This has been so hard to write and so difficult to prevent the perfectionist in me from taking over! So a quick YAY that I've finally clicked send and a yay to embracing imperfection! My goal in writing these updates is to share my journey experimenting with a lifestyle that doesn't involve full-time or freelance work, to ask for help and input on the many questions I'm asking myself during this journey, and perhaps even to infuse some inspiration for what's possible into the lives of the amazing people around me. My one request is that I would LOVE to hear from you — if there's something that particularly resonates, or if you have advice from your own life journeys, write me a note — and let me know how you're doing, too :)
In the words of Michelle Obama, it's been four months since I "swerved" and left Deloitte, and yet it feels like an entire year has passed in that time. I've had a LOT of time to work with: time to focus on things I want to focus on — and when I want to focus on them; to explore different subjects and interests; and to show up fully for the people I care about.
I believe that THIS is what life is supposed to look like: having the freedom to play and be guided by our innate human curiosity.
When I decided to leave the all-consuming consulting world to take this creative sabbatical, I quickly realized that this time wasn't a temporary break from a job, and that this recovering type-A, overachieving New Yorker had already made two big life decisions:
I became consumed with answering: “What might life look like if it were designed around curiosity? What if we had the freedom to live our intentions as they arise, rather than giving the best hours of our days to a single job or idea?” In essence, I realized that I wasn't trying to make a career change or figure out 'where next'. I was trying to make a life change: to challenge the “normal” path that's been set for many of us, create a new model for financial security, and actively live my life.
While led by curiosity, my sabbatical was intentionally designed to maximize my growth and my health.
In good ol' consulting fashion, it ironically fell into the rule of threes.
These past four months have helped me reconnect with the human side of me: the creator, contributor, and chaser of curiosities.
I very much intended to revive my curiosity and creativity over this sabbatical and I've been glowing with inspiration as both have reawakened in so many different facets of my life. Part one helped me tune back into presence and awareness: I'm more alert and aware of both myself and the world around me, and am constantly finding opportunities to show up in more meaningful ways for the people I love (myself included) and to create in the communities around me. Similarly, part two has enabled me to broaden my scope of learning and test my limits: like children, adults need 'play' to exercise our imagination, test our ideas, develop preferences, and, perhaps most importantly, get feedback from the world around us.
(Un)surprisingly, one of the biggest revivers of creativity for me has been necessity — creativity truly does love constraint. With no income, I've found myself more crafty about ways to create instead of buy, ranging from baking my own challahs every week (lucky for my roommates) to volunteering time in exchange for attending cool events. I'm also walking an average of 4 miles every day because I no longer need to rush anywhere! Each necessity and observation has awakened a thirst for learning (online classes are amazing), and sometimes even lead to fun little side businesses like creating and selling essential oil candles with some friends, or redesigning gift-giving for my 10-year old brother and his classmates. And when my savings burn becomes too high, I find myself returning to freelance brand designing (reach out if you'd like a custom resume/portfolio site!) and grad school essay tutoring.
That said, I've also had to use this time to unlearn a lot of habits, such as the need to always be productive, stimulated, or working toward something — aka 'busyness'. Boredom, after all, is time our mind sorely needs to settle, connect dots, and dream.
Overall, there have definitely been ups and downs.
There have been weddings (including my cousin George's — the first of our generation!) and there have been the pains of divorce (my parents — it's been tough being so far from NY during it all). There are moments where I feel inspired and unstoppable, and moments where I find myself tired and low energy — realizing what a toll this job took on my mind, body, and soul. There are moments I feel giddy as ever, and moments where I feel really down. In fact, so down that I'd end up returning home only two weeks in to my trip abroad (who knew you could be homesick after three years of globetrotting for work?!).
But generally I feel tremendous clarity and happiness and feel like I’m on the precipice of change. It’s what you feel when you’re so close to a tipping point or feel a major breakthrough is just around the corner. And I'm STOKED to see where this journey continues to take me.
Below are some key themes of part one of my sabbatical and some questions.
I'd love to engage with you on any of the questions that resonate with you. I've also included some suggestions off of my reading list. Finally, if I can support your own creative journeys in any way, let me know how.
P.S. I am so grateful for what the consulting world taught me. It helped me channel and structure my creativity, gave me an outlet to dedicate my energy and hard work ethic, taught me how to bring order to chaos, and presented me amazing people to learn from. Most likely, without it, I wouldn't have been able to come to the decision I've made with my "sabbatical", and also wouldn't have had the tools to make it a reality.
