A little clarity would be nice

I’m clearing out my e-mail inbox because it was getting ridiculous. Friday morning I had 1,300 message, 200+ unread. I now have 752, and only 139 unread. My goal is to have under 50 messages, zero unread.


So, we have a decision regarding our life plans, but it doesn’t feel like we do. I wrote an exuberant blog post announcing our decision but I haven’t posted it, because we keep niggling at it, wondering if this is really what’s going to happen or not.

Initially our options were:

  1. Return to the US for Gimli to continue his university job, and life as we knew it (more or less) prior to coming to Albania. I would finish writing my dissertation and defend it in summer 2013. We’d start Illyria in a pre-school and the grandparents would help provide child care. I’d also start looking for a job, preferably teaching at one of the universities close to us. Assuming I found something, Gimli would transition from university teaching into more consulting work.
  2. Stay on in Albania for another 8-12 months. I would finish writing my dissertation and defend it in summer 2013. We’d start Illyria in a pre-school here in Tirana, and we’d continue with Dhurata for child care. I’d start looking for a job, possibly somewhere in Europe or Latin America rather than in the US. We’d return to the US For a few months leading up to my dissertation defense, and then see what we could wrangle for the fall.
  3. Kind of on a whim, last month we interviewed for and were offered a community development (non-academic) joint position in Colombia, starting this November. The idea would be for me to continue working on my dissertation part-time with the aim of finishing in the summer 2013 but  really ramping it up in the coming months prior to leaving Albania at the end of August (planning on a few months in the US with the grandparents in between gigs). This is a 5-year term.

I was initially very excited about option #3 for a lot of reasons that still seem really appealing to me – closer to my parents, kids growing up in a Spanish-speaking country, doing work that more closely aligns with our ideals and principles, working together as a team. The downsides are 1) a really tricky and awkward transition time (we have to attend an orientation in the US in June, prior to leaving Albania, so cross-time-zone travel with the little ones; and I have an academic conference in the US in November just a week after landing in Colombia, so leaving the kids right after a huge shake-up in their little worlds). Balancing all this travel with little kids seems… difficult, but possibly worth it for the value of 5 solid years in Latin America. Oh, and 2) a LOT less time to work on the dissertation, although we negotiated leave for me to attend the conference and to defend the dissertation next summer.

So we accepted the offer and are moving forward with all the red tape entailed in an international contract. We are slowly telling our family and friends – and this is where the weirdness started, because Gimli was very reluctant to tell anybody. Like a pregnancy announcement when you fear a loss, maybe. That’s what it reminded me of. His initial rationale for accepting the position was “well, if we say no, then we can’t go back and change our minds later, but if we say yes, we still have the option to bail.”

I feel like I should have listened more closely to his hesitation in that moment rather than pushing forward with my own excitement, because now he’s going all weird on me again – Friday we got an e-mail from HR at the new position, saying they had mis-calculated our stipend (not salary – it’s a volunteer position so they cover all our living expenses in-country plus insurance, and then there’s a small stipend) – it’s less than half what they originally told us. Which isn’t that big a deal, but yet it is. At least to Gimli it is.

How can I explain this – when he’s unhappy about something, he gives off this grumpy vibe – and it’s bad news. It’s a red flag for me. I’ve seen it in the past, and whenever I’ve ignored it hoping he’ll snap out of it, or tried to reason it away, it just comes back and bites us in the butt big-time. And to have his grumpy vibe triggered by something as small (in my eyes anyway) as a clerical error says something to me.

In evangelical circles, people talk a lot about having a sense of peace that is supposed to be indicative that you are choosing according to God’s will. I don’t consider myself evangelical anymore, but this is what I thought of. That sense of peace isn’t quite all there right now. Something is off, and I’m not quite sure what it is.

Option #1 above has been struck from consideration just because Gimli has been so miserable in his university job over the last few years. We told his department chair we’re not going back and then Gimli went all wiggy on my feeling guilty about “abandoning” her. They’re trying to work out a weird agreement in which he can continue to teach a course long-distance from Colombia (which I think is insane).

Option #2 is kind of scary just because we don’t have a plan or anything secure in place beyond Albania, but neither of us feels that we want to stay here longer than another year.

Option #3 was looking really good – and we were their first choice for the position which is kind of flattering and cool – but every single day we keep niggling at it – is this really what we want to do? Will I be giving up all my academic dreams? Gimli said he couldn’t even bear to open the e-mail I cc-ed him on, telling our pastor about our plans.

Part of me is losing patience with my waffly man. He is HORRIBLE at making big decisions. I know this. Yet while I  like  – need – to have a plan and to be able to move forward in some direction (Please! Any direction! PICK ONE!!!) I know from experience that pushing him against his grumpy vibe is bad, bad news (that’s what got us into that horrible situation in South Africa, for example). Part of it is that he likes having lots of options – the opportunity cost of saying “no” to one thing is just too high for him. He’s like that kid in Wee Free Men (you haven’t read it? What are you waiting for!) who is surrounded by candy and crying his eyes out, because as soon as he takes one piece to eat it, he isn’t eating all the others.

It’s a wonder sometimes we ever got married.(But I’m glad we did.)

Ok, well, my daily goal is to write 1,000 words on my dissertation (didn’t I mention that? I started writing! It feels sooo good!). I just wrote a 1,200 word blog post but I don’t think that really counts towards my daily goal, does it? Just had to get that stuff out of my head.


9 Responses to “A little clarity would be nice”

  1. jjiraffe Says:

    Huh. What an ambiguous situation. Maybe the money was a big deal for Gimli and he feels tricked or worries that this negotiation will set the tone for his employment?

    I’m sorry it’s all so unsure 😦

    • Elizabeth Says:

      You know, he did say it felt like a “bait-and-switch.” It’s an organization we know well, though (we were both volunteers when we met last century)… but yeah, he’s worried about finances and retirement and all that.

  2. tara Says:

    hmm that’s one of those- is it a gut feeling that something is off or is it a personal … sabotage (is that too strong of a word?) sort of event. either way that’s frustrating.

    • Elizabeth Says:

      Right – that self-sabotage thing, I’ve seen it before too. We’re working through it though, and it’s been encouraging to me that we’ve been able to keep our lines of communication open.

  3. Mel Says:

    It counts in the sense that sometimes you need to dump things from your brain to make more room. I am a lot like you — I just need to know what is happening. When the decision is in the air and things are going back and forth, I get antsy. I would rather make A decision vs. making the BEST decision. Sending good thoughts that it gets settled soon.

  4. Heather Says:

    Thanks for your comment on my blog. I really hope you guys get the clarity that you need to make the decision that’s right for you.

  5. Wordgirl Says:

    I’ve been thinking of you since I read this post — I’ve been reading alot on my phone and its tricky to comment…and then I read your post yesterday and worried about you — I tried to comment and it had disappeared so I am writing here to tell you that I am thinking of you and hoping you had some good restorative sleep, some chocolate, some good friends, some music…something to lift you up a little…


    Change always makes me very unsettled so I can only imagine where you are.


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