Depleted. Full of self-doubt. Even with the pandemic seeming to turn a corner in California, I ended the school year burned out. I declared in January that my goal for the year is to “roll into 50 (on September 2nd) like a badass,” but in June my confidence was shaken.
After launching Everyday Leadership last August with a gusto, for the past couple months I have struggled to find my voice. Questions rather than ideas have consumed my thoughts. What should I share? Where is all this going? Who am I to put myself out there like this? The longer I didn’t write, the harder it became to start back up.
With all this in mind, I booked my very first writing retreat a couple of weeks ago in order to rediscover my writing swagger and joy.
My Writing Retreat: Costanoa
After a jam-packed work week trying to tie up as many loose ends as possible, I drove down the coast past Half Moon Bay to Costanoa. I must have passed Costanoa a hundred times on my way to visit my mom in Santa Cruz, but I had never thought much about it. Just beyond a eucalyptus-lined hillside, Costanoa opened up on a plateau facing the ocean. A wooden lodge, scattered cabins, colorful tents, flowering paths. A hidden gem. As soon as I got out of the car, I felt my whole body exhale and relax.
I unpacked my computer, six notebooks, colored pens, and stacks of post-it notes and headed out to explore the property and grab a quick bite to eat. I got in line at the Pine Tent, a casual outdoor restaurant that was buzzing with the sounds of kids playing and easy laughter.
A child ran by in an awesome rainbow dragon costume, and the woman behind me in line said, “I wish I could get away with wearing an outfit like that.” I had been thinking exactly the same thing, and we started chatting. Turns out she grew up in Santa Cruz not too far from me, and we played the “Do you know…?” game while reminiscing about the past. I mentioned that I had just arrived for a multi-day retreat. With a smile, she said to me, “I’m a writer too.” Wait – I hadn’t said it was a writing retreat. I hedged. “Well, I’m not really a writer. I’m trying to be a writer. I’m sort of a writer.”
Oh jeez, Sharon.
Over the next few days, I did my best to let go of any and all expectations for myself. Sometimes I wrote; sometimes not so much. I read. I hiked up into the hills. I walked along the wind-swept bluff. I napped. I looked at trees. I watched kids play.
Ideas came at random times. Hosting collaborative retreats emerged while I was waiting for strawberries at Swanton Farm. The idea of launching a podcast that brings high school students and young professionals together – “This Could Be You” – developed during several walks on the beach and in the hills. A story about coming to grips with my past called “Hug a Tree” took hold of me while I was eating dinner. Whatever I was doing when I got a spark of creativity, I stopped and jotted my thoughts in a notebook.
Most importantly, I smiled. A lot. The expansive views surrounding Costanoa and the unstructured time for myself began to unwind me, giving me space to rediscover my sense of possibility, my curiosity, my joy.
Let’s face it, we all feel burned out at times. Understandably. Between personal and professional obligations, our own expectations of ourselves, and our experience of and commitment to the world around us, we carry a lot on our shoulders and we run and run and run. Sometimes in the midst of all this, it’s hard to remember that we need time to rest, recover, and play to be at our best.
Here’s the thing. I love writing Everyday Leadership. I hope my posts resonate with those who read them, offer a moment of inspiration or joy, and maybe even make a difference. (Thank you, dear readers!) And, undeniably my writing is also for me. Writing these posts is a way I channel and manifest my creativity. It is a way that I am intentional about who I am and what I value. Words of self-expression remind me that my thoughts and experiences matter. Ultimately, writing is a form of badassery – knowing my strengths and accomplishments and celebrating them.
So, I’m back at it. 50 – here I come!