This past March marked my 30 collective Edelman years, a major milestone for sure. When I graduated from college, I never dreamed I would be in one place for so long. Alongside the pride that accompanied this achievement came the gift of a six-week sabbatical from Edelman.
Those who know me know summer is my season, but with my very old and beloved dogs I knew I wouldn’t have the luxury of jetting off to somewhere exotic and far away. Happily, though, I settled into a quiet beach town ‘down the shore’ (as they say in New Jersey). While not the Italian Riviera or a safari in Africa, I knew this would do just fine. A Jersey girl at the core, this was my happy place. The ocean one block to the right, the bay a short walk to the left and the beautiful Barnegat lighthouse not far in the distance. My family came in and out, a few friends dropped in for an overnight and some birthday celebrations, but mostly it was me, my beach chair, a few great books and a sabbatical goal to traverse the island to the tune of 500k steps in five weeks. (Who knew just how aggressive that goal would be!)
After the first few days I settled in, and disconnecting was easier than expected. And while I can’t say I removed email from my phone or that I rejected every request for a quick call, for the most part I let the trust in my team and the permission from my managers guide me and I truly felt like I was off the grid and living my sabbatical. My focus quickly shifted to breathing in the sea air, preparing lots of fresh seafood, listening to the waves crash on the shore, watching endless sunsets and a few wee hour sunrises, being totally present with my family and friends and all-in-all just doing less and finding pure joy in my ability to do just that.
You see, like most people, my days are usually jam-packed. I go from one thing to the next, sometimes missing the chance for proper reflection in between. My weekends, sort of the same, never enough that I went to spin class in the morning, I had to add a 3.5 mile walk on top. For 30 years now my husband Andrew has been asking me every weekend, “can’t you just kick back for a while? Why do you always have to be doing something?” And my answer was usually something like: I am just wired this way.
But something changed this summer while on this sabbatical. I had the remarkable and simple epiphany that I could pause, I could do a little less, I could find joy and satisfaction in those moments and not always feel compelled to do ONE MORE THING. My center of gravity shifted. And it was a noticeable change for everyone around me.
I realized I could walk to the beach with my chair to read at sunset and in the morning walk to the lighthouse with my iced tea – and it could be good enough. Whether it was uninterrupted time with my girls (which I treasure more than I can say) or taking my beloved pup around the beach block in the silly stroller I purchased to make it easy for her 15-year-old legs, it all just felt so good. Music fueled my soul. I went to every concert when I could get my hands on tickets — from the biggest bands to the smallest local cover shows. And because of my focus and permission to “just be,” it all felt that much more special.
The six weeks went by at a good clip, but not so fast that I didn’t have time to stop and truly appreciate what Edelman had granted. It was the beautiful gift of time. Time to be fully with family. Time to laugh with friends. Time to stroll, swim, dance, and sing at the top of my voice, unapologetically. It was time to just live uninterrupted and just be me. Something that may not have been once been my strong suit — finding joy and comfort in just being still — I am now fully committed to taking this with me into the future.
I returned to Edelman at the end of August happy, healthy, grateful, re-charged and with tremendous clarity and a realization that sometimes I need to JUST BE, and I am pretty good at it. And for those of you wondering, I clocked 574k steps in five weeks (okay, my brain was still, but my body still going). Sabbatical mission accomplished and with so much happy in my heart and gratitude to all at Edelman for making this possible.
Lisa Sepulveda is Global Chief Client Officer.