Sabbatical Life Lessons

IMG_6790This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to take a four-week sabbatical following 10 years of employment at GroundFloor Media. For our part, team members are asked to take the time to regroup, recharge and reflect during their sabbaticals – with the ideal goal being that we come back refreshed and reenergized with insights to share with our team members that will ultimately help us all to live a more balanced, productive and abundant life.

It was, of course, amazing to have four weeks off – time to look up from my laptop and really be present in the world around me, spend treasured time with my family and friends, travel (to Hawaii!), and address long-ignored elements of my “other” jobs at home (stacks of mail, overflowing closets, etc.).

I absolutely reflected on things like: not always letting the urgent get in the way of the important, not letting email and Slack run my life, and setting boundaries so that I can have a healthier work/life blend. And all of those things are undeniably vitally important. They are things we should always strive for; however, at the end of the day, sabbaticals end and the urgent client requests start rolling in at 4 p.m. on Friday again, deadlines loom that require us to work until midnight or on weekends, and it’s just flat out not possible to eek one more, albeit tiny, hour out of the day to exercise, focus on self-improvement, etc. Such is life…

So, I’ve chosen to focus on three other invaluable life reminders I took away from my sabbatical:

Make New Friends, but Keep the Old…

I am amazingly, eternally blessed with the most incredible family and friends. What’s more, I am grateful to have made wonderful friends during every stage of my life so far. So, the following in no way negates how much I treasure the friends I’ve made in my 20s, 30s and 40s. That being said, I spent part of my sabbatical back home in Dallas where I was able to spend time with several friends that I’ve been close to since sixth grade. I think I’m unusually lucky in that I’m still close to a significant number of friends that I met that year. That’s more than 30 years of friendship. And while some of those friendships may have ebbed, flowed and evolved over time, and we are spread out across the country, here I sit in my mid-40s with this amazing crew of women who knew me in the (very) awkward tween years. We have loved each other through bad perms, braces, electric blue mascara, crushes on countless boys, great loves and great heartbreaks, marriages, babies, aging parents… you get the picture. That’s a lot of life to go through together, and I’m in awe that I’m so blessed to have had so many of my precious friends for such a wonderfully long time.

De-Cluttering Feels Amazing

I spent the second week of my sabbatical attempting to de-clutter my home – or at least put a respectable dent in said clutter. I admit that I tend to be super sentimental and therefore a bit of a pack rat. Old letters, sweet little outfits that my babies wore, clothes that I’m convinced will someday come back in style again if I just wait long enough… But I dove into toyboxes and closets with a vengeance. And it felt so good! I still have miles and piles to go – but just having a few organized corners gives me great satisfaction and a surprising sense of peace and zen. Now if I could just take a second sabbatical to get the rest of my closets, shelves, drawers, etc., in order!

Deep Gratitude for the Chance to Take a Sabbatical

As I mentioned before, the pressing deadlines, urgent client calls and jam-packed calendar revved back up almost as soon as I set foot back in the office post-sabbatical. To be fair, I was able to keep my post-sabbatical resolutions of setting non-negotiable time aside for working out; waking up early not to work but to enjoy some peace, quiet and reflection time before diving into a busy day; and keeping evenings sacred for family time…for about one week. (This is not a knock on my job or company – it’s just the nature of work and life.) So, while life revved back up right away, I was indeed refreshed, recharged and ready to take on those challenges with renewed energy and enthusiasm. I don’t think I realized quite how much I needed my sabbatical until I returned from it.

In working on a recent client project, I came across a statistic from the Society for Human Resource Management that, as of 2017, only 17 percent of companies offered sabbaticals. I am beyond grateful for the fact that GFM falls within that 17 percent and hope that more companies will realize how much the benefits of offering sabbaticals to employees outweigh the related costs. Having four weeks off was truly a gift that benefitted not only me but my family, and I am deeply grateful to our incredible leaders and my amazing co-workers for making it possible.

 

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