All good things must come to an end. My mini-retirement was no exception.
I returned to work this past Tuesday after a 10-week parental leave that began as the calendar turned the page to 2018.
"But Bradley is almost a year old. Did you have a third child you neglected to tell us about?"
No third baby; I was the beneficiary of an update to the Thomson Reuters' parental leave policy combined with some good timing. Secondary caregivers now receive 12 weeks of paid parental leave, and the change was retroactive to the beginning of 2017. This resulted in 10 weeks of additional parental leave despite the fact that my kids are both in daycare five days per week.
Needless to say, this was an exciting opportunity that I was ready to take full advantage of.
"Well, what did you do? Write a book? Find the cure for cancer? Summon the intestinal fortitude to clean out the refrigerator?"
No, no, and hell no.
What did I actually do? I'll break down my leave into four categories: friends and family, personal, home improvement, and career.
Friends & Family
Having that kind of time off allowed me to spend some additional time with friends and family. This included:
- Going to Philadelphia with Dave for the NFC Championship Game (more on this here)
- Taking Adam to the zoo with Uncle Steve
- Checking out Matt's Bar and showing Mom around Minnehaha Falls
- Weekday lunches with friends
- Snowshoeing and relaxing with the wife at Bluefin Bay
Having what was essentially a 10-week paid vacation came at a perfect time for me personally. Various side effects had driven me to stop taking Fluoxetine in September, but by the time the holidays rolled around it was clear that being med-free was not going to be sustainable unless I could live alone in a basement apartment.
I started taking Venlafaxine during my leave and it has been able to keep my generalized anxiety disorder and OCD traits at bay with an immense reduction in the troublesome side effects I was experiencing while taking Fluoxetine.
A sleep study was also on my agenda. After years of feeling drained and zombie-like every morning and being drowsy throughout the day, the time had come to get a handle on my sleep. The study showed that I was having around 7 disruptive episodes per hour, which made it near impossible to get the restful sleep I needed. I've been using a CPAP machine since February and have not felt this rested in years.
With the prodding of my wife, I decided to switch up my workout regimen. The cornerstone of this is attending TRX/Kettlebell classes at The Grove on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. On the other days I stick with my trusty elliptical trainer. It's been a challenge and I've definitely packed on some additional muscle. Now, if I could just sew my mouth shut I might see some fat loss.
Throughout my leave I also made a conscious decision to do a lot of nothing. This was often in the form of watching TV or reading. I watched seven full seasons of Unsolved Mysteries, tore through GLOW in a couple of days, and watched the entire series of Community. Unsolved Mysteries led me down a serial killer rabbit hole that introduced me to the exploits of the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker. I read two books on his unsolved trail of terror: I'll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara and Hunting a Psychopath by Richard Shelby.
I had lofty goals of completing a long list of DIY projects around the house. Ultimately I scaled it back in order to allow more free time, which I felt was needed to recharge. However, I did get a few minor projects completed.
First of all, I succeeded in finally refinishing the 1930's hutch/cabinet that had been in our storage room for nearly two years. It was given to us by my father-in-law, who picked it up from an uncle's house. If I recall correctly, it belonged to my father-in-law's grandmother at one point.
The coolest part of this unit is that there are some stamps on the inside of the front door that date back to the 1930s. I decided to leave them in place for a little taste of history. The stamp-work of the little tykes who defaced this piece of furniture was not in vain.
I had steady flow of freelance work to keep my writing skills sharp during my leave. Having some distance from my day job for the first time in nearly 10 years allowed me to reflect and figure out what I really find fulfilling. Turns out I'm a writer at heart and need to have a hands-on, creative aspect to what I do or I will quickly burn out and lose interest. My freelance work has allowed me to strip away the process, the spreadsheets, and the internal politics, and focus on the nuts-and-bolts of what I truly enjoy.
Since returning to work last week I've taken some initial steps in finding a more fulfilling niche in my workplace, but you'll just have to stay tuned for more details on that.