Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The joys of a forced "sabbatical"....

My last "sabbatical" was about five years ago. It was a tougher job market then, post tech bubble burst, and to be honest, I was more than a little burned out. Working 14 hours a day, seven days a week for that startup (I managed to get away for a 10 day vacation and came home to a pink slip. Nice!), coupled with post divorce upheaval, I was ready for a break. I needed the break. I didn't realize just how much I wanted a break.

After packing up my office belongings, I bought some groceries (I'd actually have time to cook now, instead of catching all of my meals on the run) and headed home to let the news settle in. To ruminate on my situation. To sit on my back porch, scritch the resident furball's head and to watch the hummingbirds at the feeder. It was the first time in a long time that I had had a chance to do that... to sit and just be.

It occurred to me that this would be my first summer off since the end of grade 11.

I called my folks and invited them to come tour the Maritimes with me. None of us had ever been east of Montreal, and it gave us a chance to spend quantity of time together. Cape Breton and PEI are a long way from my parent's Saskatchewan home, but the love of old time fiddle music drew them as much as the scenery, food and friendly people. We got to spent time together just the three of us, as adults... it was a learning experience for all of us!

At first my sabbatical was filled with a lot of "if I only had the time" type activities... clean the car, sweep the garage, build a compost box. I spent a lot of time volunteering with a local theatre company, helping out with props and costumes and whatever other support was required backstage. I read a lot. I napped every day and finally got enough sleep in a day. I actually used the gym membership that had been long since paid up but ignored. I treated myself to a visit to a museum or gallery once a week. I did a lot of work in my garden. I learned to meditate.

My summer off stretched into September. When my friend came to visit from Australia, we explored the hiking trails and coastal vistas along the Gaspesie. I started volunteering at one of the local women's shelters and eventually ended up on their Board of Directors. I dusted off my piano and started playing again. I watched three seasons of the Sopranos in two weeks. I canned tomatoes from my veg patch, and tried at least one new recipe a week. I was rarely bored, and joked with my friends that I would make a great "retired person".

I effortlessly dropped close to 50 pounds. A combination of home cooked meals, sufficient rest, more exercise and minimized stress were definitely contributing factors.

Summer became Autumn which drifted into Winter. Sure, I sent out resumes, applied for positions, and had a few interviews, but no offers resulted. It wasn't until Christmas time that I came to a conclusion that I was READY to go back to work. Early in January I had several interviews and two offers to choose from.

My summer off ended at the beginning of February. I was relaxed, refreshed and ready for the new challenges.

When I look back on that almost eight month period, I remember it as being one of the most positive experiences of my life. Yes, finances were stretched and there were times of concern, but I got to do the things I wanted to: I spent time with friends and family. I spent time by myself and for myself. I spent time giving back to my community. What could be more wonderful or joyful than that?

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