Planning, Reflections

The Future of This Sabbatical

For the last two weeks, I’ve shared with you my insights and reflections on this past year off of work. I looked at how I’ve explored the nine careers on my list and my updated thoughts on those potential paths. I also reviewed the various methods I used to explore these new fields and how effective I found them.

Well, enough of looking back. Let’s take a glimpse into the future!

And yes, there is a future for this sabbatical. As I’ve mentioned in many of my previous posts, the baby news immediately changed my plans. What was originally going to be just a year off to dedicate the majority of time, energy and focus to exploring new careers will now be an even longer period of time where I’ll need to balance this exploration with … oh, you know, keeping a tiny human being alive.

So, I’ll get something straight now: this post is not going to outline a strict and specific plan and schedule for the future of my sabbatical. That would be impossible! 

It’s hard to know how the baby is going to affect my time, energy and mental capacity for career exploration. I may be able to balance the two easily. Or I may find that — for a while at least — I need to pause my exploration entirely to focus on the baby. And yes, I may even discover that for financial reasons, I have to put my sabbatical on hold to go back to work full-time for a little bit.

For now, I want to use this post to lay out the things I’d like to focus on in the upcoming months, but with the awareness that all of this could drastically change once the little guy comes into my life.

Revisiting the List

Since January, the majority of my career exploration time has been dedicated to interior design, with content creation being a close second. In fact, as I discussed two weeks ago, I’ve really only touched about half of the careers on my list.

Well, I think it’s time to move on and start exploring some of these other fields. The two I want to focus on are both related: theater administration and acting.

Theater Administration

I figure that starting with at least some theater administration experience is a good way to be exposed to the role of a Theater Executive or Managing Director. Whether it be paid or volunteer, the work would likely need to be part-time only and flexible with hours and location.

I could see myself easily being able to take on part-time marketing and fundraising work immediately, given my past jobs. Eventually, I would want to also get experience on the operations side of things (contracts, budgeting, etc.).

I’ll keep my eyes open for part-time and volunteer opportunities at my local theater companies.

Acting

As I’ve written about before, I continue to act for fun. But it’s time to really start treating this as a business. Some things I want to achieve in the upcoming year:

  • Getting new headshots and finally building my acting website
  • Talking to peers who have ‘gone Equity’ or regularly get commercial and other paid work
  • Exploring resources and workshops on the business side of being an actor
  • Researching the advantages and process of getting an agent
  • Dedicating some of my audition and training time to paid work rather than just passion projects

Adding to the List

There may be some new careers I want to look into. Yes, that’s right. Despite the fact that I already have nine careers that I planned to explore, I may be adding to that list! To be fair, I’ve already all but eliminated some of the original nine.

And the thing with this type of exploration is that you never know what you might discover. It can open your eyes to paths you never thought of (such as podcasting) or it can uncover opportunities you forgot you had once considered.

Public Speaking Coaching

One career, in particular, that had once piqued my interest but that I had forgotten about was public speaking coaching.

When I worked at Facebook, I had the opportunity to attend a free, all-day workshop hosted by Own the Room, a company that provides communication and presentation training. I really enjoyed the workshop and remember thinking throughout the day that the coaches leading the training must have a really enjoyable job.

But, of course, this was at a time when I still had those pesky demons like Doubt and Pessimism whispering in my ear. I immediately talked myself out of pursuing this type of work with excuses like how the job would likely require a lot of out-of-town travel and thus conflict with my theater activities.

Now, in retrospect, it’s so silly that I didn’t pursue this type of work more. In my past jobs, when asked to list the elements of my role that I most enjoyed, I consistently identified presenting and training/teaching as the top tasks.

So, I’m adding this one to the list. I think I’ll start by researching companies that focus on this type of work and exploring their qualifications for being a coach. Then, it might be a matter of starting a conversation with people in the field.

The Road Ahead

As I look to the year ahead and possibly many years ahead, I need to remind myself of something that I said at the very beginning of this sabbatical: The plan will change.

Little did I know then how very true that statement would be. And I think having that mindset allowed me to be so flexible this past year with my exploration. I’m determined to keep this same mentality. I need to remember my destination — finding a professional path I’m passionate about — but know that the road (or roads) getting there will be winding and unpredictable.

Photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels
Interior Designer, Planning, Theater Executive Director

Part-Time Work

This week, I’ve been working on something I haven’t done in quite a while: applying for jobs!

Wait, Laura, are you done with your sabbatical?!

No, not at all. But I have been getting a bit antsy not working. Sure, I’ve been keeping busy. Quite busy, in fact. I’ve had classes, my internship, work on the podcast and a lot of projects around the apartment as we prepare for the baby. But there’s something about actually getting paid for the work you’re doing that is much more satisfying.

And from a more practical standpoint, it would also be good to make a little extra money. While we’re very excited about expanding our family, it wasn’t something I was expecting to happen during my sabbatical. And as I’ve written about before, this new development will likely push back my timeline on going back to work full-time and may draw out my career exploration process, as I’ll need to fit in caring for a baby! So, my thought is that if I start working part time now, I won’t feel as much pressure to rush back to full-time work.

What are my requirements?

