the whole life sabbatical (part 2 of 3)


Creative Commons License photo credit: ribena_wrath

In part 1 of this three-part series I talked about walking away from various responsibilities in your life. How easy would it be to leave them?

Work: If you stop to think about it, you have almost nothing stopping you from quitting your work. If you own a business, you can sell it. If you are an employee, trust me – if you quit you will be a distant dusty memory to your former coworkers in a week. If you are a freelancer, refer your clients to your freelancing network. I am sometimes stunned in a corporate environment by the loyalty and responsibility people imagine they must demonstrate before quitting, when the same company might lay that person off and tell them to clear their desk in 15 minutes. I don’t advocate just walking out, but if you stopped your job today, the world would continue. You would find new work tomorrow.

Family: You have to take care of your children and parents. But consider this: you have a responsibility to provide your children with food, shelter, education, love, trust and hope for the future. Do you have a responsibility to provide them with a Wii? An iPhone? An Ivy League education? A home? There is a line there that everyone must draw for himself, and I’ve seen it done in both extremes: parents who sacrifice everything for their children or brothers who care for unmarried sisters or children who go to great extremes for their in-laws…as well as people who walk away from even the responsibility to put food on the table. With family, your responsibilities are easy to walk away from, but for many of them you cannot walk away and look at yourself in a mirror. However, you can say to yourself “I have no obligation to buy my child a car.” It will not destroy your family.

Finances: You can walk away from your financial responsibilities to the extent that you’re prepared to lose things. The biggest obligation you have is taxes. Fail to pay those and you’ll go to jail. But if you make less and less money, eventually your obligation to pay taxes will drop away. Other obligations, at the end of the day, are optional, although some are easier to downgrade than eliminate completely. If you have a huge mortgage, you could sell the house and live on the streets (extreme) or live in a smaller house with a smaller mortgage (less extreme) or rent. If you spend $300 per month on entertainment, you can eliminate it completely – but at some point even “free” entertainment costs money (you need shoes to walk in the park, for example). You can’t walk away from finances as easily as you might think. You can walk away from some of them, but leaving them all behind is almost impossible.

Life: Obviously, you can let a LOT go in this area. You can start eating crap, quit exercising, and in various ways neglect your life. It might be a nice change for a while, but there will be consequences down the road. I often wonder how far you could push this “life sabbatical,” though. Could I get by on raw vegetables, fruits, bread, cheese, tea and water for food (i.e. forget about cooking)? Could I exercise by just walking or biking everywhere (i.e. selling my car)? Could the lack of stress be the biggest health improvement I could make?

In part 3 I’ll look at whether you should walk away from your life and take a “sabbatical”.