Half a year ago, willingly or not I sent myself on a sabbatical. I decided to end things at work no longer eager to cope with a glass ceiling. The company, to which I was to switch, went however through some turmoil the same week as I made my mind. As I still wanted to join the team, I decided to wait. Three months later the new executive board was still not sure as to the new company strategy. As I had a short job abroad in September that I was truly interested in and the summer was just at my door I decided not to look for an alternative.

I just finished a year long training in a psychological school that besides extensive knowledge about how to manage teams and how to cope with day to day HR problems, gave me quite a huge insight into my own mindset. So, I coached myself into the downtime. Hereby, I did not have any urgent financial constraints that could have dampened this decision. The latter, although some would say ‘money does not matter’, matters. And today, I am very grateful to all people who advised me on a habit of putting aside.  The last half year was indeed a true time of resting and gaining the life power.

JMA_Paris_67The panorama of Paris. A photo made while on the Eiffel tour. The place, where my sabbatical practically started February this year. As I planned the trip, a month earlier on the New Year, I did not think of quitting. But life plays unexpected scenarios. 

End of June I made a note on this blog on how I was perceiving my situation. Now I can compare those thoughts with my current perception. That time I was keen to arrange for all possible things that I have neglected through years. And I made it. At least the vast majority of them. I would call it an ambitious phase. Aside of my plans for September, later on I was only thinking of how to arrange my free time. More sports was at focus. For a moment, I even stopped making traveling plans. But the latter was rather in line with a rule I caught up once from a friend: ‘if you want to truly travel and sightsee, avoid the high season. Besides, you will save money’.

As the life is full of surprises, two or three weeks after I summed up my three downtime months, I was called by a couple of people, asking me for some advisory services. I accepted two of the proposals. In a spur of the moment I asked a colleague’s wife, who is an accountant, to prepare all documents needed to register me as self employed. So I spent August and September focusing on two truly intellectual jobs plus the short one I was contracted out earlier. Technically it was work. But for a former academic, who once left the university, it was true fun in particular as these were jobs requiring only one or two weeks workload. Thus, there was no feeling ‘when will this end’, as it is the case in longer projects. Besides, in comparison to managing daily operations and people, and constant solving of problems, it was a quite quiet kind of a job.

What is more, with the registration I solved the problem of the social security contributions for my ‘idle’ time. When I look back, I think it was a step that made the difference in my head. With all social contributions paid, even if my work load is limited in comparison to my regular standards, I feel somehow safer. Besides, the system perceives me as employed with all consequences for the retirement plan. One thing that arranged for gave me clearer head. In October I spent only few days working. Enough to pay for my social contributions and current costs that in the meantime I have cut.

But for the fourth week now, I follow the routine of working out in a gym. To be blunt, the last time I was in a gym was fifteen years ago. Quite but quite long time ago. I go there three or four times a week, each time spending between one hour and a half, and two hours. I think of proper meals before and after. With eleven hours of work and commuting on an average day it would not be possible to make this that quiet. And I do not have another goal. Maybe only to be fit to take another longer journey, but this will be a side effect. The goal is the routine itself. My second or the third time, looking at all the machinery at my disposal I designed myself an exercise plan. (As I spent enough time in gyms in my past, it was not that difficult). Today I realised that when making one specific of the exercises in the routine row I have a feeling of forgetting of everything around me. Last week I had the same feeling, but that time I thought it was all about the physical work.

But today I recalled my classes on sports psychology and the petty routines the professional sportsmen repeat in a specified order to think of the routine but not of the match, and who is winning. Watch the tennis players, who over and over again repeat the folding and unfolding of towels. That what seems to be a tick is in fact a way to cope with the psychological stress. Willingly or not I made the same out of my exercise routine. I leave my cellphone in the locker, do not use other music, only that what seeps out of loudspeakers. Using the track and making exercises I try to match the loudspeaker music, and making all exercises I count. As the most series are three times one hundred, it is much counting. After twenty or twenty five minutes I am fully lost in the routine. It is simply soothing. Whatever I was thinking about entering the room, I forget it. It is just me and my routine.

But there is also a thing of time closure. In the first phase of my sabbatical my September short job was providing for some time closure, limiting in my head my idle time. My plan was to look for a regular job after completing it. Translating into English my original plan was to let go till the end of August and then think what to do next. Finally I did not stick to the plan, but till it was the plan, it provided me with some psychological comfort. Today my closure will be the New Zealand trip. A colleague of mine, the same who organised our Japan trip, managed to gather enough people interested to go there. The half of the team will be the Japan team. I already have my plane ticket. So, my new plan is keep the status quo, enjoy the idle time, go to the end of world (at least from the European perspective) and dance the haka. As this will happen exactly one year after I decided to leave my former job, my sabbatical will probably be then complete.