Planning, Reflections

Unexpected Changes

This past weekend, I made a pretty big public announcement: I’m pregnant!

While this new development isn’t a complete shock (without going into too much detail, Ryan and I have been in a “not trying, not preventing” stage during this sabbatical), it was a bit unexpected … to be expecting (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

And though I shared this big news with the world recently, I have obviously known about for quite a while. One of the first things that crossed my mind when I found out — what does this mean for my sabbatical?

No plans are set in stone (nothing really is), but here are a few early thoughts:

It may be even longer until I go back to work full time

I know this seems a bit counterintuitive — “you have a baby on the way, you guys need to bring in more income!” And to a certain extent, there’s a lot of truth to that sentiment. Babies are expensive. And on top of that, there’s the whole health care issue.

But here’s my counterargument: If I was willing to take time off for myself, to explore my passions and what’s the right path for me, why wouldn’t I do the same thing to spend time with my child? And why would I rush back to a full time job I don’t love and put myself in that miserable state again. Not too be too hippy about it, but I don’t want that negative juju around my baby.

But I might be more focused about my career exploration

Not long ago, I was writing about my doubts on interior design. I had found that I wasn’t dedicating as much time as I thought I would to my class projects. I took that as a sign that I wasn’t passion enough about it. I doubted whether or not I would continue my studies, and I was ready to flitter to the next career path.

But a switch got flipped as soon as I found out I was pregnant. I focused my time and energy to my classes and found that, when afforded those mental resources, I really did enjoy my interior design classes. And on top of that, this program provides a great foundation on knowledge and a clear pathway to make connections and enter into the field.

I’m not saying that I have 100% chosen interior design as my new path and given up on the other possibilities. I’m just determined to spend more time, energy and focus to this exploration (as well as any other future paths) before giving up on it. So, I have already registered for summer and fall classes.

I’m determined not to let this derail me

It’s a common tale: plans get put on hold when you have a baby. And what we really see all too often is: plans get put on hold indefinitely when you have a baby.

I will tell you this now — I am NOT giving up on finding that career path I’m passionate about. Yes, it might be a slower and longer journey than I anticipated. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to throw my hands in the air and just go back to the same old boring marketing work I was doing before just because it’s the safe and secure decision.

Because more than owing to myself, I owe to my child to set an example for them. To show them what it means to live a life of passion. Of fearless exploration. Of hopeful risk. Of audacious dreaming. Of determination and ambition that refuses to be shackled by the “normal” path, social expectations, and practicality.

Planning

Making Some Dough

I’m about six months into this sabbatical, and while I still don’t have a clear direction on my career path, I’ve had a lot of great learnings and experiences. I’m excited to keep going forward and not rush the process.

Luckily, I have a lot of savings to support me during this sabbatical, but I don’t want to deplete it completely. So, lately, I’ve been looking into ways to make a little extra cash to offset some of our monthly expenses.

What am I looking for?

Ideally, I’d love to find a way to make some extra money, working from home and setting my own hours. I’d be willing to do work outside of home but having flexible hours would be important. I want to still be able to prioritize my career exploration, as well as my creative pursuits.

It would also be good if the gig(s) were a reliable source of income. Though, I’d be willing to take on a mix of regular work with more ad hocs gigs.

What are my options?

I’m still pretty early in my research, but here are some avenues I want to explore:

Freelance writing

I have done a lot of writing in my past jobs. And maintaining this blog has been a good exercise in a new style of writing (plus a great thing for my portfolio). There are a ton of online freelance sites, including some sites like ProBlogger which are geared exclusively toward writing gigs.

I would ideally want to take on the style of writing that I enjoy. So that would be things like blogs, creative writing, speeches and fun articles over technical writing, business writing and other more bland types of gigs.

One thing I’m noticing on a lot of these freelance sites is that the job poster will ask for a bid. So, I’ll have to do some thinking about how much I’d want to charge, as well as industry standards.

Consulting & project management

Producing the podcast reminded me that I have a knack for organization and getting projects off the ground. And being part of the Podcasters Support Group on Facebook, I realized there is a need from a lot of creatives for this type of project management support.

