I had one thing in mind: to have a sabbatical year. The goal? To figure out what I want to do next. Statistically speaking, I was middle aged. For more than half my life, I had always had a blueprint of what I should do in life and where my life should head. But the blueprint had expired.
I first sketched a big plan for my life sometime when I was an undergraduate student. Every single thing I could conceive about my future was there: career track, graduate schools, wife, children, etc. Ever since I graduated I followed that plan with a cogent understanding that my life should not roll out studiously according to the plan – but that the plan should serve as rough guidelines of which ways I should take, which offer I should at least consider, and which ones I should reject.
Every day, every week, and every quarter, these would be reviewed and aligned. That’s how I ended up not having new year resolution. That “new year” moment for me happened three times a year: once starting at the end of Easter season (last possible date of Easter is 25 April), once starting on my birthday (guess which date?), and once starting as the traditional Christmas season kicks off on 25 December.
Then one day the blue print got expired. I tried to resuscitate it. I extended some timelines, extrapolated on certain milestones, made various kinds of extensions of the plan into the future. It didn’t work. For some reason, the blueprint had truly expired. I realized it was high time that I come up with another one, from scratch, with my current post in life as the starting point.
Some friends came to question this decision. “What else? You’re already so religiously reinventing yourself from time to time …” some asked in wonder. Well, they did label some “versions” of me as “Andrea 2013”, “Andrea 2015”, etc. for what they perceived as different reincarnations of me. But I don’t think that’s quite an appropriate way to assess the overall idea I have of my own life and trajectory. Change is just a fact of life. I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t explore the many facets and opportunities that life has to offer ….
Certainly it matters that I make the most of this life, instead of succumbing to the expectations of conformity and mediocrity, pleasing the demands of the masses (that, in my opinion, whose voice should not even be given a weight). So for me, it was the time in life when all the signals were clear. Another act was expiring – if it had not been. I should either give birth to a fresh, new act, or risk living an overused script dragged way beyond its proper stage and usefulness. What kind of life would that be?
The big question was then: “How?” Having a sabbatical is much easier said then done. How about my cash flow? How about my responsibilities? Then it dawned on me, the most feasible way of having a sabbatical at this part of the world is by securing a scholarship for full-time study. I made a number of applications, secured some offers, and decided to take the YES CHINA scholarship, the most generous scholarship from the Chinese government for a one-year MBA in Guangzhou.
So that’s how it began. It’s not always a sabbatical. This being a scholarship for study, I have also experienced numerous things along the way. And now I’ve been in Guangzhou for 7 months, finishing my MBA dissertation – as it is called here. I will now start spending some time to share about how my time here has passed – for my sabbatical as well as the other things that come along.