Why & How I Took A Year Sabbatical, And How You Can Too


Why I Needed A Sabbatical.

I need a sabbatical for the below reasons.

  1. Time To Decompress: I was so used to being in high stress, high optempo environments with toxic leadership, that I found it difficult to trust other leadership. I experienced, and still experience, adjustments issues that include general mistrust of leadership, misunderstanding of civilian cultural norms and the deep desire to isolate from it all. The year sabbatical helped to decompress adjust my perception of the world as it is an no longer as it had been. I was physically and mentally able to relax and feel comfortable with who I was in this new environment. 
  2. Time To Think About What I Really Wanted: The sabbatical gave me time to be open and honest with myself about what I really wanted my life to be. No longer was I under the constraints of my service. I didn't have to tailor my dreams to fit within the mission. The sabbatical gave me time to toss around ideas, make mistakes, and test out concepts and ideas. During that time I learned that I wanted to be home with my family and care for them. I loved being a housewife. I had my business that kept me business, but I also had lots of time to care for my family. It was hectic, but fulfilling. I was able to change my day so that I could pick up my daughter from school, take my son to the orthodontist and make dinner. I didn't have to rush. It was great. I wanted more of it. As a result, I make decisions in my business that would accommodate my new way of being. 
  3. Time For Self Care: I have made it no secret that I have PTSD and the many issues that surround it. I also have some physical maladies that sometimes temporarily incapacitate me. During my sabbatical I was able to practice a great deal of self care. It gave me time to rest when I needed and attend appointments without explanation or requiring permission from an employer. 

When I finally returned to work I was in a better place mentally and physically. I was able to clearly access what I wanted to do forever, and how my current activities contributed to that goal. I was a lot pickier about where I worked and what I did for a living. My pay wasn't as much I wanted, but the work is flexible and fulfilling. I approached my new endeavors from a place of choice and not desperation. I felt empowered and clear. 

How You Can Take A Sabbatical

I used many of these techniques and resources to successfully enjoy my time off. These steps are specific to active duty (AD, AGR, etc.) who have 6 months to a few years left on their contract. You may need rethink your strategy if you have been out of the military for more than 6 months. Many of these resources may not be as effective. Though my job termination propelled me into my sabbatical, I had planned to start a business before I retired. I didn't go through with the idea until after I was terminated. That preparation before hand helped me have a successful sabbatical.  
  1. Pay Bills & Save: Pay off as many credit card and loans as you can. The fewer bills you have to pay, the more money you have available for emergencies and fun. I suggest you read Dave Ramsey's book "Money Makeover" for your personal finance and Mike Michalowicz book "Profit First" for your business finance. Each book provides steps you can implement today. Don't get discouraged if you backslide or fail at first. Just start over and learn from your mistakes. Money management is a habit and habits take time and practice to change.

    Access your savings and determine how much you'll need to thrive and how much you need to survive. Naturally you want to shoot towards thriving, however, knowing how much you'll need to survive will give you a sense of security if you miss your goal. 
  2. VA Benefits & Retirement Pension: Research your discharge options and how they will effect you financially. The military will not give you much of an option, however, it is good to know what is available to you. I warn you, no one is going to sit down and list all of your options for you. Instead you may have to speak with several different people. You'll have to read a lot on your own and you'll have to pay attention to what has been done before.

    Once you learn what benefits and options are available to you, you then may plan accordingly. Some may not receive their benefits until they are 65. Others may receive their benefits immediately upon discharge. Very few will be able to receive both retirement pension and VA benefits. Others will have to choose between the two. 
  3. Unemployment: Choose a few states you'd like to live in and research their unemployment law for veterans. SC allows you 6 months of benefits, but you'll have to apply within 6 months of discharge. You may qualify for an extension once you reach the 5 or 6 month mark. 
  4. Government Will Cover....?: Research what the government will cover when you discharge. When I retired the Army foot the bill for a 1 way all expense paid move to where ever my household wanted to live. Luckily for them I stayed in SC and moved just 100 miles down the road. I had up to 12 months to utilize that benefit. I found this out during my out-briefings at Fort Jackson. If you are able, start picking brains now before the concept of discharge is a real factor. Don't stop at moving expenses either. Ask for commissary privileges, clothing and whatever you can think of. The worse answer you'll get is no.
  5. Potential Side Hustles: Think of potential side hustles you can do when your coins are tight. I drove for Uber on the weekends. You can also call in old debts from those who owe you. If you find that you need a quick cash injection, consider plasma donation. Reseach all of the many little ways you can earn a quick buck when times are tight.

    If you have enough time, start a business. If you read Profit First, it'll teach you how to pay yourself from the start, without sacrificing the growth or profit of your business. This will be important to know when you first start out. Many businesses, to include my own, didn't start off with the Profit First concept. I found it  impossible to pay myself until this year.
  6. Think Outside The Box: Programs like Wounded Warrior, Disabled American Veterans, Women Veteran Social Justice Network, Waypoint Griffin, and other local and national veteran groups offer free trips and resources to veterans and their families. Again, research, research and research some more. These options are for you. You'll do yourself a disservice if you don't at least seriously consider using them on your time off. 
Brain storm with your spouse and others in the same position about various money making opportunities you can take advantage of before and after you leave the military. You don't have to be a millionaire or be destitute to take a year sabbatical. You just need to have a desire to be successful in your endeavor and the belief that it will happen. 
If you've taken a year off, please share what you have done to be successful in the comments below.