Five Lessons from My Summer Sabbatical

September 2022 | CCM

One of CCM’s work-life programs is providing our full-time employees who have completed 10 years of employment a six-week paid leave every five years to focus on self-development. In this month’s blog, Jamie Horwitz, CCM’s chief marketing officer, shares five things she learned during her time off this past summer.

My time off was wonderful, and while I didn’t make any drastic life changes during my time away from the office, I did look for ways to reconnect with friends and travel with and without my family. And even though I was away from my daily work in impact investing, as luck would have it, a speaker on one of my trips was the CEO at SparkIL, an impact investing firm that provides interest-free loans to underserved populations across Israel.

Here are five highlights from my experience:

  1. I visited Israel for a few weeks this summer (the last time I was there was 25 years ago). I had forgotten how holy and sacred Jerusalem is to other religions — not only Judaism. Prior to my trip, a non-Jewish friend asked what I was doing on my sabbatical, and I told him I was taking a trip to Israel. His reaction surprised me. He said, “Jerusalem is the most amazing city I have ever visited because that’s where Jesus walked.” I had never really thought about visiting the holy land from a non-Jewish perspective, and I was intrigued. We ended up having a nice conversation about Israel and religion. Even with much discord amongst a variety of religions, one thing that remains the same — Jerusalem is considered one of the most sacred sites to three major world religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. While we all may have differences, we can always find some commonality.

  2. My family did not accompany me on the trip to Israel. I went with a group of moms from the U.S. through an organization that oversees and plans the entire trip. Now most of my family trips are typically planned by me — which means I am the one coordinating flights, hotels, dinner, activities, etc. You get it. This trip was different. I didn’t have to plan a thing! All I had to do was book a flight and show up at the scheduled time on the trip agenda. It was amazing. Someone else organized it all. Sometimes we need to take a little rest from doing it all. For some of us, it’s not always easy and maybe it’s not exactly as we would have planned, but it can be a much needed and welcome break.

  3. Sticking with Israel for #3. In 2015, an Israeli family moved to our neighborhood for a two-year program. It turned out their oldest daughter and my youngest daughter were the same age — and had the same name! We ended up becoming good friends over their two-year stay in Florida. When they left, we had hoped to see them in a few years but COVID-19 struck and time continued to pass by as school and activities got in the way. As soon as I booked my flight to Israel, I reached out to them. It had been five years since we last saw one another. While I loved everything about Israel, seeing them was one of the highlights of my trip. I couldn’t believe how much their kids had grown and we reminisced about the fun we had together. Reconnecting with friends and maintaining friendships, even those that may live 6,500 miles away, is so important. Some research even finds that reaching out to an old friend can be good for our mental health — and theirs, too. It was definitely good for mine.

  4. If anyone has a kid that has played, or currently plays, travel sports, this one may ring close to home. I think I could author a book on some of the outlandish things that have taken place, but this lesson learned is a positive aspect of travel sports. This past summer, my daughter’s team traveled to the Northeast to play in several showcases. Some of my friends could not believe how much we were traveling for a sport, and I can’t say I always disagree. But the trips were a blast and created so many memories. My daughter has made some wonderful friends on her team and learned so much about self-discipline, mental toughness, commitment, and resilience. Spending time with her was priceless and seeing her play the sport she loves while having fun was a win-win, even if her team didn’t win every game.

  5. The last week of my time away from the office may sound boring since most of the week was spent preparing the kids for school, but it ended up being one of my favorites. In years past, these tasks were left until after work and usually with much urgency. This time was different because we were not in a rush — more specifically, I was not in a rush. We got to enjoy time as a family going out to lunch, having family dinners, playing games, getting school supplies, even going to the dentist. My husband and I rarely spend that much time with the kids during the school year since it is always hectic with us working and the kid’s afterschool activities. It also enabled me to see friends, take long walks, and get off schedule from my normal daily routine. The time to relax before going back to work was so welcome after a busy summer of traveling. It reminded me that even in the busiest of times, a work/life balance is critical.

Thank you to CCM for providing me this opportunity. For companies researching sabbaticals, a recent blog shared some benefits of extended employee breaks for both the employee and the organization:

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