What my sabbatical has given me
Going on a sabbatical is not like going on a long vacation and it is not easy. Having said that, I hadn't been aware of any of the wisdom that I am writing about today. I am an intuitive person and don't always look for logical arguments when I make decisions, and I admit I was naive. When I at the age of 37 and with two young children resigned from my well paid and fulfilling job in a team of people that I really liked, people naturally asked me why. My answer was that I waned to go live in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The question that followed was logically what kind of job did I have lined up there. When I answered that hopefully none and that I wanted to study and snowboard, they thought I lost my mind. And if I could see all the obstacles that were to come, I would have chickened out. But I am glad I didn't know because this time away was very precious. This is why.
When we moved to the US and had to reestablish ourselves there, I struggled. At times I was ashamed of myself because I felt like I struggled to find a balance between humility and a healthy self-esteem - for example when we had to downgrade from our house, had troubles buying a car or when the bank denied us credit cards. No more golden mastercards and VIP golf tournaments. We were treated like criminals without a credit history. Our year in America had a negative impact on our financial stability. Our house in Brno was burgled and we lost everything. The insurance company closed the case and we will never get any of our stuff or any compensation back. That's created a great opportunity for a resilience training.
On the bright side, we were outdoors riding in the best ski resorts in the world. I got to spend more time with our children and I was more available for them as a mom. Our kids had a new cultural experience, made new friends, and learned a second language. I completed my Search Inside Yourself Teacher Training and found a community of my fellow teachers who are very inspirational and kind. I gained more self confidence as an athlete and became a sport coach. When I was growing up, my parents never encouraged me to practice any sports and I felt like I was never good at anything. I discovered the joys and benefits of sports and physical fitness as an adult. In Colorado, I became a snowboard and yoga instructor and I continue to draw from that experience in my everyday life. I made new friendships and met some great strong women who run their businesses and for the first time in my life fully understood the true "women power" and how much strength can be created when we get together to create bonds with mutual support and no judgments or envy.
I read on the internet that based on the industry you work in and how senior you are, sabbaticals may be paid. I have never met anyone who could confirm that. You have to assess the risks, accept all the costs and discomforts, and when you struggle you have to suck it up. Firstly, you need to be meticulous about creating enough savings so that the time away does not ruin your budget. Inevitably, you will experience a drop in your standard of living before, during or after. Or most likely in all of the above. Secondly, you should to do your research and set goals for your time away. I knew I wanted to study SIY or some life/health coaching/teaching course and I spent several months doing a thorough research before I committed to it and even made plans in case the SIY didn't work, because at first I wasn't confident enough to think I would get accepted. Sabbatical doesn't mean going on holiday for twelve months, although I imagined myself riding the slopes in sunny Colorado, meditating, practicing yoga and reading a nice book. I did get to do all of that, yes, but not all the time. A sabbatical is about growth, nurturing yourself, developing new skills, and then bringing those skills back into your normal life with fresh insights. Taking a sabbatical is about taking stock and for many people it can feel like an unrealistic idea. How can I keep my life on track? Will my career suffer? Will people criticise me for it? I realised I wanted to pause to be able to find a refreshed sense of purpose about who I was and where I was heading.
If we don't experience growth, we create an environment for laziness. And growth is not about constantly exposing oneself to new adventures such jumping from a plane with a parachute or indulging oneself in hedonistic lifestyle of short term pleasures and travel adventures. Personal growth is the ongoing process of understanding and developing oneself in order to achieve one's fullest potential. It is a vital part in our maturity, the foundation of emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual health and happiness.
I am not done with America. I will be back sooner or later. I have already lived in Colorado four times in my life. The time wasn't right to stay but I believe that we will find a way back in the future.