24 Mar Sara’s Why – my sabbatical path
If you scroll down, you will see my originally planned post. At Conscious Pause, we pre-write some of our posts so they can align with our blog companion guide and follow our journey through the five phases in a thematic way. However, this week, we felt we needed to address the unprecedented circumstances the global community finds themselves in during this COVID-19 pandemic. We posted about this unplanned pause last week but wanted to continue to set our upcoming blogs within that context.
For many of you, life has brought you an unexpected pause by making the decision to stop for you. My post below is about my decision to take a sabbatical but what do you do when that decision is forced upon you? This pandemic has forced many of you to work from home but for others, the impact feels scarier because maybe you have been laid off or you had to make the difficult decision to close your business temporarily. The uncertainty and fear you feel about what this means in the long run and how to stay safe and survive is a normal response. There are so many unknowns while you try to take care of yourself and those you love. There are no easy answers. In fact, it is okay to not know what to do right now (except wash your hands and keep physical distance, please).
In spite of the uncertainty, you can still be conscious about how to respond to this pause. Anne Lamott has a quote that I love “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes.” While I hesitate to use the word “gift”, this pause could be what you need to reset and re-centre. We may not know how long this pandemic’s “few minutes” will last, but this could be the time to sit with some of your questions and fears that arise. The unexpected change may lead you to a new path that you couldn’t see before because of your previous life. Maybe this is the time to ask “What if?”
Over the next few weeks, Conscious Pause will be sharing resources to help navigate questions, fears and uncertainty. For me, I am journalling through the quarantine so I can sense patterns to my emotions and as a way to make my questions tangible. And on the weekend, I unplugged from all social media (mostly) and COVID-19 news so I could find the quiet needed to listen to my inner voice and not allow fear, scarcity and panic rule me. This is hard for everyone but we are in it together.
Our hope is that this unplanned pause brings you something you didn’t expect. In the meantime, do whatever you need to do to take good care.
Now for the original blog on my decision to take a sabbatical:
I tell people that I started exploring sabbaticals just over four years ago. However, if I am honest, my path started more than 20 years ago and is made up of many small and quiet steps along the way. I am only just beginning to see the threads of all these steps now.
You see, there is a pattern in my life of taking pauses. The first time, I left university in my 2nd year when I didn’t know what I wanted to study. Then my second break was a few years into my career when I needed to re-align my vocation with my values. And, this last time, in 2016, I took a summer off.
That was the pivotal decision that launched me to explore the narratives, fears, adventures, processes, and communities that surrounds the idea of pause, sabbatical and rest.
In early 2016, my health was being affected by my work, anxieties and other general life stresses. I kept telling myself to “get over it” because I don’t have kids, a spouse or other things that most people daily juggle. But the comparison to others kept me from getting the help I needed. And then the universe intervened. My former employer announced a cost-saving leave program spanning 30 days to 2 years in length. I saw it as a sign so I applied and was approved to take a two-month leave.
In our busy, status-focused society, taking a breath or a pause is considered un-wise for your career plan. It is truly counter-culture because it doesn’t fit with the dominant narrative of what’s most important in life.
As I prepared for my summer off, I started to call it a “sabbatical” because the word “leave” is loaded with negativity in corporate culture*. This new framing made me delve into changing the paradigms and deeply cherished narratives I held about my career and my value. I started exploring answers to the question “What is my good life?”. Pausing and reflecting is an essential tool to uncover the truth of that question. So, with that, I stepped out of my comfort zone and explored questions I didn’t even know I was holding.
This journey has changed the trajectory of my life. I am committed to sharing my story in the world to include a narrative about the importance of pausing, exploring and questioning the life we live. Every month or so, someone reaches out for my advice on taking a sabbatical. It is these conversations that prompted me to think there are many people yearning for a pause but do not know where to start. This venture “Conscious Pause” is a platform to share our resources, perspectives and other voices that are exploring and learning about the idea of reflection, pause, pilgrimage and questing for a life that we feel we are here to live.
So what is your good life? And what will your sabbatical adventure look like?
If you are interested in chatting with us about how to start thinking about taking a sabbatical, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
*to be explored in future posts