The audacity of a sabbatical
A little while ago I spent a few weeks on a friend’s beautiful farm in the Eastern Cape. Every day I would wake up at sunrise and go for a solo walk to a particular rock where I would sit sipping my coffee, listening to the cows in the distance, the birds, the river, the complete not-city-ness of it all.
Sometimes, in the evenings, I would chat to my friend’s husband and ask him questions about farming, which is potentially the most polar-opposite job to my own.
How do you burn a firebreak, like really? (Spoiler: completely still days aren’t actually ideal for this activity. How interesting?)
What do you do when there’s crazy frost?
Have you considered listening to podcasts while you combine?
We were talking about my sabbatical when he said something that stuck with me. Except that I had to ask him just now to remind me of the actual words. Whatever. It was something an Irish farmer had once said to him:
“You think with your head, not with your hands.”
There’s not a whole lot of room for thoughts about the horizon when you’re knee-deep in today’s-non-negotiable-to-do-list.
If you’re a farmer. If you’re a digital marketing consultant.
The trick is in engineering the seemingly impossible luxury of time to take that step back. To find a different way of being in order to let your mind roam.
When Liz and I first started to dream about the idea of a sabbatical, we both battled with a similar voice in our heads that said, “I’m sorry but who do you think you are that you have the audacity to take months off work?”
We have internalised the capitalist structures of society so completely that our sense of self-worth is so tied to the idea of work, of being productive, that just… stopping… even for a little while, feels nothing short of outrageous. Is it even allowed?
There’s no question that it is an enormous privilege to be able to take this time. In fact, I found the weight of that privilege so heavy some days that I struggled to see past it.
But sometimes the thing holding you back is that little voice. “The audacity!” That question of permission.
We gave it to each other. And we wanted to give it to our team.
The deal is:
When you’ve worked at Pomegranite for three years, you get a one-month sabbatical. After five years, you get a two-month sabbatical. And after seven years, you get three months.
Our sabbaticals changed how we work. They changed how we think about things. How we approach situations. How we support each other as partners. Months and months after we stored our backpacks, walking shoes and sun hats, those experiences continue to feed our souls.
What an incredible thing to be able to give the possibility of that experience to other people!
It’s been so exciting to see our team start dreaming. For two of them, it’s only a few months away.
We often say that one of the things that was important to us in starting Pomegranite was building a business where work supports life, and not the other way around. Decisions like this make me feel that’s not just a good line on the company website.