, not with a detailed training regimen: I did this on a random Saturday morning where I went for a run, and it felt good so I pressed it. I spent a lot of time running this year, because it was one of the few things that helped me get outside of my head.
Slice 7: The Art
Probably the thing that people who follow me on social media would recognize as the quintessential activity of the year has been the daily watercolor art. On July 1, 2018, on a whim, I painted a picture of a tree in the backyard, and the next day I did one of the cookbook in the kitchen. And just like that, a project was born. I’d kicked myself for years for falling out of practice, for not being diligent in keeping up with the thing I’ve always loved — drawing and painting. It’s so easy when the days are short and the work is long to think ‘I’ll get back to that when I have time, when this one project is over, when it’s summer and things slow down’. Things never slow down.
And so I decided that I would re-engage with art, another rusty, crusty, thing, by doing a little watercolor every day. I try to take no more than 15 minutes with any one of them, just a quick sketch to capture a piece of something, a bit of scenery, some light, a place I saw on a trip or out the window or while walking. These are some of my favorites:
I don’t know what I will do with these now — I have a LOT of them, 365 to be exact. And I’ve catalogued them all so I have them in 1024x1024, 512x512 and 250x250 formats. You can see them all in my online gallery, if you want, or under the hashtag #sabbatical1819 if we are facebook friends. I might try to move them all into VR and create some kind of experience that compares showing the physical paintings to a VR/AR/XR approach. I thought about feeding them to an image recognition AI and fooling around with that. I thought about just sending them off as gifts to friends, or selling them, or trying to mount a show. I don’t know. I like to think they got better throughout the year, and I did enjoy making them, so in that sense they are a success regardless of any other eventual use. They brought me back in contact with this thing that has always been at the core of me since I had crayons. Each one has a little memory inside it now of the place where it was or what I was thinking when I made it or what someone said when they saw it. I will need to find ways to keep doing these sorts of things and stay connected.
Slice 8: New Zealand
In October, I went to New Zealand, and it changed my life. Over the course of the year prior I’d been in discussion with them about possibly helping with a new project they had envisioned at the Human Interface Technologies Laboratory (HITLabNZ) at the University of Canterbury (UC). UC has a new program in product design focused on games, and the lab envisioned an emerging focus on what it terms ‘applied immersive games’ or what we in the states might describe as ‘serious games in VR/AR’ (I like the NZ terminology a lot better). And I went there, and fell in love.
We wrote a big grant together, and I was offered a professorship at the lab. I’ll be spending half the year there beginning in January 2020. It is one of the boldest moves I’ve made in a long, long time. You can read all about it here, and here, but the bottom line is that I will be in one of the most progressive, liberal democracies in the world that just so happens to also be one of the prettiest places on the entire planet. If you can’t get inspiration from that, you’re probably dead.
So a slice that winds its way through this year is working with the folks at UC, with immigration, with planning and fretting and gnashing and gnawing at all the ins and outs of being halfway around the world for half the year. I’m still not done, of course, the paperwork and preparations are endless. But I am so excited to join the faculty there and to help in this amazing project, to be a part of this amazing country, even as I am terrified to be so far from everything I know and love.
Slice 9: Visiting at American University
Just after the game shipped in December, I took a new appointment in January as a visiting games scholar in residence at American University, with responsibilities to examine their game lab, talk to the faculty, staff, students, and administration, and engage in a kind of in-depth program review of what was working well, what could use some new ideas, how to strengthen and grow the program, etc. So if you are following along at this point, I spent the first six months of my leave finishing FE, and then took a job the second six months engaging with another university. This is, I am pretty sure, a failure when compared to the traditional definition of ‘sabbatical’.
And American was a ton of fun, I got to meet some really wonderful people, and see some really interesting things. I was already familiar with it because my good friend Lindsay Grace used to be the director of the game lab there, but I didn’t know a lot about the larger university, or the School of Communication. I was so thrilled to be able to think constructively about structures and labs and centers and such, but also really resonated with the core ethos of the school and their work in games, which is centered on using games, media, and communication for public good. Making the world a better place through media. Sound familiar? It’s what drew me to NZ and it’s what drew me to AU. I was in DC once a month or so from January to June, discovering a new place, learning a new city, living a new life, thinking about games and their impacts, their use as educational platforms, and modes of expression.
Slice 10: Goodbyes and New Horizons
And now the year is over, and I have one last announcement. I am, as of July 1, one year from the day I started this adventure, taking a new appointment as a professor in the Film and Media Arts Division of the School of Communication at American University, and as director of the AU Game Lab. I am leaving RIT, my home of 20ish years, heading to a new place, to do new things. I’ll be bouncing between AU and UC, and in my heart I think there is such synergy between these two places, and there is endless potential to build bridges and grow research capabilities. I am excited to make new games, continue my research, learn a new campus culture and try to grow a new lab. I am so very humbled by the thought of trying to take on what Lindsay began there 5 years ago. I hope I can do it justice.
And I am also a bit sad — it is a very strange thing to have worked at a place that long only to leave. I’m scared and nervous and excited and worried and pretty much every other emotion all at once. Leaving Rochester is just kind of surreal, I don’t really know that I can describe it in words. I have several colleagues who have moved between universities several times, and they have been so helpful to talk to, but it isn’t the same. In a sense, I grew up here, so it’s a bit like leaving home. But I can say that, at the end of this year, I no longer feel beaten down and trapped. I have an incredibly weird time in my life that is just beginning. I have some amazing things on the horizon. And I wouldn’t trade that future for anything. I am excited to be at AU, and UC, and to learn from new people and new communities, to try to change the world through games and media and the stories we tell.
There was a time when I thought I would spend my entire career at RIT, a Tiger first and last. Over the last year, I’ve been thinking repeatedly about a certain bit of famous Rochester graffiti, that has been perniciously present for nearly my entire career here. On one of the streets bordering campus there sits an old abandoned house that I don’t think has ever had an occupant during my 20 years teaching here. On the side of it, scrawled in spray-paint is the phrase ‘Make Moves Son’. My students have regularly pointed at that as a slogan for heading off into the world, graduating and getting on with the living of life, beginning their careers in new cities, new homes, and new environments, aspiring to do nothing short of change the world. For a while it was also inscribed on the white boards in the game design lab, it was referenced in an alumni speech, it make some appearances as a graduation hashtag. And now, I guess, it’s my turn. It is time to abandon the life I worked so hard to create here, its security and its comfort, and embrace something new, something challenging, something exciting, something electric.
I have spent this year working so incredibly hard, and in that, perhaps, I have failed to relax when I could have (although I’m not really sure I could have). But I would not be where I am had I not. I found pieces of me I thought were gone, I found resilience where I wasn’t sure it still lived. I failed sabbatical, and, in the end, it helped some.
Maybe reading this will help you too.