The Sabbatical Dilemma

So we got engaged and I was on cloud nine. I was floating through the streets of New York imagining myself the star of a RomCom – glancing down at my ring, brushing back my hair with my left hand unnecessarily and generally feeling very pleased with myself.

But there was a little niggling question surfacing underneath the powder puff…’What about my sabbatical?’

The LOML and I had talked about it, but that was before we were engaged to be married. Could I still take it? Could I desert my fiancé or worse, husband to flit around the globe? And what was he thinking? Did he assume I was taking it, or not?
When I mentioned it to others they said things like: ”Look, you have bigger things to think about now.” Public opinion was not on my side. So no sabbatical for me then I guess? No first time in Asia, no visiting mates in Australia, no silent retreat, no hanging with my family in South Africa? Obviously I wanted to be married more than anything else in the world but I sort of still wanted the other things I wanted for myself before he proposed.
So I spoke to the LOML about it about a week after we got engaged, almost jokingly, with some eye fluttering thrown in for good measure; ”So what do you think this means for my sabbatical?” He wasn’t opposed to the idea but seemed to be more interested in putting together some of the other pieces of the puzzle, like when and how we were going to move in together and where and when we would have a wedding. Oh yea, the important stuff! We were able to make some big decisions quickly, like:

  • we would move in together asap to start the new year and our new life together
  • we would get married in South Africa over Thanksgiving 2015

And because those are not the kind of decisions that self actualize we then started to put the energy required into making them happen. We moved into a wonderful one bedroom apartment in Harlem on Feb 1st and started feeling our way around the industrial machine that is the wedding industry.

I didn’t mention the sabbatical again until a plane ride back from LA in about March, when I suddenly felt the need to unburden myself of all the unknown factors flying around in my head, like were we having an engagement party, what should I do about hints of job offers, when would my Greencard arrive, would my mom enjoy our planned RV trip around Arizona, what did I want to do with my life and what did this all mean for my sabbatical?
So the LOML and I wrote things down – what I was worried about, what my options were to address them and what the timing for some of those options was. A good thing about dating (or being engaged to) someone older than me is that he’s already had most of the thoughts I’m having now about 10 years prior and has good advice to offer.

So we came up with a plan, including dependencies and contingency and agreed that I would ask permission from work to take a sabbatical starting in September for 3 or 4 months, knowing that I would have the option to decide not to take it closer to the time if I decided it wasn’t what I wanted. Before applying for the sabbatical, I thought a bit harder about whether it was what I really wanted. The desire to see the world, while still there, was not as strong as it had been when I was single and even less now that I was engaged. What was the point? The LOML couldn’t leave his business to travel with me, what if he ended up feeling deserted in the months before our wedding? Was it worth risking the beginning of something so important? He was supportive in theory but how would he feel once he was left eating freezer meals on his own for 3 months…? On the other hand I didn’t want to regret not doing it, sacrificing something I’d wanted for a long time and feeling resentful once I’d popped out two kids and had ‘responsibilities’. It felt like now or never. I needed more reassurance that the LOML was fully supportive though, so I quizzed him and tried to give him the option of saying that deep down he thought it was selfish of me and bad timing. But he seemed genuinely supportive. He compared it to when he’d done his MBA – he thought it was good for people to take some time out to reflect before major life transitions, in this case my transition to wifedom and potentially a career change. Yes! No wonder I love him. The final test for me was whether he would take an interest in itinerary planning and share in my joy in the preparation phase – I didn’t want it to be an isolating activity. He said he would love to. Sold! I applied for the sabbatical to start after Labor Day (7 Sept) and finish after our wedding (just before Christmas). Three whole months of glorious transition.

It was approved, and after 7 years as a Management Consultant, today is officially my 7th day on sabbatical (more details of what I’m up to coming soon).  Here’s hoping it does wonders for my blogging output, and of course my future marriage!

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