Sunday, January 2, 2011

Reflecting on My Sabbatical

Well, not only is it a new year but it also marks the end of Little Kelly's Life of Leisure. Tomorrow I am starting a new job. Insert sigh here.

I've had a good run and have thoroughly enjoyed myself over the last 7 months but it is time to get back to work and bring home the bacon. I am excited about the opportunity I selected and although it is in Boston, I will have some flexibility to maintain a healthy work life balance, which was my number one priority when finding a new job. And a part of me is looking forward to the train ride because I will have two hours each day to read, knit, catch up on work, or just transition from Work Kelly to Home Kelly.

I took a look at my sabbatical list and discovered that I had done a fair amount of things on the list. I put all my pictures in photo albums, I did some cleaning, I organized quite a bit, I spent more time with my girlfriends, I took up watercolor painting, I read more, I definitely relaxed, I camped alot, and I lived more in the moment.

I didn't clean or organize as much as I initially wanted but I also discovered that I thought having a clean and organized house would solve my feelings of being "out of control". I realized I just needed to shift my priorities and do the things I was missing and wanted to do first, and clean and organize second. I did not get that job at a socially conscious company doing meaningful work. However, I am working at a great, fun, company who has made a commitment to a social mission to dramatically improve the education of future generations. I am very happy to be involved in and a part of that goal. Overall there is nothing I didn't get to that I am beating myself up over. What I gained instead, is immeasurable and invaluable. So, as I embark on my next chapter, I thought I would take a look back at my "sabbatical" and put a top 10 list together of things I learned...so here we go!

10. Take time for yourself. Yeah, I know...you don't have any time to do anything for yourself because you are so busy keeping everyone happy and organized. That's pure crap. If you don't take time for yourself, no one is going to be happy. Not you, your family, or your friends. Start small and set aside just one hour a week to take a walk, do something crafty, take a yoga class...whatever it is that you want to do go out and do it! And in order to do that, yes, you will need to delegate some things to others so your family "machine" can keep humming. You don't have to do everything yourself and you certainly don't need to sacrifice your sanity because the laundry is stacked too high.

9. Having a pristine house does not mean you are a better person. You do not need to spend endless hours polishing your furniture so they pass the white glove test. You don't need to vacuum every day. You don't need to scrub the crevices between your cabinets with a toothbrush. Stop the madness!! Now, I'm not saying your house should look like a hoarder's paradise or you should leave sticky food all over your counters, but no one will die if you let your house look lived in. Make your family more responsible and accountable for keeping the house clean. Guess what? If you are constantly picking up after everyone and doing all the work, you can't complain that you feel like a maid....you have let yourself become a maid and no one is to blame for that but yourself. All that time you are constantly spending cleaning is taking away from enjoying your life. Let the floors go and grab your bikes and take a family bike ride. Or go out and have a snowball fight. The cleaning will always be there...make your family the priority, not your vacuum.

8. Stop saying "In a minute..." to your kids. How many times do your kids ask you to do something with them and you say "In a minute...". And that minute never comes. Unless your hair is on fire, put down what you are doing and play that game or have that conversation. Be present for your kids. As a result of doing this in the last several months, I have had some of the best conversations with my kids. They open up more when you are willing to take the time. We have had a lot of laughs too. I am going to try very hard to remember this one when I come back from commuting to Boston and am trying to get dinner on the table, homework wrapped up, and prepare for the next day. I know this will be hard and a conscious effort but I am going to really try to remember my own advice here.

7. Make a realistic daily to do list. I think we overwhelm ourselves with our lists and put 20 things on there that need to get done each day when you really only can get 5 things done. It's self defeating to create a list that is unrealistic. Give yourself a break and prioritize what is really important.

6. Take time with your girlfriends. Only girls understand other girls and you need that support in your life. I had breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my girlfriends. I drank wine and tea. I went for walks and took up knitting. We took girls only trips. We laughed, cried, and supported each other. We talked through email, phone, and in person. We read books and saw movies together. We had a lot of fun and there is a lot more fun to be had!

5. Find out what makes you happy and then look for opportunities to do that more often. I love to travel and camp and we made that a priority last year. Although we won't be able to camp as much this year because I am working again, we will still look for any and all opportunities to take off and enjoy ourselves. We have one trip planned already....to Tybee Island in Georgia! Make sure you know what makes you relaxed and happy and seek opportunities to do it more often, whether that is by yourself, with your girlfriends, or your family.

4. Choose to view the world with a glass half full. What is being negative getting you? You only throw up roadblocks for yourself when you view things from a pessimistic point of view. Be positive and happy things will follow. Stop saying things like "I will never be able to do that..." or "it probably won't work out..." or "with my luck the worst will happen". Start saying things like "I'll give it a try.." or "Maybe something great will come out of this". Daily life is full of obstacles and challenges. Get on your own team and start being more positive.

3. Have fun! I realized just how much I was letting fun pass me by because I was too busy cleaning, or trying to organize all the little details, or working. Go out with your friends for dinner on the spur of the moment, go sledding with the kids, say yes when friends call for a girl's night out on a Wednesday night. Now, sometimes you just can't fit it all in, but try to fit something fun in at least once a week. Make fun a priority because your life will be more joyful.

2. Make your life a good one. As I said before, you only get one life....enjoy it to the fullest. I think you get the point of this through my comments above. Have Fun. Enjoy Life. Take advantage of life's opportunities. Smile. Laugh. When you reflect back on the last year are you thoughts filled with "I should have..." or "I wish I had..." If so, then don't do that again this year. Life life to the fullest.

1. I think the most important thing I have learned, is a no brainer, but one of those things that I think most people struggle with. No job is worth putting before your family. Don't live to work. Instead work to live. Yes, I know...we all need that paycheck and it often feels like if you don't send those emails tonight, or if you don't get that presentation done tonight, or if you don't respond to requests over the weekend, that your job will be in jeopardy. "Especially in this economy." It's simply not true. Just put down the blackberry and step away. Get home at a reasonable time at least 3 nights a week. Have fun with your kids before they go to bed so they have a great, positive memory before falling asleep. Go to the movies with your family rather than worrying about work. You have the power to say "I can't do that right now but I can get it done..." or "I'm not available this weekend but can definitely address that when I get in on Monday". You have options. Just try making yourself and your family a priority and you will realize that you can actually make your family a priority and still keep your job. And if not, then maybe you aren't working at the right place for you.

Leaving my stable job after 14 years was the scariest thing I ever did...and the best thing I ever did. I realized I am the one with the power to control my life, not the company I work for. I realized I was putting everything about myself and my family's happiness, not my company. I realized I can take chances and the world won't come to a crashing halt.

I have never felt so much more like myself than I do right now. I honestly feel like I grew into my skin and am feeling very comfortable. I also recognize that not many people have the opportunity to take time off and rediscover themselves "full time". But we all have the opportunity to slow ourselves down and enjoy life. I am hoping that I don't look back at this post in 3 months and say "What happened to Little Kelly?! Where did she go again?" I don't think that will happen though because I am more in tune with what I need to do in order to maintain this lifestyle change. So, let's see how this goes....onto the next chapter of Little Kelly.

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