I’m in the middle of week two of this two-month work sabbatical. I’d hoped that by now, I’d have had many moments of solitude and calm, as I caught up on reading and posted deep thoughts to this site.

There haven’t been a lot of deep thoughts posted here, and I haven’t been having many to begin with.

I recall that this happened the last time I had a sabbatical: I spent the first part catching up overdue projects that my regular schedule hadn’t allowed me to work on. It’s happening again.

This time, the main project is a long-suffering report. Back in October and November, I spent two weeks in Colombia (I posted many photos here at the time). I came back, got all my notes together, and then started writing about it. I worked bit by bit, section by section, whenever I had the chance to move the project forward.

As winter and spring passed, there were entire weeks—even some two-week periods—when I did not have that chance at all. It turns out that running a communications-heavy advocacy program about the U.S.-Mexico border and migration, during the highly charged 2024 election year, doesn’t lend itself to also writing an in-depth field research report about migration in Colombia.

Now that I’m on sabbatical, it’s finally happening. I’ve put in about 24 of the past 96 hours working on it, and today I handed off a polished draft to WOLA’s program and communications teams. It’s really nice to no longer say “the report is coming.”

It hasn’t been painless. What was a 16,000-word draft at the beginning of the weekend, with 170 footnotes, by Monday night was a 20,000-word draft with 242 footnotes. By today, I’d managed to whack it back to 14,500 words and 169 footnotes.

If you’ve never had to cut 5,000 words from a 20,000-word report, eliminating entire lines of research that you’d gathered from your fieldwork… well, I don’t recommend it. It’s brutal.

Between that and posting “daily border links,” I never made it outdoors at all today. (It was raining, anyway.)

But it’s great to have it behind me (except for suggestions and revisions). Being able to shut down much of the work over the past 10 days is what made it possible.

It still doesn’t really feel like a sabbatical, though.