Living for a living: our decision to take a year-long sabbatical

Why a sabbatical?

About a year ago, I came home after a long day at work, completely stressed out and depleted.  The bouts of anxiety and exhaustion on both the personal and professional fronts were becoming more and more frequent and the time needed to recover was becoming longer and longer.  The weekends were no longer cutting it.  A week-long, all-inclusive resort vacation wasn’t doing it.  I needed something more, and my husband was feeling the exact same way.

Usually, we didn’t hit that low point at the same time, so we could be there for each other. However, on that particular evening, neither of us had an encouraging word to say to the other.

The conversations usually go like this:

Spouse 1:  I don’t think I can take this anymore.  I need a break.

Spouse 2:  You know you could quit tomorrow, and I would take care of us.

Spouse 1:  I know.  Thanks.

And then it would be back to the grind with a little relief that one of us really could quit and be okay (I realize not everyone has that luxury).

Our conversation that night:

Me:  I don’t think I can take this anymore.  I need a break.

Him:  Me too.

Me:  Hmph.

Both of us:  Well, why couldn’t we both quit our jobs?

[long pause for dramatic effect]

Me:  I don’t know. How could we do that?

Him:  Hmmm….Let me make a spreadsheet (he loves spreadsheets).

And the next morning we had a spreadsheet that gave us a pathway to saving enough money to take some much-needed time off of work.

Our Sabbatical was born.

Both of us had been circling the drain for months, maybe years, and we were ready to acknowledge it.  The answer lay in our willingness to be bold, take a risk, and be open to uncertainty.

Now we are but a few months away from the biggest adventure of our lives so far.  We have decided to take a year off of work for sabbatical and live for a living instead.  We are thinking of it as taking a year of retirement early.  And we can’t wait.

Identify Your Support Network

We decided not to tell anyone about our sabbatical plans until they were really locked in.  So of course I am writing a blog for the whole world to see.  I think we didn’t want to disappoint anyone if the plans fell through, and we couldn’t tell our employers until the savings account got big enough to lock it in for sure.

But we found that we NEEDED to tell people. We were so excited that we could hardly hold it in. So, we told our parents.  I think we were looking for approval, encouragement and someone else to validate us.  We are both pleasers.  That’s kind of what got us into this spiral of exhaustion in the first place, pleasing everyone else.  Ironic, isn’t it?

Two of our three sets of parents were ecstatic for us right away. My husband’s Dad initially questioned the choice though. I think that was really hard on him. And it put some fear and doubt into my mind too. His Dad is a retired C level executive that we both admire. He laid out all the fears that we already have.  What reasons stand in your way of making a bold move like a sabbatical?

Reasons NOT TO take sabbatical:

  • What if there is a catastrophe and we need income?
  • What if we can’t find meaningful employment again after our year off?
  • What if the money we divert from retirement now can never be replenished?

We could live our lives in the what ifs, in fear. But we choose to think differently.

Reasons we believe we HAVE TO take sabbatical:

  • What if we never have another perfect moment in time when we can do something like this?
  • What if we let fear stop us, and we burn out our careers and our marriage?
  • What if we don’t do it and we live with that regret of what could have been?
  • What if our next big adventure is exactly what will take us to the next level of fulfillment in our lives.

Telling People Makes It Real

After the mixed response from our parents, I decided to keep telling “safe” people. Because it made it real. A side benefit was the validation but what I was really doing was setting expectations that others would now have, and I wouldn’t want to let them down. I told my personal trainer. He called us BOLD, and then he offered me a discount for the next year so we can save some more money for our Found Year. I told a friend who said I should WRITE A BOOK, so I started a blog that I hope to make into a book.  I told a few external work colleagues who are also people I trust. Every single one of them was amazed and supportive and said, “I wish I could do that.” Of course, my response, is “You can!”

There are are about two dozen people in that inner circle now.  All of them think what we are doing is going to be the adventure of a lifetime. I hope so.  Even my husband’s Dad came around. He told us that our choice has inspired him and his wife to spend more time traveling in their own retirement. That was so good to hear.

Who in your life can you count on to hold you accountable for the goals you set for yourself and to support your journey?  What goals do you keep secret today that you could engage your network in helping you to meet?  I challenge you do share a scary goal with someone today and see what happens.

Each time I told someone, my confidence grew, and I became more excited about our choice.  After a few months, it became really real, and it seemed there was no turning back.  We set a goal date of May 2017, and we have been speeding toward that date now for almost a year.

There have definitely been moments of doubt and fear along the way, but my husband and I help each other through those moments of insecurity.  We remind each other that conquering fear is one of the main reasons we are doing this, so we can’t stop now.  We are making our sabbatical real!  We are working toward LIVING FOR A LIVING.

Here’s a link to the article in Forbes magazine that inspired us!


9 thoughts on “Living for a living: our decision to take a year-long sabbatical

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