Her Voice

I Took Three Months Off From Work In The Name Of Radical Self-Preservation

In the fourth quarter of 2023, I finally did it. I pulled the plug! To be honest, it was a long time coming. I spent years juggling all of the balls in my life, and on October 2, 2023, I dropped every one of them and fell into surrender mode.

I couldn’t take it anymore - work, family, relationships, politics, death, the ramifications of COVID-19, and my fears creeping in. I had either put off dealing with these things, or I simply didn’t want to acknowledge them. Instead, my time, energy, and focus were on everyone and everything beside me. I pushed myself to the limit; then everything started to consume me. Burnout was swallowing me whole, you feel me?

All of this forced me to do some much-needed introspection which I turned into my self-proclaimed, "Fade to Black Season."

What is a “Fade to Black Season,” you may ask?

It’s a call to rest.

It’s a call to reset.

It’s a call to retreat into a deep, quiet space.

It’s radical self-preservation.

Deciding to step back from everything was not an easy decision for me. I contemplated taking a break from everything for many years until I couldn’t put it off anymore. If I didn’t take this time off, I knew I wouldn’t be able to truly show up for the life that I claimed that I wanted for myself.

I know I’m not the only one who has felt this immense weight on their shoulders. Why? Because I’m a Black woman. According to Every Level Leadership, 88% of Black women sometimes often, or always have experienced burnout. And let’s be honest here - Black women work harder than any other group. We are the backbone of our jobs, families, and community. Because of this, we must incorporate rest as an integral part of our well-being. In case there’s some pushback, I’ll leave this quote here for you to marinate on:

“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” - Zora Neale Hurston

The reality is that with piles of work and life obligations, many of us are walking time bombs. And, for me, two weeks of PTO/vacation wasn’t enough time needed to balance myself, so I took three months off. If you feel called to do so, let this be your inspiration to take your own “Fade to Black Season.”

Here’s what I did.

  1. Shadow Work: I became best friends with my journal and illuminated the things I hid from myself to heal. Shadow work consists of the things you don’t like about yourself, your conscious and unconscious fears, and other negative emotions that exist due to past experiences and trauma.
  2. Trigger Warning: During this time, I let my triggers become my wisest teacher. I asked myself why various experiences, news, or communications resulted in negativity. I observed them, listened, and learned why they took up so much space in my life. Then, I allowed myself to choose to be open to a different outcome or feeling moving forward.
  3. Get Back To Pleasure: I re-centered my pleasure. I had to remind myself of what turned me on. I allowed myself to take life slowly, engage my senses, and play. I signed up for every tantra workshop, went to art museums in the middle of the day, took movement classes, and went to dance parties. I moved all the stagnant energy out of my body.
  4. Let Others Lift You Up: I let my people love on me. I let my loved ones take care of me. This wasn’t easy. I was used to being everyone’s support system and soft space to land. However, in my time of need, I finally let my tribe show up and show out for me. My only regret is not letting them do this sooner.
  5. Social Media Break: I broke up with social media during this time. Reclaiming my time and attention was an integral factor in calming my nervous system. I put blockers on my phone, and when I felt the urge to swipe and scroll, I took a walk or picked up a book.
  6. Redefine Your Life: After doing this type of work, I knew that I would never be the same. In this new space, boundaries and balance are prioritized, and everything else has to fall in line. I now have the mental/emotional space and capacity to do my best work!

Best of all, during this time, I found God in myself, and I loved her, fiercely.

My “Fade To Black" Season allowed me to grieve in peace, rest, tap into unrelenting joy, and simply be. At this point, me and peace got a good thing going on. Nothing else will be tolerated!

For those of you who are nervous about taking the first step, use The Dufree Foundation’s DIY Sabbatical Guide to help you plan, prep, and prepare yourself for your sabbatical - this is something I wish I had done before I leaped. Consider going on a Divine Pause Retreat to learn tips and tricks to avoid mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual burnout.

For those who work in social impact, apply for The Durfee Sabbatical program, which offers $60,000 and a three-month sabbatical, so nonprofit leaders can be a lever for whole systems change.

The choice to take a sabbatical is up to you! Just remember to prioritize yourself and never pour from an empty cup.

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Featured image by Maskot/Getty Images




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