"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." - Dr. Seuss
I read that this morning on Facebook (thank you to a distant friend who just happened to post that...), and thought, wow, this captures this week (and month, and year, and more...) so perfectly well for me. Despite the very mixed and difficult emotions of the moment, I am choosing to smile.
After 17 years of working in the corporate world of enterprise software, I have decided to take a "career break". I'm not sure whether to call it a "sabbatical", or a "lifestyle break", or a "new chapter". But you get the idea. My last day of work is in two days. After the holidays, come January, I will not be going into the office every day, and will not be overseeing, planning and implementing software projects anymore.
Instead, I will be focusing on sports, fitness, healthy living, traveling, renovating my oh-so-tired-looking condo, writing, volunteering, and working with some friends on some small fun projects which could - maybe - turn into something bigger down the road. You shouldn't be surprised to hear that *cycling* will be a big part of 2014 for me, as will other passions that I've put on the backburner for a few years, for lack of time. I've already started something that will keep me busy in coming weeks and months: CyclingWomenCan.com - bookmark it and visit often :)
After a few months (I'll say somewhere between 6 to 8 to 10...), I'll have a plan in place for "next steps" - how to drive my career post-break, perhaps in an entirely new direction.
I'm very excited about this. It was not, and is not, an easy decision to make. After all, the last 17 years have been intense, busy, challenging, and have given me innumerable opportunities to work with amazingly smart people, in a variety of environments, with great clients, and in a few exciting locales (ok - not all locales have been that exciting...).
Choosing to step away from my company right now, where I leave some great friends, people I have worked with very closely for 12 of the last 17 years, is one of the most difficult decisions I've ever made. But a big part of me has known for a while that I needed to do this, to step out of the comfort zone, and challenge myself in new ways. It became too easy for me to be complacent, and stay in this career path, because of the feeling of security it procured me. But after a while, I realized "security" was keeping me from exploring other things that I won't be able to do when I'm "retired", read: "older". I think life is worth living right now, and I don't want to put things on hold until I have time "later". It isn't just about taking time off to go do "fun stuff". There are more personal ways in which I will be challenging myself, and I know that if I face these challenges successfully over the next several months, I will be a better person for it.
I never regret anything. Ever. I see everything from my past as either a success, a learning opportunity, or just plain life experience. I don't always master all my emotions the way I would like, but regret is one emotion I refuse to allow myself. It's a complete waste of energy and brain cells, and sucks the life out of you and those around you. So - regardless of what happens over the next few months, and the next few years afterwards, I will not regret this decision. I know that much.
A friend (who herself took a year off to travel the world in 2012) recently sent me a link to the following "Ted Talk" by Stefan Stagmeister, "The Power of Time Off". Worth watching.
Those of you reading this who have been part of my professional endeavours over the last 17 years, I could gush silly for several more paragraphs, but I will limit it to a very sincere, "Thank you", and I look forward to our paths crossing again soon.