12/26/13

Sabbatical Wrap Up

[One of my primary purposes in starting this blog was to document my experiences leaving my corporate career behind to take a year off. I was diligent about recording goals and reflections for much of the year. Summer proved to be a challenging time, however, and I fell out of the habit of blogging regularly about my sabbatical experience. So, when the one year mark came and went in September, I never did write up a “wrap up” of my year off. I’ve been thinking about it, though, and wanted to jot down a few notes to share, for the sake of closing that chapter.]

As you know if you’ve been following this blog, I left my corporate job in September 2012 to take a year off. I organized my year into three parts. I have previously shared thoughts on part one, the Fall, (here,) and in June I shared some reflections on the Spring (here). I won't repeat those thoughts here, but will rather pick up the story from where I left off....

Summertime. I headed into the summer filled with energy and enthusiasm, and with grand plans for family adventure. The kids got out of school, and at first it was heavenly to spend more time with them, enjoying the more leisurely pace of summer. It was the first time since my children were born that I had 24/7 responsibility for their care and entertainment, though, and I quickly realized it was going to take a lot more time and energy to be their primary caregiver than I expected. (I have new understanding of how hard my nanny worked all those years. Wendy, you’re amazing.) All my personal projects, and much of my self-care, went out the window. Add to that a couple of challenging family trips, and a stressful health-related challenge that came up for one of my children, and by the end of the summer, my energy was drained and I felt a loss of the positive momentum I had built up over the prior year. 

The one year mark for my Sabbatical, around September 1st, came and went and I barely noticed. I was busy busy busy just getting us through our days. (Every good story must have a low point, in order for the recovery to be more satisfying, right? Well, this was mine. But worry not, dear reader, the story gets better again from here....)

Gradually, as Fall got going and the school routine got up and running again, my energy returned. Having a bit of time during the day to get myself organized, pick up some personal projects, and take better care of myself, made all the difference. I took a writing class, an art class, and started meeting up again with friends and getting more exercise. The kitchen remodel was finally done, and I started cooking at home again, eating healthier food. By November, my optimism had rebounded, and life started to feel a bit more sane and balanced again. [See? I told you things would improve!]

Throughout my sabbatical, and particularly toward it’s end, people asked me if I was planning a return to the corporate world. In the early days, I’d be vague, unwilling to commit to any particular path, being unsure what the time off would bring in terms of perspective about my work. As the months passed, though, it became more clear to me that a return to my corporate life was unlikely. It took me a while to start saying it out loud, but by the summertime, I was freely admitting I had no plans to return to corporate life in the fall. I suppose it’s no surprise that taking a year off would yield learning and perspective that would make it hard to return to the life that was left behind. We must move forward, not backward, after all.

Additionally, it was clear that the family functioned better with me at home. My children were clearly enjoying their greater access to me, and hopefully benefitting too from my increased energy and time for them. Even my husband seemed to prefer having me home, despite the loss of income. It seems he found me to be more fun to be around, once I was less stressed and distracted by my job all the time. And having the time and energy to take care of more things around the house released him from some of those responsibilities, which helped his own energy level and happiness. It seemed a win/win for all.

So now, as Fall gives way to Winter, and I’m well into my 2nd year of being at home, I find that I’m settling into my new life in a calmer, deeper way. I feel less of the frantic busyness I had in the early days of my sabbatical. Back then, I was so unused to having free time that I felt almost frenetic about squeezing every drop of time from every day for productive endeavors. These days, I still feel very motivated to take on projects, take classes, and pursue my goals, but I feel a sense of peacefulness about it that I didn’t feel before. I have time to do these things at their own natural pace. 

I am settling in to this new life, and it feels good.

So, while the sabbatical technically ended on September 1st, it has taken me a few extra months for it to feel like the sabbatical chapter is truly closed. Now, as we head into January, I’ve moved past thinking about my time and my identity as it relates to my old job. I’m just living my life now, in this new format that I’ve created for myself.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what this next chapter will bring, and I’ll be setting some goals and making some resolutions in January. 

But for right now, in that quiet space between chapters, I’m just feeling grateful. So grateful for this life that I am living and the lovely people who populate it. Thank you.

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