Sabbatical Stories

Kimberly’s Inner Pilgrimage

Summary: Kimberly takes time off to step out from stress and judgment and find trust and alignment. Taking a sabbatical renews her sense of peace.

Life is infinitely better than it was a year ago. I have more trust in the universe. I have more trust in myself.

Overworked and Disconnected from her Heart

For Kimberly, taking a sabbatical was an opportunity to lean into personal healing and trust while and embracing openness to the world.

Kimberly had always felt strongly about putting her entire self into her work and family commitments, in large part as a result of her father’s diagnosis with early-onset Parkinson’s disease. This diagnosis bolstered Kimberly’s desire to give back to others through her work, attracting her to positions with lots of development responsibilities and to building organizations that she believed in from the ground up.

“When I’m in something, I’m totally in it 100%, often at the expense of my personal well-being.”

However, this workaholism eventually caught up to her such that Kimberly felt that her professional life and increasing family responsibilities had eroded the delicate work-life balance she had been able to maintain before. This stress was heightened by two family health crises that forced Kimberly to assume an additional role as caretaker. After speaking with her friends – and an out of body experience in which her heart leapt into her own hands – Kimberly decided that she couldn’t postpone taking time off to heal herself any longer.

Kimberly wanted to use this sabbatical to adventure into the unknown in order to transform and improve herself. She was also inspired by Joan Didion’s book The Year of Magical Thinking, leading her to focus on suspending judgment and embrace openness to the world.

Kimberly taking a sabbatical and hiking in snow

Stepping out of Stress and Judgment

To start this self-described pilgrimage, Kimberly first spent time at home to take care of her father and her uncle who had suffered a stroke. An incredibly meaningful experience, this was also a taxing time, consisting of lots of logistics, paperwork, and emotional exhaustion. When she was able to move onto the next part of her sabbatical–time in France with her grandfather– Kimberly was able to relax. Taking the time to slow down, both physically and mentally, while being surrounded by family helped Kimberly remember who she was.

“I was living in my own shadow, so I couldn’t see far ahead. I just knew that this was going to be really meaningful and that I needed to do it.”

Kimberly then went to Kenya and Hawaii, both times with close friends who were part of her chosen family. This was particularly impactful because Kimberly felt as though she was able to be fully present with these friends, eliminating the nagging voice telling her to do other things. 

Overcoming Adversity

Before the next part of her sabbatical in Nepal, Kimberly and a long-time partner decided to part ways on their journeys. In Nepal, she hiked, visited her godson, and processed her emotions. She rebuilt her strength, connected with her spirituality and literally get back on her feet. It also gave her the mental space to channel creativity and compassion into her life in ways she hadn’t previously been able to.

The final portion of Kimberly’s sabbatical was particularly spiritually transformative. She first went to Tibet, where the culture and people moved her to start meditating and embrace Buddhist practices. Kimberly then went to India for yoga teacher training, which gave her a healthy routine while still pursuing her passions.

Traveling to India, Kimberly get yoga teacher training while taking a sabbatical

Finding Trust and Alignment

“Life is infinitely better than it was a year ago. I have more trust in the universe. I have more trust in myself.”

Kimberly achieved her goal of healing and saw the power of taking a big step back while taking a sabbatical. She met inspiring people from around the world who broadened her perspective on the world – and her place in it. Ultimately, removing some external responsibilities and pressures let her explore her authentic self. Kimberly returned home with a newfound trust in herself and in the universe. This trust opened up new senses of worth, value, faith and peace for her.

Want to read more stories on healing and burnout? You can check out Winston’s story here.

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