Not a Waste

Last week, I talked about a prompt, asking people: “What is your story and how have you learned how to embrace it?” I thought I would spend this last week reflecting on my life and trying to draft my own story. But instead of looking back on the past, I found myself preoccupied with the future.

I’ve been pretty open about the fact that having a baby during this sabbatical was never part of the plan. And this big change definitely has me questioning this new path and the news steps in my exploration. 

As I mentioned in my previous posts, it’s hard to imagine how I can dedicate time and mental energy to exploring new careers when my son takes up so many of those resources. And from a purely practical (and financial) standpoint, it may make sense for me to return to work full-time, even if it’s in my previous field.

I’ve been thinking about how easy it would be for me to get another high-paying job in the marketing/advertising industry for a few years. We could pay off debts and build up our savings again. And then maybe I could revisit this exploration of new fields after we’re a little more financially comfortable and when my son needs less care. 

But as I’ve lamented in past posts — returning to my old field would feel like a waste of this sabbatical. I would be ending this journey without discovering the new career that energizes me.

However, my husband remarked today how he wouldn’t think my sabbatical was a waste. While the goal of the sabbatical was to find that new job I’m passionate about, it’s by no means the only thing I gained from this adventure.

And I’ve been reflecting on some of these unintentional rewards from my sabbatical. A lot of them are skills, mentalities or ways of working that would have served me well in my previous jobs. In fact, some of these things are abilities I had previously convinced myself I was incapable of.

I think the biggest gain from this sabbatical is my liberation from perfection. In a lot of ways, my past obsession with the ideal has been my downfall in previous jobs. It kept me from taking risks, as the unknown was too hard to control. It made me indecisive, so worried about making the wrong choice. It made me quick to anger and fostered a bad attitude in me when things didn’t go as planned.

But I went into this sabbatical knowing that nothing was going to be perfect. I was going to try completely new things. Things I may have no talent for. Things that may not turn out as expected. And that’s exactly what happened.

But it’s all about perspective. And every attempt, every failure was a learning experience. The achievement was in trying and getting something done. Even if it wasn’t perfect.

I think about if I return to my old industry, how different I would be in those roles. I would likely approach the work in ways I never did before. In turn, I may find that some of my previous frustrations with these jobs are no longer an issue. And who knows — with this fresh perspective and new way of working, I may actually find I enjoy that type of work after all.

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