Take a deep breath.
Look down, but don’t get paralyzed by the height. Don’t fear the distance between you and the water.
Calm yourself, and push off into the open air.
Feel your body accelerate downward. Cross your legs, fold your arms, close your mouth, and get ready for the impact of the water below you.
This is going to be fun.
The previous chapter
My final day at work was Friday, June 22nd. Atlassian has been the best professional experience of my life, the best teams I have ever worked with, the best people I have ever worked for, and the best roles of my life. It’s not even close. We ask people at our company if they have the opportunity to “do the best work of their life.” Without question, the answer for me is absolutely “yes.”
During this time, I figured out what I’m actually good at. I also learned what I still need to work on. I could fill a book about the last seven and a half years of being stretched and pushed and challenged and rewarded. I became close friends with people who will be in my life for as long as they will tolerate my intrusion into theirs. I visited a handful of countries and even managed to be healthy in a few of them.
The decision to move on has nothing to do with my company or my role, but has everything to do with my own internal clock. It’s time for the next chapter in my life.
I started my path into tech as early as the Apple IIs that I wrote BASIC programs on starting in 5th grade. My tech career has spanned 23 years, six companies, and more amazing people than I can remember. But that chapter is done.
At the start of my career, I looked into the future and planned to start my own high school once I turned 40, and recruit all my friends to leave corporate life and join me. Ten years later, post-transplant, my drive to ‘give back’ intensified — or maybe just selfishly, I wanted to have a deeper sense of purpose than I was getting from software. After leaving MessageOne, I looked closely at the non-profit world and even entertained jumping on board as a leader in a few Austin non-profits.
I put those dreams on hold, and boarded a flight for Australia with the intent to have a two year adventure before starting “Chapter 2.” Atlassian and Australia turned out to be more than just an adventure. After being miserable for 18 months in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney, and after my partner left, I realized it was our relationship that had drained the happiness from me. On a cheesy titanic-like moment at the front of the Manly ferry, I set a new course and fell deeply in love with Australia, its’ ocean, and Atlassian. I became a citizen last March, and I expect that Oz will be home for me for the long term.
I am incredibly fortunate to have stumbled my way into the last seven and a half years, thanks to a crazy, serendipitous chain of events that started with Sam (who planted the idea of Sydney in my head), Satin, Rich, and led to Joris and then Audra, my future manager at Atlassian, and now one of my closest friends on the planet. I am a fortunate son.
I am taking my gap year, just a bit delayed. Many Aussies don’t head right to uni, they take a “gap year” after high school to travel and test the limits of human blood-alcohol chemistry. My gap year is less alcohol fueled, and more ‘stuff I want to do.’
This type of thing isn’t new to BJR — in between every professional stints in my career, there’s been a way to reset, to recharge, to wipe the slate as clean as possible. During other gaps, I’ve driven cross-country, cycled through New Zealand, cycled through Ireland, watched every game of the College World Series of Baseball.
My gap year has three sub-chapters:
Adventure 1: Back in the states near Mum in Virginia until mid-September, with some quick side trips to NYC, Woods Hole, Salt Lake City (US Transplant Games), and Austin.
Adventure 2: 5 weeks in Oz, for the Aussie Transplant Games, a very cool charity event called Sydney’s Fastest Executive, spending a week in Yamba, and of course, ocean swimming and seeing friends.
Adventure 3: South America, starting in November. Planning is in the very early stages, but I’m planning on riding my bike from the bottom to the top of South America over a period of six to nine months. Uh, yeah.
Okay, so what are you going to do after that?
I have no idea.
Or rather, I should say I have no specific idea. The recruiter at Apple who chastised a 23-year-old BJR and told him he had no idea what he wanted to do (because he was simultaneously interviewing for roles in investment banking, strategy consulting, coding, and tech consulting) would smile. But she’d still be wrong.
What I do know I want:
- To return to Oz for the long term
- To live in a small town by the ocean
- To find ‘work’ which has a purpose in helping others
- To find a community which is intellectually stimulating
- To find a home where Bear can roam far and wide, and rid the community of cats
Beyond that — I’ll figure it out as I go. I’m sure, just like the previous chapter, that I’ll make more than my share of mistakes.
This ambiguity and uncertainty isn’t easy for someone who plans everything. But I also have my gap year before I have to face the reality of what’s next for BJR.