My neighbor was telling me how she finally decided to take a sabbatical from her job.
My neighbor: I knew things were bad. Really bad. I was working crazy hours, I was stressed out all the time, I barely saw my partner or my kids, and when I did, I wasn’t really there with them. The stress of my job would follow me home. I dreamed of leaving my job, but I didn’t. How could I? I was C-level exec at a major pharmaceutical company. It wasn’t until my doctor told me that my job was slowly killing me, like literally, my health was at stake, that I decided I had to do something different.
So I decided to take a break. I decided to take a year off. Because of the nature of my job, it took six months to prepare the company for my leave of absence, but I did it. I took time off.
Me: How has it been going?
My neighbor: It’s been amazing. Incredible. More wonderful than I ever could have imagined.
Me: How long have you been gone?
My neighbor: About 9 months. And you know what the funny thing is? At first, I was afraid. I was afraid of how we’d make it work financially. But two months ago, some of my stock did really well, and now I have enough money to last another year.
Me: Do you think you’ll go back?
My neighbor: You know, I’ve wondered about that. I can, if I want. They’re holding my job open for me. But I know it will end up being the same thing, all over again. Sure, at first it’ll be better than before because I’ll feel refreshed, but that will only be temporary. Then things will go back to the way they were, I’ll be stressed out all the time, and I will again, be unhappy, unhealthy, and fat.
Me: So what do you think you’ll do?
My neighbor: I don’t know. I’m not sure yet. But taking the time off has been freeing. It’s funny. When you’re in a bad spot, you know it. You know it’s bad for you. Really bad. And that it’s not going to get better. But even if it’s bad, many of us stay. We stay in the place we know is really bad for us. Why? Because we’re afraid. We’re afraid that if we leave and things don’t work out, we can’t even go back to that bad place. We’re afraid of losing this really really bad thing we have. And that’s what keeps us in a really bad spot. Isn’t that silly?
But then once you do leave, you realize that there are so many things better than that bad place and you wonder why you never thought of doing something sooner. It’s so sad. I’m just glad that I moved past that fear and chose to do something… even though it took a stern warning for my doctor to push me to do it.
I still think about my neighbor, every single time I encounter someone who feels trapped at a job that makes them miserable.
Don’t get me wrong. If you are miserable with your job, I’m not advocating that you leave it. In fact, I hope that things never get so bad for you that you are only left with that choice. But I do think you should consider three things:
– What impact is being miserable having on you?
– How bad would things have to get before you consider doing something different?
– Are you willing to wait until that happens?
Six months after talking to my neighbor, she sold her home and moved away. She opted not to go back to her old job, and instead accepted a job offer somewhere else. I’m happy for her. I hope that she was able to negotiate for the working environment she wanted, and that now she’s somewhere out there happy, healthy, and not fat.