Sabbatical Stories

Bethany

During the process of recovering from losing significant people in her life, Bethany’s sabbatical gave her the impetus she needed to challenge the trajectory of her career and of herself.  

Searching for Fulfillment

Growing up with parents who were passionate about their jobs, Bethany was determined to find work that was simultaneously challenging and rewarding. After she completed law school, she worked in government for six years leading up to her sabbatical. Although this work was fulfilling in some ways, she found herself falling into a routine and losing personal interest over time.

Next, Bethany was slated to pursue a PhD in Australia, but after a breakup and death in the family, Bethany ultimately chose to take a step back and reconsider her career direction and life goals.

Setting Up a Sabbatical

“Giving myself confidence through other peoples’ experiences was essential.” 

In preparation for her sabbatical, Bethany worked to save enough money to reduce financial stress for the upcoming time off.

She also spoke with two friends who had taken sabbaticals in the past. Hearing these stories, and how people in her life had found ways to make sabbaticals work, affirmed Bethany’s decision. It also helped her go into the time off with an open mind and to be truly available to all of the new experiences. 

Embracing New Experiences

 

“There’s something critical about losing your identity as a certain type of professional and being in a new place where you don’t know the rules and the players anymore. I truly felt like I was a different person living a different life.”

 

Bethany’s first stop during her six month sabbatical was Argentina; she had a friend there to ease any “growing pains” of being in an unfamiliar environment. However, during her time in the city, Bethany often felt lonely and unsure. Once the next phase of her time off kicked in—trekking in Patagonia—she began to find her footing.

The most transformative part of Bethany’s sabbatical came when she spent a month volunteering in the indigenous region of Ecuador. As she spent time in this community, she felt as though she was a different person living a different life. No longer able to heavily lean on  her career or background as a lawyer, Bethany’s self-perception was re-focused on her core personality traits. During this time, she also found that she missed intellectually challenging work, which helped to inform her ultimate re-entry into the workforce.

The remainder of Bethany’s sabbatical included a combination of solo trips and trips with family and friends, taking her from the Inca Trail in Peru to Europe. While these travel experiences were still meaningful, she feels as though she did not experience the places as fully as she did in Ecuador.

A Renewed Sense of Self

“My sabbatical opened up my ideas about what it is that I can do as a professional and gave me more confidence in trying new things that I don’t necessarily have the credential or experience for.”

After returning from her sabbatical, Bethany noticed that her ability to think creatively had improved significantly. She had also fulfilled her primary goal: finding a better sense of self. In doing this, Bethany acquired more confidence in her own abilities and decision-making. Most importantly, she became more comfortable with uncertainty. 

Bethany believes that re-entering her professional life with this skill set has opened up new possibilities. It left her with a positive view of both challenge and change, making her want to structure sabbaticals into her life periodically as she moves forward.

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