Eleven months on…

It’s one of those astonishing Summer days that gets forgotten when people complain about the English weather. And once again, I’m feeling incredibly lucky and grateful that at mid-morning on a Monday, I’m sitting in a lovely cafe next to the cathedral in Sheffield whilst the sun streams in on a cool breeze and people hurry to work. 

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been on my sabbatical for eleven months and that I’m solvent, happy and have enjoyed so much freedom. My aim was to explore a number of different careers to find out what I want to do next, and to add some more skills to my collection.  Here’s a list of what I’ve done:

  • Social Sciences research – from meeting someone lovely at a conference just before I left my job, came the opportunity to do some data analysis and survey work on placements and graduate destinations at the University of Nottingham.  It’s been absolutely wonderful and a real contrast to doing my PhD where every data point involved months of labour! We’re publishing the results and presenting at a conference in Dublin in December. 
  • Writing a book – giant thanks to my mentor (you know who you are lady!) who encouraged me to go ahead and do it. Interviewing brave and inspiring women for the book has been humbling, and writing it up into the finished piece is going to be wonderful. 
  • Freelance training and career coaching – again, this is something that I’m so grateful for as it’s given me another means to earn some money doing something I love.  Seeing people learn and grow in confidence has to be one of the best things ever. 
  • Narrative Therapy – this is something that I explored whilst doing my Careers Guidance qualification. It inspired me to write my book on women’s career narratives and also to spend a week at the Narrative Therapy Institute in Toronto in July, where I will receive some formal training. 
  • Yoga teaching – lots of it. This unexpected skill enabled me to take this sabbatical in the first place, and I’ll be grateful to it forever. 
  • Running the Walkley Cheese Company – the cheese and truffles continue to roll out, and whilst I’m keeping the business small and artisan for now, it’s been a fascinating experience. I appreciate much more the difficulty in running a business of any kind and have renewed respect for people that do it well!
  • Organic growing – both the Biodynamic Farming course and volunteering through WWOOF have been great experiences and again, I have lots of respect for people that do this work. It’s wonderful and magical and I’d like to do more of it. 
  • Plastering and Plumbing – this was a one-week course at the Leeds College of Building.  It have me some basic skills and the confidence to do some bits of work in my home. It also turns out that I’m really good at plastering – another possible career. Although to be honest, I think I preferred the plumbing, that was great!
  • Having time to be outside – long countryside walks with the dog have definitely been a happy and healing time. The mental space you create when you’re just walking in fresh air and surrounded by trees, moorland and big skies does something wonderful to your brain. 2016 was the first winter in a while that I didn’t suffer with SAD, anxiety and exhaustion and I attribute it to the winter sunshine and the company of a being who seems to know nothing but curiosity and joy. 

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