One woman’s journey: Taking a year to reflect, rethink and discover her authentic self, helped her craft a life of purpose and deeper love

by By Jessica Petty

7 min read

Quitting was the easy part. It was the deciding to quit that almost killed me.

When I announced that I was leaving a career that I honestly loved to take a one-year sabbatical, the translation quickly became “she’s quitting to care for her children”. That sounds logical. That makes sense in our culture. The measure of love I have for my children is the largest number you can think of multiplied by itself. So, if that was the truth, then deciding to quit would have been a piece of cake.

But that wasn’t the truth. I quit because I was planning to be selfish…

Mid-life and worn-out. My clothes didn’t fit. I constantly registered crabby on the happiness scale. And did I mention the actual scale? Unhealthy, unhappy, and unwrapping year 41 of life. I was not myself—or at least the version of myself I wished to be.

The suffix -ish is used to form adjectives from nouns. It means “belonging to”, “having the characteristics of,” and “near or about” … I knew I was detached from myself which meant I needed to return to myself, exhibit the characteristics of my true self, and be closer to my inner self. I had to be selfish. 

And because I had purposefully created this life that I loved—and because of all that have loved me—I felt like a royal jerk to say ‘thanks for all the faith in me and great times but I’m going to go spend a year getting to know my mid-life self so I make sure that I kick the second half of my life’s ass having an amazing time and just being happy”. Sounds great and all, but actually saying those words out loud is something I tried to talk myself out of over and over again. How selfish could I really be?

After I decided to quit and after I said the words out loud – to actual people – it was easy. Not in the easy button kind of way that doesn’t really exist but in the ‘this feels easy because I want to do it, it feels authentic, and I am growing into the person I want to be for the second half of my life’ kind of easy.

It’s been 18 months since I quit and people often ask me for advice.  And while it feels like it may kill you, it can actually save you, this whole selfish thing… because if you aren’t displaying the characteristics of your true self, if you aren’t near to your authentic self, and if you don’t belong to your actual self, then what’s the point?

It took me 41 years—plus 1 sabbatical year of hard work getting acquainted with my mid-life self —to learn that [bctt tweet=”being selfish won’t kill you. It will actually tip the scales in your favor and you’ll feel so much lighter in your loafers as you teach those you love to love themselves too.”]

So maybe the translation wasn’t all wrong? Maybe by quitting and intentionally being selfish, I did actually quit to better care for my children.

In 2017, Jessica Petty left her corporate life in pharmaceutical leadership, including Novartis and Elanco Animal Health, to rest for one year. She’s now the Executive Director of Retrieving Independence, a nonprofit service dog organization in Nashville, TN, where her days are focused on helping individuals living with mental and physical disabilities regain independence through the unconditional love and service of an exceptionally trained dog. You can reach her anytime at [email protected].

VetSuccess is a proud sponsor of Retrieving Independence’s work to change lives through the remarkable dedication of service animals.

Jessica Petty

Jessica Petty

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