We live in a society that believes in working yourself to death. Some of us come from a household where we saw our parents work two or three jobs. Most of the time, out of necessity, but sometimes, it is just because that is all they knew. Their parents worked their entire lives. Their parents’ parents worked their whole lives. There is no doubt about the value of working hard. There is also value in putting yourself in a position where you can live the life you desire without working yourself to death. You can work and not work all the time and still be a hard worker. These two things can undoubtedly be true.
Sometimes you get presented with an opportunity when you least expect it. Sometimes you have to turn a bad situation into a life-changing journey. Sometimes you have to hit the pause button and be ok with pausing. I was able to experience a pause. I paused working for 155 days. 155 days of focusing on me and not working long hours every single day. There is nothing wrong with self-care. Honestly, self-care saves lives. I will admit sometimes people overdo it. When I committed to taking time away, I did just that. I did not want to take a job and then find myself taking days off every week, which isn’t helpful to anyone. If you are going to step away, you must step away completely.
In those 155 days, I did a lot and I learned lot. Here are 10 things I learned during my 155-day sabbatical:
Lesson 1: Make Sure Your Money is Right
The last thing you want to do is to worry about money. Because my money was right, I could enjoy the time and not have this need to work to pay my bills. If you are going to take some time away especially extended time, be sure it is something you can afford to do.
Lesson 2: Have a Plan
I figured this part out about three weeks into my sabbatical. Once I did, I sat down and devised a plan. I mapped out what I wanted to accomplish, trips, and projects. It was good because I made plans to do nothing on some days, and that was ok, also.
Lesson 3: Find a Project
For me, finding a project was easy. I was knee-deep into a dissertation, so that became my project. My time off work allowed me to focus on my dissertation, and I could shave off weeks from my initial timeline. You may not need to write a dissertation, but I recommend finding a long-term project, even if it is something you have been putting off around the house or a passion project.
Lesson 4: Being Bored is Okay
As I mentioned, I planned days to do nothing. That is ok. Refrain from feeling like you have to do something every day. Part of the reason for taking the sabbatical is that you did too much and wore yourself thin. Now, you have an opportunity to do nothing. There will be boring days during the sabbatical, and that is ok; embrace it.
Lesson 5: Take a Trip
Get away from your permanent location. I visited six different cities during my time off. Some were within driving distance, and for others, I had to catch a plane, but I did not spend my entire 155 days in my apartment.
Lesson 6: Try Different Activities
I had three constants on regular rotation during my sabbatical. Every three weeks, I went and got a facial. I had never had a facial before, and I loved it. I still get them less often but at least monthly. Every two weeks, I get a massage. These are game changers because, as educators, we carry so much stress and tension that we must get it massaged out. Finally, I went to a chiropractor weekly because my posture was terrible, and now, I feel incredible, almost five years younger.
Lesson 7: Journal Your Experience
Now that I am back to work, I often go back and read some of the journal entries from my sabbatical, and it puts my life into perspective, and I am better for that experience. I also always want to remember that period because it added 5-10 years to my life.
Lesson 8: Sleep
The value of sleep is underappreciated. The early bird and the night owl get too much credit. You can either be one or the other. Being both isn’t healthy. I alternated between the two. Whichever I picked, the one thing that didn’t change was my 7-8 hours of sleep daily.
Lesson 9: Maintain Good Habits
I built some excellent habits for living and wanted to ensure I could continue those habits. They brought me joy and provided balance.
Lesson 10: Have a Date When You Will Go Back to Work
The day I decided I would take some time away, I also decided when I would return to work. I wrote down a date that I wanted to return to work because I always wanted to keep the reason at the top of my mind. I wanted to be better at my job, and this would help. So as I moved closer to that date, I began to position myself to go back to work. I never wavered from the fact that I was going back to work.
No matter how I got to the point of going on sabbatical, when the opportunity presented itself, I took full advantage. Sometimes when you fall off the horse, stay off for some time before getting back on. You might be better off next time you get back on.