Questions people asked me about my sabbatical

Last week I posted an instagram story asking people if they had any questions about my sabbatical. Here are the ones I got together with my answers:

Q: Is it easier than working? Less stress?

A: I suppose it depends on how stressful your job is and how you usually manage yourself. In my case I was not stressed at work by the time I left, but my break was even less stressful than work because I had no other responsibilities beyond simple day-to-day stuff to deal with. If you are a person responsible for a sick person, for example, I guess the situation is different. In my case I was interested in enjoying life and recharging. And that’s what I did. There was a small period when I was really anxious and it was all because I had committed myself to more than I could handle. And I was accountable just to myself, so it was a bit funny to find myself anxious about achieving things that I was doing for the pure fun of it. So after a figurative self slap in the face, I took it down a notch and got back to joy mode. A lot of people told me I looked fresher and I attribute it solely to no having to wake up ever with an alarm. Not even to take flights, as I booked all flights at comfortable day time hours. So it was definitely more relaxing.

Q: How do you financially support yourself? Did you have a buffer and how big?

A: I had a buffer. I have been interested in personal finances since my late teens so I started working on financial goals a while ago. Slowly but steadily I have improved my system. I am a bit of a freak of excel sheets for finance stuff where I track my income and expenses, I make monthly and annual budgets, and I set and track investments goals. So when I first started tracking these goals and managing my money based on them, I aimed at having a buffer of 3 months that allowed me to sustain my lifestyle at that point in time, and once I reached that goal I extended it to 6 months, and so on. I also considered simplifying my lifestyle, although admittedly it is harder for me to quit the luxurious and overpriced flat whites that make me smile every Sunday 🙂

Q: Do you wish you had done / prepared something before the break started?

A: I prepared something. I always do. Planning is my way of finding freedom. Otherwise I fall in the trap of getting bored or doing the same things over and over again until I get frustrated. But I was not too strict either. I just identified a few things I wanted to do (e.g. meet family, learn X skill) and I made sure to plan every week as it came. But I was a lot more fluid than one is when having a job. For example, one week I was really physically exhausted from all the sawing wood so that particular week I went to the workshop for shorter periods of time or for less days than the prior week. The goal was to enjoy the process and not just complete something. Compared to a break I took in 2019 I do wish I had revisited my goals a bit more often, because this time the break was longer than back then and at one point I started losing track of time. So it can get fuzzy. But again, it depends. Some people love calendars, others love the flow. I am somewhere between “when does the flow start, again?” and “what day is it again?”

Q: Expectations vs Reality?

A: Similarly to what I explained in the above answer, I tried to go with the flow. Meaning that there were not a whole lot of expectations, except reunions with loved ones and learning for the fun of it. There was a point when I thought I could do more than I did. For example, I expected to get my drivers license by the end of the summer, but the reality has been that driving is stressful so learning is taking more time that I would have liked. And since I did not want to make a stressful period out of this time, I agreed to myself to take it slowly after a few frustrating days. I also expected to travel a lot more, until I learned I do not enjoy traveling for longer than 2 weeks at a time. One beautiful thing I did not expect but happened was to get full support from family and friends. I was afraid to be judged and also felt guilt over having the luxury of being able to take such a break while other people can’t quit or find a job. But friends and family kept reminding me I have earned this and it is a healthy thing to do. It was reassuring and it was also rewarding to have a long conversation with my parents about the topic. They were positively surprised and the occasion open itself to discuss philosophies of life. That is something I would have never imagined discussing with my parents.

Q: What happens after the break?

A: I can’t predict exactly what will happen, but I have set out a plan to get back into the workforce and I am working on it 🙂 I have a blog post lined up for next week where I describe how I approach this.

Q: What kind of mental effects has the absence of steady source of income had on you?

A: I have not been so worry about the income, luckily, but I have been annoyed at just being on the consumer end of things. After all, one keeps on having to consume while being alive, but I was more worried about becoming useless to society if I took a break for too long. By that, I mean that when you work you have constant interactions with the world in which you are being confronted with different points of view, you have debates, make decisions, take on demands from others. That develops you as a human in a very different way than just doing what you want does. Of course, not having the worry about money means having a good buffer, but I also had the luck of hitting a jackpot at work and I have managed that smartly and focused on learning how to invest. I think even if my investments gave me a full source of income to cover my lifestyle, my main urge is still to do something useful daily next to a team.

Q: Have you felt any guilt from “walking away” or “playing around”?

A: At the beginning I felt a bit of guilt from leaving a team I had been a part of for so long. That is normal. But overall and very quickly after having left all my responsibilities in good hands, I felt strong about this and future breaks because having them makes me a better person. Even if I were to work with the same people, or a new bunch, I am a better person to them after taking these breaks so I feel more guilty if I don’t take them and I keep going through life in automaton mode. It is similar to sleeping. We are better people during the day when we have a good night sleep. We are better at work and at home if we take breaks, vacations, hobbies, whatever else recharges you.

Thank you for being curious, people. Your questions set off a thought process that helps me learn more about my own experience. Additionally, while I know these breaks are becoming more popular among some and some companies even offer them as a benefit, I know it is still a taboo topic and out of reach for many. For me they are part of a philosophy of life. But they didn’t happen from one day to the next. They have required intentional planning for years. I highly recommend them. But I know it is not easy to see how to make them happen when your stuck in your day-to-day responsibilities. So hopefully you learn something from my experience and trigger your own personal process.

Happy Friday,
Maria 🌺

Originally published at https://marialasprilla.wordpress.com on September 30, 2022.

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Maria Lasprilla

Product Management, Personal Growth, Leadership. Living The Good Life.