I officially gave my notice yesterday. I closed my eyes, gave myself a mental pep talk, and walked into my boss’ office to tell him that although I love my job, I have to take a leap of faith into the unknown. It was one of the hardest and one of the most freeing experiences of my life. And it was the final step in making sabbatical real.
My husband told his boss a few weeks ago because the time was right for him, just before the company began strategic planning for the next year. We each have great respect for our employers and wanted to give as much time as possible for the organizations to plan for our departures.
But we aren’t leaving on bad terms. We are just leaving, taking a leap into the next big adventure in our lives. In fact, I would welcome the opportunity to return to my organization because although I have accomplished a lot in the nine and a half years I have been there, I know the organization has so much more to do and I would be proud to continue to be a part of it. I just need some time off before I keep going to whatever the next step in my career will be.
Knowing that actually makes it easier to leave. Knowing what I am meant to do–to lead a team in the fight for equity in education–gives me great confidence that I can walk away for a year to do something else that will make me an even better leader when I return. I’ll be healthier (physically and mentally), more focused, inspired, and able to see things from new perspectives that will inform new ways of thinking about how I do my work. I will grow.
I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from my boss when I told him. We’ve been working together for nine years, and we have seen it all together. The tears of joy as a first generation college student becomes the first in her family to graduate from college despite all the statistics that said she never would. The tears of sadness as we made difficult decisions to let people go during the hard times.
Well, he surprised me by his willingness to have me back, offering me a true sabbatical, if we could only shorten our time off. After discussing that generous offer with my husband, we decided to move forward with our plans for twelve glorious months of freedom. Still, I am left with a profound sense of satisfaction knowing that if an opportunity to return the organization presented itself after a year, I would be welcomed back.
Of course there are no guarantees in life, especially in a situation like this when you are taking a leap of faith into the unknown. I could find a new me over the course of the next year, and new passions. But it gave me validation and great joy to know that he would have me back. I cried. We laughed. I am so lucky to have found a mentor and a friend and a job that was so much more than a place to park my butt Monday through Friday. I consider my colleagues my family, and my organization a home that I have helped to create.
When I told my peers, the other two members of the executive leadership team, they were happy for me. The only thing greater than my trepidation and fear of leaving something great, is my excitement for the adventure that lies ahead for me and my husband in our year of freedom.
I know we’ve made the right decision to take this sabbatical because even though I am scared to death, I still want to do it.
I will tell the rest of the organization next week, beginning with my awesome team, the team I built and nurtured and love like the child that I don’t have. I used to think that the students we serve were all like my kids. But I realize now that they are more akin to grandkids. My team are my kids, all 29 of them (there were only nine when I started). They drive me crazy half the time and the other half of the time I can’t imagine my life without them! It’s been such a privilege to lead them and learn from them every day. I’ll miss that.
But I know that life will go on when I leave, for me and for them. I have spent years building the most dedicated, talented, passionate, compassionate, brilliant, diverse team of individuals that are making the community a better place every day with their commitment to educational opportunity and equity. They will continue to thrive, to do the work of angels, and to change the world while I am gone. And if I am lucky, I will come back to serve my community as an even better and more balanced leader after a year of freedom.
Regardless of whether I ever return to my former organization as an employee, they will never be rid of me as a volunteer, a donor, and an advocate. Because family is family. Forever.