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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Seijas, Ed.D

Embracing a Sabbatical: Discovering Life Beyond the Work Schedule


Embracing a Sabbatical: Discovering Life Beyond the Work Schedule by Michelle Seijas for SOULACY Magazine


Recently someone asked me about pivotal conversations that have changed the trajectory of my life. It took a matter of seconds for me to recall a conversation from November 2016. I spoke into existence thoughts that had been sitting on my heart. For too long, I had been scared to say them and when I finally let them out that day a whole new life began to unfold.


It was a typical day at work and I was scheduled for a meeting with the other leaders in my organization. An email came through that the meeting needed to be canceled. There was a small sigh of relief, “Time to catch up on my inbox.” You know that couldn’t possibly be what happened next or else this story wouldn’t need to be told.


My boss walked into my office and said, “We haven’t caught up in a while. Can we use the time we just got back to catch up?” We started talking and I don’t remember the details of the conversation. What I remember clearly are the words that flowed out of me. They were words I had been mulling over in my mind for quite some time and was too afraid to say out loud. 


At one point I suddenly said, “I will not be coming back at the end of this year.” My boss was caught off guard and encouraged me to go home relax and keep this between us, it was probably just a really hard week. 


I knew those words were my stake in the ground. I was done with this chapter of my life and ready to move on, even if the future was unknown. I supported the onboarding of my successor and stayed true to what I said. I did not return to work at the end of the year.


With complete peace, I walked away from a successful career that had spanned 15 years. I did not have a plan or a vision of what was next. What I did know deep in my soul was that I was destined for more and willing to take a leap of faith to explore what that could mean. I trusted myself to find the answers I was looking for once I had the time and space to listen to what was sitting dormant in my soul.


The first week I spent a lot of time just sitting in my living room every morning staring out the window. I was struggling to believe I truly had gifted myself a life without a schedule. I had worked one to two jobs since I was 16 years old. This life of open possibilities was new to me.


Often we make decisions in the moment that are fueled by insecurity and/or impatience. Those decisions can close us off to something more aligned with who we are.

Over time, I settled into a routine that felt structured and flexible. I wanted to be intentional with this blessing, since it was not forever, while also honoring I had a lot of rest and healing to do as well.


Each morning I meditated from my bed before setting my feet on the ground. I would move to my dining room to spend about two hours reading while sipping tea. Then I would journal about anything that was rising to the surface as I started the day. Any questions I was pondering I wrote down. Any thoughts or mantras I was sitting with I wrote down. Any audacious dream revealing itself was written down. I documented it all in my sabbatical journal. To this day I open it and remind myself of what was born in that time and still lives on.


The rest of my days followed what my heart needed. I explored plant-based cooking, long walks around town, drives to visit friends and family, and traveled around Europe. Anything that surfaced as a desire of my heart, I allowed to bloom. It was a time of deep listening to what my soul was yearning for.


I asked myself over and over again, “What would it look like to form a life full of love and joy?”


As the answers emerged from within me, I reconnected to my passions, gained clarity of purpose, and rooted my intentions moving forward in my core values. At the end of this time, when I knew I was ready to re-emerge, I saw with laser focus what was meant for me and followed those opportunities with clear action. 


The popular description of manifestation for a long time has been putting images on a vision board and waiting for that image/idea/experience to pop into our life. I will tell you that in my early years of exploring spirituality/self-help/intuition I put a lot of images on boards that never came to fruition.


What I have learned through life experience and patience, is that manifestation is not opportunity magically appearing. Manifestation is clarity that guides us when to say ‘no’ and when to stay open to ‘yes,’ so we are able to receive what moves our purpose forward. Often we make decisions in the moment that are fueled by insecurity and/or impatience. Those decisions can close us off to something more aligned with who we are.


When we take the time to know clearly who we are, how we want to show up in the world, and what our long-term dreams are, we cannot settle for less than what is meant for us. We confidently say no to that which will not serve us and where we are headed. We say yes to opportunities that are aligned with our joy, brilliance, purpose, and values. Those moments of enthusiastic YES move us forward to opportunities greater than what we even imagined was possible.


Throughout my sabbatical, lots of people started reaching out with job opportunities. Many of them were aligned to who I had been for the first 15 years of my career. The purpose of taking this intentional pause was to pivot in a new direction. As I turned inward and unpacked what was truly living within me and ready to emerge, there were clear non-negotiables that rose to the surface. 


For the first 4 months of the sabbatical, I said no many many times to opportunities that were presented to me. Each time I said no I left myself open to possibilities for yes. Towards the end of month four, an invitation was presented to me that was an immediate and clear YES! The road to manifesting the life I live now started unfolding at a fast pace with a series of decisions that were easy for me to make because I was clear on who I was, what I deserve, and where I saw myself going in the future.


Our dream lives do not magically appear one day. They unfold from a series of choices we make that are either aligned with who we are meant to be or rooted in who others feel we should be. Sabbaticals are a gift to ourselves to have the space to gain clarity for the choices we are making in our lives. 