Related to my career exploration

A while back, I wrote about pursuing different ways of making some extra cash — everything from selling old clothes online to being a mock patient for medical students. The goal was just to make money.

This time around, I want to be more focused, taking on opportunities that are in some way related to one of the careers on my sabbatical list.

Part-time only

In addition to the job, I would still be taking classes and working on non-paid projects that relate to my sabbatical career exploration — not to mention taking care of a newborn very soon!

By limiting my work to just part-time, I’ll give myself the time and mental space to still work on my other ventures. And most importantly, by not committing to a full-time job in one specific area, I hope to prevent tunnel vision and keep my mind open to all of the possible careers on my list.

Flexible schedule and (ideally) location

Again, outside of work, I’ll have a lot of other things that fill up my schedule: classes, the podcast, theater projects, house projects, and doctor’s appointments, to name a few. Having some flexibility in a work schedule would allow me to better accommodate these other projects.

As for location, it would be great to find a job that is either close to home or allows for some remote work, both for my own comfort as I get farther along in my pregnancy and from a logistical perspective for when I’m taking care of the baby.

What opportunities are out there?

So far, I’ve pursued a couple of roles, both in different areas of my career exploration.

Theater Administration & Management

I’ve applied to and have an interview for a part-time fundraising position with a local theater company. I, obviously, have extensive experience in fundraising and a background in online advertising for theaters; however, I’ve never worked in-house at a theater company.

Being an Executive or Managing Director for a theater company is one of the careers on my list, so I figure this would be good exposure to the inside workings of theater management and administration.

Photo credit: Richard Mayer

Interior Design

I’ve also just applied to be a part-time design assistant for an interior designer, located right here in Oakland. 

This summer, I’ve done my internship with the home staging company and really have learned a lot about that area of design. My next goal was to intern with an interior designer (or firm) in order to get hands on experience with that process. To find a paid position would be even better!


We’ll see how these two opportunities pan out and what else comes up. It will be important for me to stay steadfast in my requirements. While it would be nice to make some extra money, I can’t let it derail me in my ultimate goal of exploring new careers and finding the path I’m passionate about.

Planning

Summer Cleaning

Well, I think the nesting instinct has already kicked in because I have had a strong urge to purge, clean and get our home in order. The beauty of this sabbatical is that it’s not just an opportunity to refocus my career ambitions; it’s also a time when I can finally dedicate more energy to other things in my life that I have neglected in the past. And our apartment is definitely one of those things.

Letting Go

A couple of years ago, Ryan and I did a big purge of all of our stuff. And it was long overdue. At that point, it had been over five years since we moved in together, and there were still boxes that hadn’t been opened.

And while we successfully liberated ourselves from a lot of unnecessary junk, there was still much that we held onto. But this time around, I will be ruthless. 

We will only keep things that we know we’re going to use, and will bid adieu to the “what if” items, as I like to call them. You know — the things you keep for some hypothetical, yet unlikely, reason or some event that would only happen once a year, if that!

I’m sure this ironfisted determination is partly fostered by the urgency of needing to make room for another human in the household. And part of it is bolstered by binging Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. But I would say a big part of it has to do with this new mindset I’ve gained during my sabbatical — being able to identify what is really important, prioritizing those things, and letting go of the rest.

The Plan

Oh, we all know how I love to create project plans. Whether it’s building a plan for this sabbatical or crafting a roadmap for a podcast launch, I get a lot of satisfaction in making my to-do lists.

Our “apartment revamp”, as I’m calling it, will happen in four stages:

  • Purge: Give away, throw away, or sell all unnecessary items.
  • Deep clean: Getting in all those nooks and crannies that usually go unnoticed. Yes, that even means tasks like pulling out the stove to clean under there.
  • Fix/repair: We’re in an old apartment, and from peeling paint to loose door knobs, there are just some things that could use a handyman’s touch (read: Ryan)
  • Rearrange/new furniture/build storage: This is the fun part, where I get to use some of my new interior design skills. We’ll be rearranging the living room and a little bit in the kitchen; replacing some of our hand-me-down furniture with pieces that actually fit the space; and building out some custom storage solutions.

And here is a sneak peek of the spreadsheet that will help keep us organized during all of this:

The Rules

Ok, maybe “rules” is a bit strong. But here are some guidelines I’ve set for this project:

  1. Be Ambitious: For example, we’ve set a pretty aggressive timeline for the first phase — the purge — which will keep our schedule pretty packed for the next month.
  2. But Be Flexible: Plans are roadmaps, but you never know when you’re going to run into a speed bump. And we’ve already encountered this. Our first big purge task was to clean out our closets, for which I had scheduled an entire weekend. But there was more stuff in these closets than I remembered, and we needed more time. With a little rearranging of the schedule, we were able to get it all finished and still get back on track.
  3. Be Ok With Throwing the Plan Out the Window: So, a lot of this plan is focused on us staying in our current apartment. But if certain things fall into place, there is a real possibility that we may move to a bigger place. But that’s why we’re starting with the purge phase — whether we stay or move, it’s still good to get rid of unnecessary stuff.

We started this project a couple of weeks ago, and it feels good to already see significant progress. The great thing about clearing out the apartment is that it also just clears up head space and allows me to better focus on my career exploration. 

I’ll be sure to write on update on our progress!

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.