For podcasts alone, I could help new creators take their projects from ideas to fully launched podcast. I could also help existing podcasters streamline their operations.

I need to think about how I might package myself and what I would charge for my services.

Selling online

I’ve been meaning to put a lot of my clothes up for sale on Poshmark. While this may not be a long-term way of making money, it could be a good short-term way to get some extra cash.

On a more on-going basis, I’ve always thought about setting up my own Etsy shop. I’d probably sell handmade jewelry and related crafts. I love that it would allow me to be creative and I could do everything from home. I know it would take a while to get the business up and running, but it’s definitely something I want to explore.

Standardized patient

This is a gig that I lot of my actor friends have taken on. Essentially, medical students and doctors need to train with real people, so hospitals and other medical facilities hire people to be fake patients. This would obviously be onsite work, but I hear the hours are pretty flexible in that you can choose to accept or decline gigs.

Stanford has one of the more popular programs – they pay well. And they have an easy form to fill out to submit your interest in becoming a standardized patient. However, that is a bit of a drive for me. I’ve heard there are also opportunities in Oakland, so I need to research that more.


I definitely have a lot more research to do. And for some of these ideas, I may need to just jump in a try it out.

Have any ideas I didn’t mention? Leave a comment below!

Planning

Self Care

It’s always good to reset and recharge.

For the last week and a half, I’ve had a hard time sleeping. My mind’s been racing and my body has been seized by the constant dull pang of anxiety.

It’s not hard to identify the general cause of my insomnia. Things have been getting really busy lately.

Work for my classes is starting to ramp up. The impending podcast launch has added a lot of new tasks. Rehearsals for my new play started recently, and I’ve been in the thick of auditions and callbacks for other shows. And on top of that, there are just the everyday tasks that I seem to always be behind on — doing laundry, going grocery shopping, taking the car in for an oil change.

The anxiety is different from when I was working. There’s no dread of starting each day nor is there a complete lack of excitement for the upcoming tasks. It’s more like frustration that I don’t have the time and energy to get everything done that I want to and fear that I’m not going to do my best work for the day’s tasks.

I, of course, did this to myself. When I decided to start this sabbatical, I feared I would fall into a rut and just sit home watching TV all day. So, I came up with a plan and immediately took on a lot of projects. As the months have gone by, I’ve taken on more and more.

First, there are the career exploration projects. Currently, that consists of the two interior design classes I’m taking. And to a certain extent, my work on the podcast, some of my video work, and even this blog are contributing to this discovery of new potential career paths.

Secondly, I also wanted to take advantage of this freed-up schedule to dedicate more of my time and energy to the creative projects I’m passionate about or new ones I want to pursue. Lately, that has manifested in more auditions and taking on challenging roles. It has also meant a lot more creative writing.

But the problem is, I’ve set all of these pursuits at the same priority level, and I find myself pushing myself 100%, seven days a week.

It is physical and emotionally exhausting and mentally addling.

So, I’ve decided I need to take a step back and identify some changes:

Schedule Time and Days Off

Based on the projects I’ve taken on, my weekends tend to be packed.  However, even though it’s been a few months since I’ve worked a Monday-Friday job, I still have that lingering mindset that weekdays should be productive work days. That means I’ll find tasks to do and other projects to fill up my weekdays, even if I just spend the previous weekend working.

Starting now, I’m going to go through my calendar and try to identify 1-2 days a week when I don’t do any work and can just recharge.

Don’t Say Yes to Everything

Like many in my generation, I often experience major FOMO (fear of missing out), and so I find myself taking on any and all opportunities that come my way.

Moving forward, I’m going to carefully question and consider each project and opportunity that presents itself. Am I going to grow from this experience? Is this going to add to my skill set? Is this going to help me learn something new?

Prioritize My Existing Projects

As I mentioned earlier, I feel like I’ve put my various projects on equal footing, meaning I feel obligated to tackle them all as soon as possible and throw all my energy into them. It’s been draining and a bit discombobulating. And really, it’s been counterproductive because there is no way I can give 100% to all of these projects simultaneously, which means the quality of my work has suffered.

Moving forward, I’m going to pick one or two broad projects that are my main priority for that week or day.

