I’ve been working in Silicon Valley for 11 years and have never taken a break from work.
Well, let me qualify that.
I did have 2 maternity leaves, but any other mom can vouch for me when I say that caring for a helpless human being on 4 hours of sleep a day is *not* a break from working. I was also laid off in the summer of 2009 and paid 6 months of severance. I had planned to take a few months off and enjoy the school vacation time with my kids, but 2 weeks into my 24 weeks of paid leave, my (now ex-) husband started asking me about when I was going to start looking for my next job. I managed to hold off looking for a couple of months and enjoyed that time (traveled to Tokyo to visit friends, went to an art conference in Massachusetts, started “Camp Hirschman” for my kids, explored starting my own business) but I constantly felt the irritation from my ex that I was not working while he was (even though I was getting paid the whole time). I went back to work after three months.
Fast forward to about 6 weeks ago.
I had been separated from my ex for over a year and was living on my own 50% of the time and 50% with my kids. I loved the independence I was enjoying. As part of our divorce, we had sold our house in Palo Alto and I had some money sitting in the bank.
Last August I co-founded a mobile app company and we established an office in San Francisco. I had been commuting almost a year to the city and the time spent going back and forth was wearing on me. While I had loved the process of starting the company, our product had evolved into something I was not passionate about building.
One afternoon, 6 weeks ago, I went for a run at the Stanford Dish and it hit me like a bolt of lightning….why am I still in a job I don’t LOVE when I (finally) have the financial means to take some time off? I had already planned my annual Vegas vacation with my mom for the first week of August (yes, I brought my laptop to Vegas last year and worked while my mom sat by the pool)…perhaps I could wrap things up at my company in time to head off to Vegas to start my sabbatical.
I sat on the idea for a week to see how it felt and I talked with a few friends about it. My gut was telling me YES! this is what you need right now, so I talked with the CEO and our main investor and gave my one-month notice. I promised I would help get the company through a seed round of funding before I left. We closed the funding on July 27th. My last day at the company was July 31st and I was in Vegas that evening. Without my laptop.
Tomorrow: Sabbatical – Week 1. The Plan.