When to Take a Sabbatical and Rethink Your Personal Identity

In Chapter 4 of 15 in her 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, entrepreneur Audrey Parker French answers "How Did Taking a Year Off From Work Reshape How You See Yourself in the World?"  French learns to let go of her career woman identity, including her title, embrace her personal identity, and find new perspective in her new marriage and ambitions to start a family. 

Audrey Parker French returns to CYF for her Year 3 interview after a one-year sabbatical from work and getting married.  She co-founded CLEAResult, an energy management consulting firm.  In 2010, CLEAResult ranked #144 in the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing private companies.  In late 2010, CLEAResult was sold to General Catalyst Partners.  She graduated from Wake Forest University. 


Erik Michielsen: How did taking a year off from work reshape how you see yourself in the world?

Audrey Parker French: Well, it’s been really interesting, before the year break, I saw myself as an entrepreneur, I saw myself as someone who was strictly my career, it was all kind of my identity was kind of wrapped up in my career and what I had just completed because it was really profound for me and it was – it really was where my identity was. And then as the year progressed and as I met the man who’s now my husband and got to travel, I really got on a deeper level how that was a chapter of my life and how my identity is not in a job or in a career or in anything that can be changed.

And it was simultaneously scary because we all wanna hang on to our identity. I definitely wanted to hang on to the comfortable and what I knew. And yet I had to just – it was very liberating to be able to let go of that and say, “I am not my career. I am not my job. I’m not my job title. I’m not my age. I’m not – ” All those change. And really discovering that once those things started falling away, and it took several months for those things to really fall away. I realized that I’m a person, and I get to experience life and what I had experienced before is a part of it. It’s part of my journey. It’s part of my experience.

And being married really changes the dynamic of everything going forward. I’m no longer me living my life, I’m half of me and my husband. And we are living our life. And it really has put into perspective how much I want to have children, and how much I want to have a beautiful thriving family, and how – in my past identity, there was no room for that. And so the year has really allowed me to break free and let go.

And it’s just – all I can say is that it sounds simple and yet there’s so many people who cling to an identity all their careers, all their lives perhaps, and they never – I want – I hope that people can look beyond just what they think they should be doing and really realize what do I want to do? Maybe I am in this job and maybe it’s expected that I do ABC, but I really wanna do DEF, and go outside of that box and just realize that your identity is what you make it and we’re a lot more free than from a day-to-day basis we might think.