Career Break / Sabbatical

Some of the most inspiring people I know are acquaintances I’ve met over the Internet. In particular, I wanted to give a shoutout to Geraldine of The Write Woman, whose fairly recent “I quit my job to pursue my passion” storyline has really struck a chord in me and led me to do the exact same thing.

As some of you may know, I was living in San Francisco for a time, working as a cog-in-the-wheel at a large, global consulting company. And it was there that I realized: it doesn’t matter how many companies I cycle through, or what industry I try to break into, or where I’m living. I’m always going to be miserable as long as I’m shirking my passions in the name of security, risk-averseness, or climbing the corporate ladder.

A year and a half after graduation – and putting aside what I really wanted to do in life – I waved goodbye to the rat race. I let my mask fall. I started listening to the voice inside my head instead of those around me (well-intentioned though they were).

And I quit my job.

I had done it once before, in the name of trying to switch industries (which I did, to much success). It ended up not making me happy. The job function, I soon discovered, was not what made me happy or unhappy. It was the fact that I was constantly working as someone else’s caddy, someone else’s assistant, someone else’s underling.

I don’t claim to know it all (in fact, I know very little), but I want to take responsibility for the things that I do know. I wanted to be my own boss. I wanted to take an hour-long lunch break to swing by a yoga class (and not be chewed out for not sitting at my desk glued to my email). I wanted to be able to close my laptop, leave the office, and not have to field emails at 11pm on a Friday night. I wanted the freedom to tell my clients, “No means no, and you can contact us during normal business hours unless there is a crisis.” I wanted to advise the right thing, not necessarily the most profitable thing. I wanted to make a difference that translated to actual numbers, not intangible feel-good fluff.

There are no shortcuts in life, and I don’t expect there to be. However, one can agree that there are definitely roads that are much more fulfilling to walk than others.

So what am I doing now? I’m taking an official “career break” (or “sabbatical”, if you like fancy terms) before starting my Master of Science in Finance (MSF) at the University of Texas’s McCombs School of Business this fall. This doesn’t mean that I’ll be idle – in fact, I just might get more done during the next 4 months than I have in the past year. Some plans:

  • Work a part-time job OR do some major work at a nonprofit I care about
  • Aggressively pay off credit card debt
  • Study for and take the GMAT
  • Study for the CFP (Certified Financial Planner) exam
  • Study for the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Level 1 exam
  • Tutor for one of the big companies (Kaplan, Manhattan, Princeton Review, Varsity, etc.)
  • Take Japanese classes and take the JLPT in December (ideally the N4 level)
  • Go through a ton of math classes on MIT’s OpenCourseWare (including: Differential Equations, Linear Algebra, Real Analyis…)
  • Get my Zumba certification (finally! after 2 years of trying!)
  • Train for and run a 5K
  • Learn how to figure skate
  • Go swimming at the local YMCA every day
  • Write and publish a poetry anthology (a life dream since I was 12)
  • Attend a Startup Weekend
  • Start laddering on Starcraft 2 again
  • Sell off anything valuable in my old bedroom to Craigslist/eBay
  • Consider flipping Airbnb rentals for side income (partnering with a few acquaintances)
  • Start a college app / career coaching side business
  • Work on The Big Project (oh yes, it’s finally happening, and it’s going to consume. my. life.)

I have enough in savings to cover living expenses (which are fairly minimal, as my two great roommates participate in the “what’s mine is yours” philosophy in regards to food and utilities). Everything else will be funded through resourcefulness, part-time jobs, and TaskRabbit gigs. The caveats:

  • Credit cards are cut up and/or literally frozen.
  • All purchases must be made in cash / debit.
  • All purchases must either be essentials (rent, utilities) or contribute directly to any of the goals above.

This is going to be one hell of an adventure.


  1. says

    Vivian, as I mentioned via Twitter, I am proud of you for having the courage to pursue your passions. It takes a great deal of bravery to leave a position that offers financial stability. I hear you on the 11pm emails! While I wasn’t checking my email at that time per say, I did feel like I was working, even when I wasn’t in the office.

    I too took a career break, an unintentional one…I didn’t think I’d miss the office setting, but I do. This time has been wonderful. I’ve done more writing than ever before, I’ve gotten in tune with my interests, and I’ve gained a better sense of what I want.

    I’ve realized, though I tried to fight it and often oppose the corporate ladder, that whether you’re working at an office or freelancing, whether you own your own business or are employed in someone else’s, you will ALWAYS be working for someone else. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The key is to find a setting that works for you. I learned a lot at my previous job, way more than I probably would’ve elsewhere, but it also led me to realize that the agency life is not for me.

    I’m glad I inspired you to take risks. That’s my mission, my goal, what I believe to be my purpose. I can’t wait to see how this changes you, how you grow because of it and what you discover about yourself in the process. Please, keep us (your readers) posted. A million blessings and good luck to you! :)

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