Sabbatical Stories

James

When he finally received his green card after working in a tough environment for years to sponsor it, James set out on a sabbatical to heal and find the truest version of himself. As he traveled through Canada, the United States, and Asia, James’s time off allowed him to explore and pursue goals he would’ve been unable to within the constraints of a full-time job. He emerged from the experience with a greater sense of self and new perspective that has allowed him to work and live more authentically. 

An Abrupt Change

Just as James had found a sense of belonging through business school and the job he had gotten post graduation, the trajectory of his life abruptly changed: he had been was refused entry back into the US, and now needed to find a job that would sponsor his return visa. 

With these new constraints on his career, James ended up spending a few years in a work environment which became increasingly difficult for him, leaving him feeling stagnant and miserable. Once he qualified for his green card, the natural exit gave James the perfect opportunity to take a sabbatical. Not only would it allow him time to recover from this negative situation, he stepped into the time off with the hopes of pursuing passions he wouldn’t be able to once he returned to a full time position.

Open Time for Reflection

“There were no doubts. I was just breathing it in. I was meeting new people. I was free. I could do whatever I wanted. It felt phenomenal.”

As he began his sabbatical, James had made two plans: yoga teacher training and a silent meditation retreat. This retreat in Canada, which kicked off his time away, gave James the opportunity to step into a feeling of freeness. He was able to live opportunistically, taking time after the retreat to connect with nature in the surrounding area and even go to Burning Man. 

While he was going through yoga teacher training in Bali, James felt that he was truly able to focus on his yoga practice without all of the external factors that being home and in a full-time position entailed. It also put him at a crossroads, as these demands began creeping in: he could stay in Asia—closer to family in his native Australia—or return to work in the US. 

After careful consideration, James chose to follow one of his yoga teachers from Bali to Shanghai and continue developing the skills he had been building. This included new ones such as Rolfing, which hadn’t originally been his goal. However, having this flexibility allowed James the chance to pursue these unique opportunities.

Re-entry, Doubt, and Reflection

“You don’t get perspective by going to the same job for years. You get perspective by going and doing different things and getting that sense of wonder, putting yourself out of your comfort zone, and going and living in a strange place and seeing a life that’s very different.”

Despite these newfound practices, James’s return to Australia for the holidays led him to begin worrying about the future. It led him to join a health and wellness start up, which in retrospect, James feels that he might have shifted too drastically — perhaps over-correcting too much away from what he had been doing, instead of   focusing on what he truly wanted his path to be.

Being able to have this amount of perspective is something that James credits to his time off. It gave him insight into his place in the world and has led him to pursue a life that aligns with the truest version of himself. He also has found that it gave him the ability to differentiate between the decisions he’s actively made and the ones he’s inherited. This distinction also helped him heal from his previous experiences, and recognize the circumstances that led to him where he was. 

By entering his time off right after this difficult period in his life, James feels that his sabbatical produced a combination of discomfort, wonder, and growth through new experiences. These profound changes have given him a new outlook on his career and his future as a whole.

You can follow James on his podcast Exponent, or his website or on Twitter:

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