Sabbatical as liminal space

threshold of sabbatical

Sabbatical as liminal space

Recently, I was introduced to the podcast “Quitted” and the episode on endings. The hosts shared why they wanted to do a podcast on quitting or why to explore endings. I truly loved the episode and will probably go back and listen to it again. The basic premise is that we as humans really don’t know how to navigate endings. In the podcast, one of the hosts talks about liminal space that often happens around endings. I wanted to learn more about the word liminal and how it would apply to sabbaticals. The website inliminalspace.org describes it as:

“The word liminal comes from the Latin word ‘limen’, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and not knowing.”

The theme of thresholds has been following me for the past year as I made big changes in my life. Of walking through space into something new both for my career and where I live. Maybe you are in a similar space of change and are in the  “in-between” as things are still being sorted out. Most days it feels like I am in this liminal space as I am almost waiting to discover what is next.

It feels like our world has been in a liminal space for the past two years. We are collectively getting ready to step into what is next as a society and community with many returning to work and protections being lifted. As part of our sabbatical guiding framework, our final and fifth phase focuses on the idea of “re-entry”. It is an important part of coming back and needs as much intention and design as the sabbatical itself.

When I think about our collective re-entry whether returning to the office or attending large events, what once was normal is now different. Not only are the environment and norms different, but you are also different. The last two years of the pandemic have changed all of us. The re-entry may be difficult for many people as they realize what changes actually happened. Many companies are not planning for these shifts and changes that occurred and they are expecting employees to just show up and pick up exactly where things were left two years ago. If anything, this time should be interesting.

Another reflection is that the liminal space is similar to the time of sabbatical. As much as a sabbatical is about rest or a pause from regularly scheduled life, it is hard work and uncertain as things unravel and are unlearned during the time away.

This expectation of people not changing may be contributing to the Great Resignation as people are realizing they no longer fit in the role, the company, or the expectations of society as we emerge from the pandemic. The last two years have highlighted for many that pre-pandemic life is no longer how they want to live.

How are you navigating this liminal space as you prepare for our collective return?

PS – Another Quitted podcast explores the idea of liminal spaces in more detail and can be found here.


A threshold is not a simple boundary;
it is a frontier that divides two different territories, rhythms and atmospheres.
– John O’Donohue

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