Sabbatical. We've all heard the word. But what exactly is a sabbatical?
Dictionary.com defines sabbatical as any extended period of leave from one's customary work, esp. for rest, to acquire new skills or training, etc.
We're not talking vacation here. Or even retreat.
We're talking about extended time away from the usual work that we do.
Many of us dream of taking one.
But how many of us actually do it?
I took 2 months off after my Dad died. I was 24.
I took 3 months off after getting separated from my first husband. I was 31.
I took 4 months off after making a huge move from NC to FL. I was 37.
And now, I am 43 and am in the beginning of my 10th month of sabbatical since moving from FL to TX.
It’s funny as I look at the progression… each sabbatical I have taken, I’ve taken progressively more time. Perhaps as I’ve aged, I’ve needed more recovery time from a major or traumatic life event. Or perhaps as I’ve gained wisdom, I’ve given myself permission to take as much time as I need to rest and regroup.
I suspect it’s a little bit of both.
In academia and in religious life, sabbaticals are common as people step out of their day to day jobs to take a class, pursue research or travel. Often the goal is to acquire a new skill or new perspective on work and life. Sabbaticals can be short - just a few weeks or a month - or they can be long - several months or even years.
The emotions associated with sabbatical are complex and varied.
Euphoria and freedom often show up first... a feeling of relief that you don't have to keep doing the same things day in and day out that you were you previous doing. Ahhhhh!
Panic and uncertainty are hot on their heels... what have I done???? is this the right thing for me to be doing now? Should I really have let go of what's familiar and comfortable?
Relaxation and enjoyment appear as well... a trip to the zoo, a day at a park, writing in your journal, taking a class... and you revel in this gift of time you've given yourself.
Confusion is a common emotion, too... what am I trying to accomplish here? what are my goals? how long should I stay on sabbatical?
Gratitude, for me, shows up every day...for space, for perspective, for learning, for understanding, for wisdom, for compassion, for breathing, for laughter, for life.
In my most current sabbatical experience, I have definitely acquired new skills, but not all were skills I necessarily set out to acquire.
- Learned how to project manage a house under contract to sell with severe flooding in 7 rooms just 3 weeks before we moved out.
- Successfully orchestrated the half-cross-country move from FL to TX with a baby, a dog and 3 cats.
- Switched to a grain free diet and learned to enjoy cooking that way. (gasp!) I started off eating an anti-candida diet and now eat more Paleo.
- I took two writing classes and am working on my relationship with writing. The first with www.christinakatz.com called Writing and Publishing the Short Stuff and I learned all about writing and submitting articles for publication. The second I am taking now with Tammy Strobel of www.rowdykittens.com and getting clear about what I want to write and why I want to write it.
- Learned patient advocate skills, patience skills :-) and nursing skills in caring for my mom with stage IV throat cancer. Did I mention she has moved in with us?
I don't know what's in store for the rest of my sabbatical (or how much longer it is going to last) but I do know that I am feeling inspired and guided to stay with it and see where it takes me. Oh yeah, and one thing I'm definitely going to continue to do while on sabbatical ... write.
Inspired Action: I encourage you to look at your own life. Are you in need of a sabbatical? An intentional stepping away from your ordinary day to day responsibilities so that you can rest, gain perspective, learn something new and recharge your life? If so, what can you do TODAY to start making some plans to make it happen?