Within my sabbatical career exploration, I’m going to try to focus on one or two careers at any given time rather than bouncing around all nine. So, right now, that will be my interior design classes.

Similarly, for my creative pursuits, I will prioritize one or two above the rest.

Forgive Myself

Lastly, I need to change my mindset and expectations around how much I should get done and what I should accomplish. That means, it’s okay if I can’t get to tasks that are lower priority. It’s not the end of the world if I publish a blog post a day late. I have every right to say “no” to something because I don’t have the bandwidth or it doesn’t interest me.

Even when I was working, I was my harshest critic and set the highest expectations for myself. This sabbatical stemmed from a desire to live a more energizing and fulfilling life. It’s good to check my compass every now to make sure I’m not slipping back into the direction of anxiety and drain.

Planning, Uncategorized

Sabbatical Resolutions

Photo by Jessica Lewis

Happy New Year!

The beginning of a new year always feels like a time of renewal. It’s a time full of hope and potential. We set goals for ourselves and look for ways to make the new year different — better — than the last.

I’ve always loved creating New Year’s resolutions. It helps give me focus and motivation to accomplish things I’ve always wanted to. Now, I don’t necessarily follow through on all my resolutions. In fact, I probably break or fail at least 90% of my resolutions. But I think the reason for that is that I set resolutions that are too aggressive – doing a certain thing every day or making a major shift in behavior right away.

So, this year, instead of setting hard and fast rules around my resolutions, I want to just identify areas of focus. These are things that I want to devote a little more energy to in the new year and that I want to particularly prioritize above everything else.

And I thought this would be a great way to approach setting some small resolutions for my sabbatical.

So, without further adieu, here are my 2019 sabbatical resolutions:

Interview people in my fields of interest

My sabbatical so far has centered around mostly self-taught exercises in learning how to do a few of the careers on my list. This helped me uncover my aptitude for the work, as well as how much I actually enjoyed doing it.

By speaking with people who work in these fields, I think I’ll get a better sense of how to actually make a living in the areas of work, whether it be landing a job at a company or starting my own business.

Create a circle of like-minded people

I have been surprised by the sheer number of people who are either taking a similar sabbatical at the moment or who have been feeling the same lack of fulfillment in their jobs that I did. A lot of these people are fellow artists (theater and otherwise), and we all struggle to find the balance among creative fulfillment, reserving space (both time and energy) for our artistic pursuits, and making enough money to survive.

I’ve taken the opportunity to meet with a few people who are taking sabbaticals. It has been great to swap stories, and more than anything, it’s been good to reassure myself that I’m not alone. However, I feel like we could all get so much more out of each other if we banded together and formed a sort of support circle. We could meet regularly (even if it’s just once a month) to share experiences, challenges, goals and maybe lend ideas or offer assistance.

Explore part-time work

I’ve quickly realized that the best thing I can give to my sabbatical is time. In my first few months, I was mostly able to focus on 3 of the 9 careers, two of which I feel warrant further exploration. I really don’t want to rush through this and I definitely don’t want to jump back into a full-time, permanent job until I’m confident it’s a path I’m passionate about.

Therefore, to give myself as much time as I need, in 2019 I’m going to dedicate a little more energy to looking for gigs, contract jobs or regular part-time work. We still have plenty of savings left, but I don’t want to deplete it completely. I would also rather start looking for part-time work early, before we’re desperate for the extra income, so that I can be more selective.

Whatever type of extra work I take on, it needs to allow for a relatively flexible schedule and it can’t get in the way of my career exploration. If you have any ideas or leads, leave a comment.

Make time for non-career focus areas

Not only has this sabbatical given me the time — and really more importantly, the energy — to explore new careers, but it also affords me space to focus on non-career aspects of my life that I’ve been neglecting.

I want to take advantage of this extra time and energy to focus on:

  • Health and getting into shape
  • Staying more connected with my friends and family
  • Getting my home organized and decluttered
  • Exploring new artistic outlets

New year, new beginnings

2018 was quite a bumpy year, with a lot of ups and downs. But it’s also been a year of big learnings and long overdue reflection.

