Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Final Word

In another post earlier this year, I talked about coming to the decision to go home after this school year. But, of course, nothing is final until it is. And now, it really is. The deadline to notify the school on whether we were going to be staying another year was on November 17 at 4:00 p.m. The Decision finally has been made. There is no turning back.

Even after we decided earlier this year not to move forward to another country, we still left the door open for the possibility of staying in Thailand one more year. Given the many advantages to staying one more year -- financial, professional (at least for my husband), educational (for my son), and lifestyle-wise -- it would make sense to do so.

On the other hand, it has been a fairly difficult school year for the both of us, particularly for my husband. He has been working harder than he had been for the last few years in the U.S., simply because he's teaching IB-level classes for the first time this year, and there is a steep learning curve. He also has most of the English-as-second-language learners and all the 10th-grade students with special needs in his Biology classes because, within the last year, he had acquired the reputation of being a good teacher for these students (darn those good teaching skills and that patience of his). As for me, I've also experienced frustrations because my students are so lacking in academic skills, and the school does not have the appropriate classes for them. My husband also has been feeling more homesick than usual. I, on the other hand, didn't feel quite ready to go home, even if I felt ready to leave Thailand.

Still, given all the benefits of staying, we were willing to consider staying just one more year. We made several "pros and cons" lists. We discussed this ad nauseum, with each other and with friends. We got sick of the topic and of ourselves constantly talking about it. Still, all the conversations remained in the abstract; the deadline felt far away, and we felt we had all the time in the world.

When we finally picked up our contracts for next year on October 27, it began to feel more real. About a week before the deadline, my husband decided to request an extension of his leave for one more year, just out of curiosity, thinking nothing would come of it. Even if it got denied, we could tell ourselves we had explored every possibility. His contact person promised to get back to him by the end of the week before our deadline. The week came and went, and he heard nothing, so we thought his request had been denied and were prepared to tell the school that we would be leaving.

But Saturday morning, my husband checked his email and found a message from his contact person, sent at 4:00 p.m. Friday afternoon, her time -- just in the nick of time. She stated that his request had been granted, even though a leave of absence to teach overseas is generally granted for a two-year period only. We were floored -- no one that we know has ever had three years of leave! Most people don't even get two years, let alone three. We were excited. Now we could stay one more year and still have job security at home! What an opportunity!

We decided to sit on that decision for the weekend and see how we felt by the deadline on Monday. We knew better than to think this decision was it. Sure enough, we both woke up Sunday feeling we wanted to go home. We even discussed it with a couple of friends, both here and back home. As much as we (okay, I) wanted to take advantage of that third year to bank more money and shore up our resumes, we just weren't feeling it.

So, on Monday, with somewhat heavy hearts and still not feeling completely certain of our decision, we gave our notice to resign from our positions after this year. We sat down with the head of school, who initially seemed to try to convince us to stay. [While going through this process, we were completely frustrated by the fact that no one in HR knew what we were supposed to do to give notice! You'd think they'd have the procedure down after a few decades of this! This didn't endear me to the school at all, and made me feel we made the right decision.] Almost right away, I felt a sense of relief and giddiness as we thought about all the things we could do once again when we go home. It was nice to finally make a decision and move on with the next step.

It hasn't been all excitement and happiness this week, though. It was quite sad to have to break the news to our closest friends here, who were anxious to hear our final decision and had been gently trying to persuade us to stay, and to our son, who had been in favor of staying a third year also. And emotions have been running high throughout the school as everyone learns the decisions of friends. Then there are those twinges of wistfulness as I hear about friends moving on to other countries, and think about what our lives might be like a year from now living in the U.S.

Needless to say, it was a very bittersweet day and an emotional start to the week. But this is for the best right now. We will go home, regroup, take stock, and determine whether America still suits us. It is most definitely not out of the question for us to move abroad again after a few years. But if not, we now have friends all over the country and world to visit, which is not a bad situation to be in either.  

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