Live the moment

Do not let this sabbatical pass by 

In 2014 I decided to take a sabbatical. By then I had been working for over two decades and the realisation hit me that life was passing by. I had still not embarked on my own adventure. The feeling gnawed at me that my bucket list was to remain just that – a list that I never got down to ticking off and fulfilling my dreams. After deliberating for a couple of months, I decided to take the plunge. 

My journey of one year during that break will always remain memorable for me. I am acutely aware that today many of my fraternity colleagues are on perhaps a forced sabbatical due to the pandemic and job losses. By sharing my own journey of a sabbatical, I hope I can contribute to enrich your thinking during this difficult period. 

First things first

When I took the sabbatical, it was obvious that there would be no income coming my way. I would have to dip into my savings and figure out my spends and expenses. My initiation of taking charge of my own finances began then. I must confess that until then I had never paid attention to my saving habits. I was a saver and I was content with that. During this period for the first time I really looked at my financial status and learnt that there were various instruments for investments that I had never ever known of. I had perhaps lost out on years of monetary gain because of my ignorance but it was never too late to relook and redesign my investments.

My learning: There is a big difference between savings and investments

I changed my financial goal posts and looked at investments – I understood that while earning more income was desirable, what was more important was to ensure that I do not lose any money. Plan your financial goals meticulously. Take help of a financial advisor if required. Remember, there is no time like the present to make a new beginning and do a recalculation. Take inflation into account. This kind of planning requires diligence and time and what better time than now! 

Pick up a new skill and surprise yourself

Now that you have a control over your finances, look at that bucket list. Do not get daunted by the number of things you have always wanted to do. Pick up the one that is easily doable and that you can tick off with a sense of accomplishment. For me, getting into a new learning was topmost. A new skill, a new area may be something of which I had no idea nor a clue! And I did that – I got into intra-day market trading. 

My learning: Get into the unknown, unchartered waters – you will never know what it is all about until you get in there

I had never looked at the markets before, I had absolutely no idea what trading meant…. I stuck on and over time picked up enough understanding to realise that this was not my cup of tea! But this made me listen to the market news TV channels, observe stocks, notice sectoral movements and how external forces impacted price indices. I did not gain any money, but the knowledge that I gained is something that stays with me even today. That knowledge has been my best trade!

Give back

For most of us, altruism strikes a chord. A hectic working life can make this wish a bit difficult to fulfil. The obvious choice would be to spend weekends with causes that resonate but to be honest, most NGOs are closed on weekends for a well-deserved break. My free time gave me the opportunity to fulfill my very long pending wish of working with autistic children and touching base with my own inner self.

My learning: Be grateful for what you have

It is always easy to crib about what we do not have and the wishes that never get fulfilled. When I worked with the autistic children, I realised how grateful I was for what I had. What I got back in return was much more than what I gave to them through my time and skills. You get unconditional love, something that stays with you forever.

I have listed just three of my topmost learnings and I am sure there are many more out there. Do not let this sabbatical pass by. Do something new. Something different. 

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head Communications & Public Affairs (CPA) at Bayer - South Asia
Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, trade associations, MNCs and the not-for-profit.
An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specialises in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications.
She is passionate about animals, books and movies.

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