May 2016. Final exams had just wrapped and I was officially a college graduate. Just a few short weeks prior I’d decided to stay in Columbus rather than move back to my hometown, and right after that I accepted a job as a marketing specialist at a manufacturing company. There was so much excitement to dive into my career that I only took two weeks off before starting, and one of those was spent at a camp at which I volunteer every year. The following Monday I was at my first desk, in my first cubicle, at my very first “real” job.
I worked at that company for a little over two years. I learned a lot, enjoyed the company of great people, and discovered that marketing was a good path for me. Ultimately, however, the industry and the company itself weren’t right for me. I was so ready to move on when I landed my dream job that I put in my two weeks and left without looking back. My last day was a Friday. I moved into a new apartment that weekend, and showed up bright and early at my new gig the following Monday.
There I made it just one year, and was hanging on by a thread at the end. I was mentally exhausted and the effects of a toxic workplace had permeated my personal life and my health. I’ll leave the denunciation at that for now, but leaving wasn’t just something to consider, it was a necessity to preserve my sanity.
Completely uncharacteristic of myself, I took a leap of faith into to the somewhat unknown; I put in my two week notice without something solid lined up. Fortunately, something wonderful fell into place right then. Still I chose to do something off the cuff – I gave myself a break.
I took time off after leaving my job. Two weeks to be exact. Two weeks with no obligations and to do whatever my heart desired. Did it sting a little to go without income for a brief period? You betcha. I’m a worrier, especially when it comes to money. I guess – as I reminded myself over and over – that’s the beauty of a spouse with a second income. If he’d had his way I would have walked out of that dreadful place months ago. The bottom line is: above any cons, including missing out on some savings, I needed a break.
And it was the most glorious thing I’ve ever done.
Now, true to my brand I did pre-plan and set some goals for my time off. I’m simply not a sit and do nothing all day type of gal. I had a big list of tasks I wanted to accomplish, restaurants I wanted to try, stores I wanted to browse. Besides some cleaning and important errands (the kind of stuff you put off because all of your free time with a full time job is spent relishing being free), I built myself a leisurely and fun schedule. I divvied it all up by day so my 14 days would be evenly filled with things to do and relaxation time.
I’m practically drooling thinking back on it all. The simple pleasure of waking up when I wanted to. How much my body appreciated working out at 9 or 10 am with adequate sleep instead of 5:30 am. How joyful it was to not pack a lunch, to put on the nearest soft clothes. I spent a great deal of time lounging by the pool, going for long walks, and binge-listening to podcasts. I watched the news every morning while sipping coffee from my mug collection. I experimented in the kitchen and created a killer granola recipe. I finished a watercolor series my friend requested months ago. I spent way too much money on new swimsuits, new snacks, and a random assortment of home goods. I spent a wonderful Monday with my mom. I got a much-needed massage.
Most importantly: The life in my eyes returned. The fatigue and tension in my body faded away. I felt energized and inspired for the first time in a long time.
My last hurrah was a close friend’s wedding in Cincinnati. I can’t imagine a better ending to my vacation than quality time with some of my favorite people. Laughing, story telling, and dancing (and perhaps some cocktails) – just what I needed before jumping back into work life. From the hotel’s rooftop bar I looked out over the river, sparkling under the city lights, and felt gratitude, joy, and peace.
From childhood through college, we get breaks. Long breaks. We get time to collect our thoughts and wrap our arms around life. That doesn’t happen so much in real, “adult” life, especially if you jump from role to role or project to project without a pause. Without hesitation, I ended college and leaped into my first full time job. From there I moved directly into my second full time job. Regardless of the negative experience at either company, I know now the toll that these abrupt changes alone took on my well being.
So this time I did it differently. I didn’t jump, I transitioned. I took time to restore my personal balance and find the right head space. Now I’m a few days into my next chapter, and I feel good. I feel confidant in my ability to handle the stress of uncharted territory. Right now I’m the best possible version of myself, and that’s exactly where you need to allow yourself to be – even if it means forcing yourself to get some mental and physical rest – when you start something new.