Five summers ago, I quit my job unexpectedly and took an eight-week career sabbatical, traveling up and down the Pacific Northwest.
It was weird because I hadn’t been planning it.
Unlike my friends who had taken very deliberate “mid-career retirements,” it wasn’t like I had been saving up for it for years…
I decided on a Sunday morning that I’d do it, purchased my plane tickets that afternoon, and put in my two-weeks’ notice the following day.
I woke up that morning feeling completely crushed by life. I was going through an excruciating and drawn-out relationship transition and working about 75 hours a week. The thought of going back into the office the next day made me feel like gouging my eyes out with a dull pencil.
I hadn’t yet been made aware of the term “co-dependent,” but that was me: a chronic people-pleaser. I wanted to be seen as a good employee, so I said ‘yes’ to everything, even when I was overextended. I thought being super busy meant that I was a part of the kool kidz klub. I couldn’t stand hurting people, so I’d consistently put their needs before my own. I didn’t know how to set boundaries. I didn’t even know what a boundary was.
So I woke up that Sunday morning in a panic attack because I’d finally reaching my breaking point. It’d been several years since I’d had a vacation. My adrenals were completely shot. I was having a nervous breakdown.
I didn’t really have the money to quit my job without anything lined up, let alone take eight weeks off of work and gallivant across the country, but I did it anyway. Because if I had to work another year in that condition, I just knew I’d have a heart attack.
It was around this time that I realized that I needed to take better care of myself. Not in a “don’t drink so much booze, eat healthy, and get off the couch every once and awhile” way. But more in a “nurture my soul” kind of way. I hadn’t yet heard of the concept of “self-care,” but that was indeed what I needed.
Had I taken more time to engage in self-care prior to The Great Meltdown of 2012TM — I probably wouldn’t have needed to make such a weird and risky life choice.
I certainly hope you can’t relate. But because 98% of my email list is comprised of women, a part of me has a hunch that you’ve probably had your own Great Meltdown Moment – or at least come close.
Women are taught from a young age to say yes(!), smile, be nice, and do all the things for other people. This means we grow up to be people pleasers and to neglect our own needs…which is how I found myself in the fetal position five summers ago.
I’ve seen such powerful changes in my life since I prioritized self-care – but I know many of us put it off, downplay its importance, or even feel guilty for nurturing ourselves. So I hope you don’t make the same mistake I did.