The plan was to visit Eastern and Central Europe for at least a few months to write and to DJ. The biggest question regarded how to disentangle myself from my office here in the states. Ultimately, the best case scenario would have been one that would have allowed me to hold all my cards for as long as possible.
The best case scenario came true yesterday.
I had two aces up my sleeve that, until this week, I had been completely unaware of. The first was the vehement support of my co-workers, who demanded that I be able to continue working for the organization even while overseas. Their sincere testimony to my importanceinstanteous and unpromptedshowed that I had a bedrock of support hitherto unknown to me. This support made the thought that I be allowed to work remotely from Eastern Europe more palatable to upper management, and strengthened the case for granting me a leave of absence instead of pursuing termination.
Lessons learned: it pays not to suck at your job, and it pays to have people like you.
The second ace was a bit more comical; until Monday I had been unaware that I had accrued 9 weeks of vacation time. This, according to my supervisor, made everything much easier to arrange.
After many hours spent mentally running in the hamster wheel Monday and Tuesday (coupled with physically running around campus and, on a cold and rainy Tuesday, the fifth level of the parking deck), my supervisor and I concluded that there were two ways things could have gone:
1) Termination from my job in January, me becoming a contractor to the organization, and my vacation time being dolled out to me in one lump sum in the form of a physical check mailed two months after departure.
This was an undesirable scenario. Since I won't have a permanent address in two months, the check would have to go to somebody else to cash. That introduces too many variables for my comfort. And, of course, having no guarantee of employment upon returning means I've lost a card in my hand.
2) A three month vacation/leave of absence combination, padded by hours spent working for the organization remotely as needed, allowing me to continue to receive regular monthly direct deposit payments for the first 2 to 3 months with the guarantee of a job to come back to afterward.
Things went the second way.
The journey will be stressful, my world will be a very different place in a few months, and there will be plenty of questions I will need to answer soon (3 months will go by in the blink of an eye). But it is better to depart this way than any other way.
As I walked home from work yesterday I turned my eyes upward to the Biltmore Hotel. It shined in the golden glow of the late afternoon sun against a crisp blue sky. I walk past the Biltmore every single day, but yesterday, and for the first time, it looked gorgeous to me.
Last night at Apres Diem, Seth remembered how it felt when he left his job. "I realized for the first time that I had been living in a bubble."
This hits the nail on the head. Today I see the world crisply. I see it with all its possibilities wide-open to me. Atlanta looks beautiful for the first time in years because it is no longer my prison.