“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
― Ernest Hemingway
Several years ago, I took a temp job in a brand strategy firm. I hated the whole office thing, but I was broke and desperately needed to get on my feet. As a temp, I did whatever was asked of me. That included doing expenses for executives on a monthly basis. I remember one of the partners was on “sabbatical.” I thought only sabbaticals applied to academics.
“Oh, no, we all get a sabbatical,” a co-worker told me. “You just have to hit five years, and then you’re eligible.”
I won’t be here that long, I thought.
But five years comes fast – especially at a job that doesn’t suck. And at the beginning of 2018, I was contemplating dates for my own sabbatical. To say last year was difficult would be an understatement. From the unexpected loss of my uncle to my dad’s minor stroke to an extraordinary tragedy that befell my awesome boss’s husband, by March, my motto was: “2018 can suck it.”
The year dragged on as the abundance of each “new normal” weighed me down. Thoughts of my sabbatical thrilled and overwhelmed me as I circled around potential dates and places. I landed on a six-week leave and had narrowed my choices down to either Bali or Africa. I knew one thing: I wanted the time off to be meaningful as well as relaxing. I was in serious need of a solid rest, for sure, but I didn’t want to just lie around for six weeks.
The aspect of volunteering intrigued me, and as I dug into researching various options, I felt pulled toward teaching English to schoolchildren. I’ve always wanted to be an ESL teacher, so why not give it a trial run? More research and some suggested places in Africa led me to the BEST of both worlds: a volunteer program in Namibia that offered a week working with animals and a week teaching English in the local school.
I tacked on a three-day safari in South Africa and another week in Cape Town, and that was that. Sabbatical locked and loaded.
Leaving home for an extended amount of time is exciting in theory. But the time leading up to it is a bitch. I was going to be away for 24 days. I not only had work stuff to wrap up, (including two new additions to my team hired weeks before my departure), I had to get my personal stuff in order: i.e., Sadie.
Sadie’s no stranger to being left with at least one member of her vast extended family, but she’s no spring chicken anymore. To make matters worse, her already-failing eye swelled up a few days before I was scheduled to leave. Glaucoma, they said – advanced stage. The recommendation was to remove her eye as soon as possible.
After some discussion, the vet said it could actually wait until I got home as long as she got her meds religiously during that time. I was ready to cancel everything, but my friends and family wouldn’t have it. Everyone banded together and assured me they would give Sadie her drops three times a day. I’d given my parents the okay to get her to surgery if the eye didn’t improve, and they were at the ready. On paper, everything was good to go, but in my heart, there was a huge damper looming over this trip of a lifetime.
Four years earlier, I had to have major surgery. The worry of cancer loomed large, and we wouldn’t know what would be what until I was on the operating table. I decided I was going into that surgery with faith, not fear, so I did what anyone would do – I had a party. My “So long, Uterus” party was one of the best nights ever. All of my favorite people had all come together to root for my success.
This was no different. I had to trust the (same) people I love to take care of the thing I love most. It was on me, and I decided to go with faith and get on that plane.