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Slowing down doesn't mean getting left behind
Notes from sabbatical, nearly one year later.
It used to be that as soon as October rolled in, I’d shake my boots out of hibernation and put away my sandals for the year. The seasonal switch. But these days I live in my sneakers. My boots now line my closet like markers of time and place, relics that I keep around because they remind me of who I used to be. When I step into my closet, I see vestiges of my former self, some of whom I barely recognize.
In the corner sits my square-toed caramel boots. It has a rather awkward shaft height—taller than an ankle boot but not tall enough to be knee-highs. They are by far my oldest pair, an impulsive buy during my NYU grad school days. Some of my classmates all bought shoes from this one particular store on West Broadway because of its proximity to a certain art gallery that we’d frequent in Soho, back when the last of the art galleries still existed in that neighborhood.
Tucked in a corner on the floor are my knee-high boots with a block heel bought at a boutique in Nolita. They are the color of chestnuts and soft with a velvety nubuck finish. We used to zip tall boots over our skinny jeans for years, but I haven’t worn that look in well over a decade, maybe more. I do still wear them with dresses though.
My black Swedish Hasbeens with the 3 inch heels was a bargain find at the Hester Street Fair. They were in new-with-tags condition and I only paid $50. Thank goodness because they were never that comfortable.
Next to those are my Rachel Comeys, ankle boots from the mid 2010s that spurred a whole decade of buying jeans that are cropped. Because really, what were you supposed to do with the bottom hem of your pants with boots that stopped at your ankles?
Finally, the shearling-lined No6 clogs. It’s ridiculously amusing how many moms in my Brooklyn neighborhood wore these boots ten years ago. You could spot them in different colors during school drop offs, but I didn’t care. They were expensive and an investment, but they were warm and curiously waterproof. It got me through years of slushy snow and all kinds of wintry weather when getting out of the apartment multiple times a day with the kids was part of my everyday routine.
These boots have sat in my closet, some never touching down on concrete for years, yet I can’t let them go, as ruthless as I can be about purging. It’s the same reason I keep certain bags and dresses. These items, however superficial, are like chapters in my life, taking me back instantly to a specific time.
I realized the other day that I am going through some serious growing pains. They say that you should never do any of these three things—get married, buy a house, have a baby—in the same proximity. I guess my version of that trio is sending your kid off to college, losing a job, and losing a parent. Any one of these things can trigger a crack in the veneer, but all three together in succession can knock the foundation out from under you.
Now that it’s October, it’s been about a year since I ventured into this self-proclaimed sabbatical/not sabbatical. How has a year flown by already? I float somewhere between feeling unmoored and feeling like I’m floundering. There’s a nuanced difference between the two even though they both express what it feels like to be unanchored. I have made intentional choices and financial risks this past year, and time will tell whether the groundwork that I have laid will pay off or whether it will end up a detour. So much of this is a long game and a gamble. Did I make the right decision leaving the traditional workforce? Have I actually moved myself closer towards a more intentional life and not one measured in value by productivity and efficiency?
In some regards, a big yes—a return to writing and prioritizing time for my own personal projects over client work. In other regards, a hard no. I am still chasing sleep and haven’t read as many books (hardly any if I’m being honest) as I had planned. Daily exercise is happening, but not consistently. Somehow, I am still in the clutches of stress and anxiety. Some new triggers have replaced old ones, but isn’t that just life? My capacity to take command when needed has always been my security blanket, the lack of control is my struggle. I am learning how to just sit with that.
I read somewhere that recovering from burnout can take a few months to a few years. Years! I remind myself that slowing down doesn’t have to mean being left behind. There is no deadline, no destination. It means that the pace in which I choose to move is all mine. Life is where you are now.
A few Substack essays I have enjoyed lately:
Get busy living I felt that I had to write Learning how to write all over again Burning it down (via Oldster)
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