Kate Strathmann

Kate Strathmann

November 8, 2021

On Autonomous Zones and Cultivating a Secret Life

I'm in the midst of a two week "rest break" - a cascade of events and a loving kick in the ass finally provided an answer to the question I'd been asking for weeks: how do I find more time to rest?!? The answer was, I had to make it. And so here I am, attempting to reduce my obligations to a minimum; few meetings, limiting time with my team, email, day-to-day.

And what I've realized is that yes, I'm exhausted from being a human and a leader alive at this time of ever-compounding crisis and my burnout dashboard indicator lights are going off. But actually it's not that I want to go chill on a beach with an umbrella'd cocktail in hand, it's that I've been in a stretch of many months of the kind of work that most presses on my imagination and creativity.

What I'm needing is rest, for sure, but the kind of rest that refuels my secret life.

My friend Holly taught me about personal autonomous zones and the importance of cultivating a secret life. Autonomous Zones are spaces free from the state or authority structures. In a personal context, they are spaces apart from obligation; free from profit motive, social media, duties, dishes, and any manner of the outside world.

None of us are free from obligation, but we can still create pockets of secret fulfulment; zones where we need only be with ourselves and our imagination. Zones where doing nothing is as important as being productive. These are the quiet spaces that stoke renewal.

I'll continue to Ship daily for now. This experiment has helped me to realign my containers just when I was ready to re-prioritize. But it's also shown me the limits of orienting around publishing daily as opposed to creating daily. I'm also back to tending to my secret life.

When was the last time you made something only for yourself? Or wrote with the intention of exploring an idea or imagination, with no intention of ever sharing that work?