Taking a Sabbatical: The Scary and Exhilarating Five-Day Decision

Jul 30, 2021 | My Sabbatical

WWhat is that famous saying about change bringing more change? That applies to my life right now. We can all agree that 2020 was a terrible year, but by upending our lives it did create momentum for change of all sorts. Two months ago, I decided to embrace that change and make a scary and exciting jump into the unknown. All over the course of five days. 

Day one.

My sister first planted the idea of a sabbatical back in May. I was waxing poetic about the woes of my life, and she interrupted me with an exasperated sigh: “Why don’t you just leave your job and take time to think about what you want?” Ummmmm, no, that’s crazy. “Because I am an adult,” I responded, and continued with my list of woes.

Turns out she was right, as sisters so often are. I needed to get unstuck, and for me that required a drastic change. I didn’t have a horrible job. I actually had a pretty good job. I worked for a great company and had incredible coworkers. But I wasn’t pushing myself. I was comfortable with my work and had fun with my coworkers, but I was restless. I had ideas of things I wanted to pursue, but every-day life kept getting in the way. I could either stay and continue to feel restless but safe, or I could jump.

Day three.

Two days after that talk with my sister, I took a day trip to visit a friend. Our conversation that day gave me the courage to consider making a big change. We talked about a lot of things, but it all boiled down to two words that clicked: reclaim risk. What would our lives look like if we ran towards the things we dreamed about, reclaiming an element of risk and adventure, despite the possibility of failure or being uncomfortable? Like sisters, good friends also speak truth into our lives when we need it.

As I drove home that day, the seed my sister had planted a few days earlier took root and I started to dream about the possibilities. What if I had the time and energy to focus on writing, learning illustration, continuing to learn web design, volunteering, traveling, resetting, and resting? What if I took six months? Sabbaticals are a thing. What if I took a creative sabbatical? What would I do if I had six months dedicated to pursuing creativity and trying new things? What if…?



Day four.

Something like this would require thinking about logistics. Could I live without a steady income for six months and end the creative sabbatical without a completely empty savings account? I did some budgeting and overview of monthly expenses. Yes, I could do it. What about health care? Researched and doable with the budget. Check. Parents? I had moved home during COVID and though this would delay finding a new place, my parents are wonderful and said they were on board with the idea. It only required minimal convincing. I calculated all the logistics in two days. I could seriously do this. I had unknowingly taken steps during the past year to make this possible.

I also needed to overcome my own fear. Taking time off in the middle of adulthood isn’t something we are “supposed” to do. What would people think? What would future employers think? This would be stepping away from what is normal and safe. This would be taking a risk in many ways. 

Day five.

I decided to risk it.

Within two weeks of making the decision embrace risk I told my employer I was leaving. And within three weeks of that conversation, I had my last day of gainful employment for at least 6 months. 

The first lesson I have learned from this experience came as I was driving home from work on my last day: some risks are less scary after you make the decision and do it. When you finally act on something that you have been afraid to do, the fear fades and is replaced with a zing of exhilaration and the happiness that comes from moving forward.

Just make sure you don’t run a red light while being caught up in the happiness. Oops.


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