P.P.S. Society puts a lot of pressure on people to always think about "What's next?" or, for those on sabbatical, "When is your vacation over?" (it's not a vacation) or "Have you started applying for jobs?" Let's challenge ourselves instead to ask those around us, "Where is your heart leading you lately?" "What's your latest adventure?" or, "What does your life look like right now?" To quote my favorite line in Design Your Life: "Life is a process, not an outcome".
Burnout is so real. I left a job I loved not because I stopped loving the work or the people, but because I wasn't feeding the different energy sources that make me feel energized and fulfilled. Perhaps I failed at finding balance, but perhaps balance could not be found in a traditional 50-60-hour workweek. I've been thinking a lot about balance, and how in my next chapter I may be able to still do work that I love — perhaps part-time — and balance that out with other things I also love, whether side hustles, passion projects, or just hobbies/learning time.
My questions for you:
Intuition is the ability to understand something instinctively, going beyond conscious reasoning deep into your subconscious mind. Supposedly, it kicks into gear when you're under a time-crunch, in situations of information overload, or in danger. But I think more often than not, many of us have lost our ability to both hear our intuition and distinguish it from other internal voices — especially in a job where your opinion's worth is frequently weighted by your tenure.
My last day of Deloitte was the day I flew out to Italy on a one-way ticket, but two weeks into my trip, I found myself helplessly homesick and even depressed — even with my sister’s company. Things in my relationship felt rocky, my friends and family were thousands of miles away, and I felt like I was trying to force myself to relax and enjoy when I just wanted to stay in. While a bad feeling, it reminded me of one of my goals in coming to Europe: get back in touch with my intuition. What this homesickness really came down to for me was a struggle between my head, my heart, and my gut, each of which was giving me a different message: to stay, to leave (Europe or my relationship?), to ignore the pain and keep pushing on, etc. I couldn't figure out which voice was my intuition and which was my saboteur or inner critic. Was leaving weakness and failure, or was it strength?
With all the unstructured time that I have now, and so many projects and ideas fighting for my attention, reconnecting with my intuition has been such an important tool in navigating my decisions.
I'd love to hear from you:
Have you heard of the Miracle Morning or Morning Rituals? People swear by them and writers all over say it's vital to success. Unlike routine, which aims to bring order to the chaos of the day-to-day or to create a path toward excellence, ritual is a way to infuse some magic and energy into our lives. It's something we look forward to in the mundane, a gift we give ourselves. Both, as one blogger writes, are necessary to live a full life.
Being on the road all the time at Deloitte definitely made having a routine (or ritual) difficult — whether my Thursday morning yoga classes, unplugging and reading before bed, or even having a consistent sleep schedule. Now that I have so much unstructured time to play with, the importance of ritual is even further elevated.
What about you?
Joe and I's first anniversary in October! The gluttons we are, we celebrated at a French baking class. Unbeknownst to us, these amateur bakers accidentally signed up for an advanced course...
My sister Elena and I in Cinque Terre, Italy in October. She was backpacking Europe after graduating college and met up with me on the first leg of my trip. We forgot to pack bathing suits that day, but it didn't stop us from jumping in!
My cousin George's big fat Jewish wedding in November, complete with a beautiful huppa, broken glass, 'Next year in Jerusalem', and all. This wedding had me emotional for a different reason: I think as we get older we finally appreciate and cherish our cultures and traditions, and it was that week that I realized how important preserving that is for me.
In Bukharian culture, we wear a traditional robe called a 'jomah' on special occasions like weddings. They come in all styles, and here's me, Joe, and two of my three siblings (Elena and Eric) goofing around in them!
Over New Years, Joe and I backpacked in Torres del Paine, Patagonia. Pictured here are a million layers to combat fickle weather, incredible views on our uphill trek, and me being grumpy after 25 of our 30+ miles of backpacking. This trip was one of the physically hardest things I've ever done.
My youngest brother, Ryan, turned 10 this February! We organized our first "Camp Katan" retreat weekend in the Catskills to celebrate! We played board games, made challah and pancakes, roasted smores, went tubing, and more. Most importantly, after the first day, Ryan exclaimed, "This is the most family bonding time we ever had!" and I almost cried.