I’m sure 2019 will have its fair share of rises and dips, but for the first time in a long time, it feels like I’m the one steering. So, where to first?

Planning

Let’s Talk About Money

Today’s post is on the very exciting topic of … budgeting! Ok, maybe not all that exciting but very important, especially when it comes to the self-sustained part of Self-Imposed, Self-Sustained Sabbatical (SISSS™).

Wait, wait, wait — you can’t talk about money! Uhhh, yea I can. And I have to if I’m documenting a sabbatical from work – i.e. making money. So, let’s get over this taboo and just talk about it.

The question I’ve received a lot is, “how long are you going to be on this sabbatical?” And the honest answer is — until I find a career that I feel passionate about or until the money runs out.

So that means I need to figure out when the money is going to run out.

Doing a little math

Without revealing specific numbers, here’s the financial situation:

  • We have a certain amount of monthly expenses
  • With me not working, the amount of monthly household income does not fully cover our monthly expenses
  • We have a decent amount of savings to make up the difference

So, it’s really about understanding that monthly difference in income and expenses, plus taking into account one-time expenses (Christmas presents, taxes), to figure out how long we can live off of savings (and how much we’re willing to deplete said savings).

Spreadsheets are your friend

There are a plethora of free spreadsheet budget templates available online, and I actually downloaded a few to help get me started. While these templates were useful in budgeting my monthly expenses, they didn’t help with calculating how long my savings would last.

So, it was off to make my own custom spreadsheet, and here’s where I ended up:

Regular, monthly expenses

I have one tab where I will fill in my regular monthly expenses.

monthly expenses spreadsheet
That’s a lot of entertainment subscriptions

This includes both fixed costs like rent and internet bill plus variable costs that I will need to estimate like gas and groceries.

Non-regular expenses

I also have a tab for non-regular expenses, broken down by month. This is mostly holidays and birthdays when gifts are purchased, but also includes expenses like taxes.

Spreadsheet of non-regular costs
These non-regular costs will reflect our budget or estimates.

As I start to get a better sense of specific costs related to my career exploration (e.g. in January I have textbook costs for an interior design course), I’ll likely put those expenses here.

Expenses vs. income

Finally, we bring it all together with a tab that breaks down expenses and income, and tracks the month-by-month difference between the two, along with the ending balance in our bank accounts.

Month-by-month expenses and income
Yes, yes, we still have separate bank accounts – don’t judge!

On this worksheet, the calculations will be automated by formulas.

Spreadsheet formulas in budget spreadsheet
Formulas make this all a lot easier

Calculating other options

In my budget spreadsheet, I will also be calculating costs related to some alternate scenarios – using most of our savings to make a lump sum payment to pay off a good chunk or all of our student loans.

Different budget scenarios
It’s tempting to just go debt-free but there are other factors to take into consideration.

Again, without getting into specific numbers, I will say that we could pay off our entire student loans right now. However, it would wipe out most of our savings and — without having done the budget calculations yet — it would likely mean that I wouldn’t be able to do a completely work-free sabbatical for very long.

On the other hand, paying off our student loans would remove a significant amount of our monthly expenses, as our student loan payments combined are more than our monthly rent. What this means is that once I do go back to work, I wouldn’t need to worry about making as much money.

So, what’s the verdict?

Well, I’ll be honest and say that while I’ve set up the budget spreadsheet, I haven’t filled in the  numbers yet. It’s something I will obviously need to sit down and complete with my husband.

There are also some costs — like health care coverage — that are up in the air, as we figure out the best option for us and that will likely have a major effect on our monthly expenses.

And, of course, we’ll want to be conservative with our estimations and make sure we have a cushion for unseen, emergency costs.

But this will be a good step in figuring out how long I can take this sabbatical; if I’ll want to take on part-time work to help make up that difference in our monthly expenses so that I don’t have to rush back into a full-time job; and what kind of income I’ll really have to make when I do go back to work.

Let the number-crunching begin!

Planning

The Plan

I figure the key to success for this self-imposed, self-sustained sabbatical (SISSS™) is a well-thought-out — yet flexible — plan. Also, an alliterative name for my sabbatical. When in doubt, alliteration.