Sabbaticals do not have to be months of alone time. They are pockets of time (hours, days, or months) dedicated to reconnecting with ourselves, all of who we are, or parts that are revealing they need some extra care and attention. Smaller sabbaticals are available to us at any time. We may plan out a two-week vacation to turn inward or carve out 20 minutes to meditate in the morning. The amount of time is not as important as setting the intention for rest, reflection, and reconnecting with self. 


We all need dedicated time to navigate through our thoughts and dreams to set audacious plans for our future selves. This time doesn’t have to be a fully hashed-out schedule with goals for outcomes. Establishing the time you need and keeping it sacred is important. Every time you show up at your dedicated time, your mind, body, and spirit will guide you to what you need. Pause, listen, and follow.

I have been in multiple meetings lately where folks are discussing The Great Resignation. People are seeking time to rest, travel, be with family, and just spend time with themselves. I completely understand that feeling of needing to shake up what has become the norm. When I took my full sabbatical, I felt deeply in my soul that it was important to completely walk away from the life I knew because I had become so deeply disconnected from a life focused on purpose.


Though I am now on a clearer purpose path and living life authentically as me, I have been feeling lately that I need more time and space to rest, reflect, and reconnect to a very specific part of myself. It’s time for another sabbatical. Not a full-blown slowing down season, as I have done in the past. I’m thinking more of a quasi-sabbatical where I open up more space in my schedule for large pockets of time to reconnect with myself.


I was having lunch with a friend and his wife one afternoon. As someone who is single and always ready to mingle, folks regularly want the details on what’s been up with my dating life. I was sharing some stories (I swear I am going to put all these stories in a book someday) and the conversation lingered on my confusion about how my professional aspirations always manifest with ease and my love life always feels like so much work.


As they asked questions and let me process out loud, where I landed was that I have a clear vision and complete trust in myself when it comes to professional dreams and goals. When it comes to love I do not have a clear vision of who I am and trust in myself to know when to say no and clearly say YES.


One of them asked me, “How did you connect with vision and trust for yourself before?” I immediately said, “My sabbatical.” At that moment it clicked. I am in need of a sabbatical again to reconnect with myself and begin to visualize new possibilities.


I am in need of a sabbatical to reconnect with love within myself.


I have decided what I need right now is not a full disconnect from my calendar; however, I do need a reduced workload to intentionally give myself a couple of days a week for a deeper relationship with myself. I am envisioning long meditation sessions, walks where I let myself get lost in my thoughts, journaling, taking myself out for a solo meal, calls with my therapist and coach, reading, and whatever else emerges as the love I need.


Though I will not be mad if a husband evolves from this, that is not the point. My struggle to vision a life of love and connection stems from a disconnect that is growing from not knowing why I love myself, how to love myself, and what it will look like to expand that love beyond myself.


There is an excitement in having the time and space to hear what lives within me, relearning what I need and what I am uniquely able to give. A season of reconnecting with myself, with a focus on love, will prepare me to love myself deeper, which will in turn bring ease to loving others. 


I’m sure you are wondering, “How does she pay her bills if she doesn’t always work full-time?” I am aware that this is potentially a season of less income. I have savings I can use if necessary; however, I will not let that become the deciding factor in how I take care of myself. I have enough money to take care of my home and my needs. I’ve run the numbers to determine how much time I have and what I need to be conscious of financially in this season.


I am also leaning into an abundance mindset. This quasi-sabbatical will provide the opportunity for me to connect with the love that lives within me. As I tap into self-love on a deeper level, it will be revealed to me what it means to expand my business with love as part of our core foundation. I continue to ask myself, “What would it look like to form a life full of love and joy?” Each time an answer reveals itself and I follow, an abundance of resources in various forms always follows to help that answer develop in my life. This time will be no different.


I encourage us all to pause, listen, and identify what parts of ourselves need love and attention in this season. May we trust ourselves enough to tap into intuition and know how to care for that part of ourselves. As we identify what a sabbatical of reconnection can look like for us, let us courageously move forward to provide ourselves with what we need. 


Some offerings for reflection:


  • What could emerge from giving yourself dedicated time to reconnect with yourself? 

  • What part of yourself do you need to set aside time to reconnect with?

  • What would that precious time consist of?

  • What are you currently manifesting in your life? 

  • What do you need to learn about yourself to manifest the life meant for you?


Let me know what emerges for you. I cannot wait to see where the next season can take us when we are fully reconnected to all of who we are.


Article was originally published in our SELF CARE special under the title: "What do people do on sabbaticals? How do I know if I need one?"

 

TLDR: Michelle Seijas shares her transformative experience stepping away from a successful career to embrace a sabbatical. She details how time away from structured work led her to deep personal insights and a redefined life path aligned with her true passions and dreams.


 

Michelle Seijas, Ed.D. is a Latina leader who comes from a lineage of ancestors rooted in spirituality, community, advocacy for social justice, and passionate living. The values passed to her are how she chooses to guide her life and live in purpose. Michelle is a Thriving Chingona out to honor the generations before her and to liberate the generations to come. Clarity of purpose and living as her true self have been a lifelong journey. www.michelleseijas.com

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