And for those who read my previous entry, I promise there will be no mention of chewing off my foot in this post. Except that I just mentioned it … Ok, there will be little mention of chewing off my foot.

I knew I wasn’t happy with my current career path. But the question remained — well, remains — what do I want to do instead?

I’ve been reflecting on the types of work and past projects — or even just activities in my life — that have energized and fulfilled me. And I realized that in the back of my mind, I’ve had this dusty file folder labeled “Wouldn’t it be cool to be a …”, filled will careers that have piqued my interest over the years.

But those little demons called Doubt, Fear, Imposter Syndrome, and yes, even Practicality always seem to push that file folder deeper and deeper into the darkest recesses of my mind.

“Oh you’d hate doing that fulltime,” Doubt proclaims.

“Yes, and you wouldn’t even be good enough to succeed at that,” Fear responds.

“Plus, if you wanted to do that, you should have started right out of college. It’s way too late to start now,” Imposter Syndrome adds.

From the corner of the room, Practicality quietly observes the demoralizing coterie before piping in with a condescending sneer, “Can you actually make money doing that?”

With an angry glint in my eye, I glared at the gang. Enough with their intimidation! I shoved my way past those discouraging fiends. Trudged through marshes of apprehension. Hacked my way through brambles of uncertainty. Dodged hurling boulders of skepticism. Descended down the treacherous crevice of forgotten dreams, thrust my hand into the darkness and grasped that aged file before emerging victorious. And if you’d just read that paragraph with the Indiana Jones theme song playing in your head, guess what, so did I!

From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Laura D. Short

I returned from my perilous quest, battered and bruised, cautiously holding the fragile file out in front of me. I could see from the tattered edges and yellowed label that the file had been created so many years ago. I raised the dusty relic to my face, pursed my lips and gave it a big puff of air, only to quickly realize that that is a really inefficient way to remove dust from something, and I’m not sure why they always do it in the movies …

Once the dust-induced coughing had subsided, I delicately cracked open that file and peered down at its contents. I couldn’t help but let out a small chuckle as I looked down and saw a curious collection of contrasting careers.*

*see note above about alliteration

Oh, I’m sorry. I guess you’ve been waiting to find out what this mysterious list of careers is along with my plan to explore them and are wondering why it’s taken me thirteen paragraphs to get there. Well, get over here and see for yourself!

Maybe I should add prop artist to the list.

Where do we go from here?

I know some of you might be thinking — that’s quite an eclectic list. Or — what is a Major Gifts Officer? Or a furniture upcycler, for that matter??

I, too, was a little perplexed by the motley crew of careers, and grew anxious that this was just indecisiveness masked as diverse tastes. But I went through that list — as varied as it is — to note why each career interested me, and I started to see some common themes: creativity, autonomy, entrepreneurship, transformation.

So how exactly will I know which, if any, of these is right for me? For each career, I’ve identified some ways that I think I can get a little taste of that path before committing to it long-term. For some careers on the list, I have many resources available: interviewing people in that line of work, taking online classes, attending workshops, or even completing sample projects. For others, my exploration will most likely be limited to speaking with people in that field and shadowing them.

And for some of these careers — especially the more entrepreneurial ones — my research will need to cover not only what it takes to do that type of work but also what it takes to actually make an income doing that type of work.

In my next post, I’ll outline these a bit more, so you can see my initial ideas. I would love to get suggestions from you about people I should talk to or resources I should consider.

I don’t plan to tackle all nine careers at once. That would be too overwhelming and jumbled. But by that same token, I’m not going to limit my focus to one career at a time either. There are too many external factors (e.g. when people are available to speak to me or when a sample project comes up) that would make it difficult to follow such a rigid schedule. Instead, I will likely explore a few careers on the list at a time, grouping similar types of work together.

But the crux of this plan is …

The plan will change. Not may. Will. My conversation with one person will introduce me to new resources I never thought of. I’ll cross a career off my list sooner than I expected. I’ll start exploring one path only to discover that I actually want to learn about a related line of work. I’ll get a unique opportunity that I just can’t pass up.

This is a loose itinerary. I have the main landmarks, but the path between them will twist and turn and form along the way.