Breaking up with the person I love so much

I’ve broken up with the one person I love so much today. The one person whose imperfections I find perfect. I had to break it off, albeit painfully, because I couldn’t lead her on like this. She promised me greater responsibilities and a promotion next year. The more she likes me, the harder it is to hide this PhD affair from her.

Oh wait. Did I forget to mention she is my boss? And my “affair” is with the PhD degree itself, not with someone who is a PhD?

Let’s rewind to this morning. My confident, no-nonsense, smart and successful boss told me she had big plans for our department this year and possibly new responsibilities for me in a couple months. I was overwhelmed because I wasn’t going to tell her about quitting for my PhD until much later. I felt if I agreed to take the new role and then quit right after, it would be immensely irresponsible. She has been so kind and protective of me. I couldn’t just give her a one-month notice and leave her with no English writer in the department.

I felt obligated to give her an early notice, so she could plan ahead. It wasn’t contractual, but it was the ethical thing to do.

I was worried, though. She has fought to bring me to this company and been grooming me since then. I was afraid she would flip and fire me right away or just stop being nice to me all together.

“But it was the right thing to do,” I said it again to myself.

So I worked up my courage after lunch and asked if she had time to talk. I began “the talk” honestly by telling her I had applied to several programs before I started at the company, and I got into two.

Without a blink, she said, “That’s great!”

Yup. No flip out. No “who’s gonna do your work”. No “oh I thought you had great potential here.” She just told me congratulations with a very sincerely smile on her face.

I told her it was a tough decision to make because I had really enjoyed my time there, but I knew if I didn’t do my PhD now, I’d never do it. She even encouraged me. “You should do it! Studying is good! Do it right now! You’ll have more chances to work for even better companies in the future!”

Her coolness made me feel so relieved. She said I could stay until I had to leave. I said I could defer if necessary, but she would start hiring right away. She would even see if she could give me freelance work to do. I no longer have to conceal my PhD ambition, and that’s liberating.

I have drafted a pre-resignation email to her, so she could tell HR to start looking for my replacement. Instead of using a template online, I actually took the time to write about how honoured I feel to have worked under her leadership and how great of a mentor she has been. She probably doesn’t know I admire her so much, nor does she think she was mentoring me. She has inspired me to be a strong and driven woman, to stand firm for what I believe and to take no shit from anyone.

I never had any real life female role model to look up to until I met her. I honestly don’t know what else to say other than how much I love and admire her. Even if our boss-subordinate relationship is short, I will never forget her grace.

I guess this is how an amicable breakup is done.

Shit. I’m gonna cry like a baby when I say good bye to her.


About Nicky

Nicky English is a journalist, an educator, a podcaster, a couch potato, a dreamer, and a child at heart. Learning is her passion, so is the English language, which she believes is the tool to unlock the door of knowledge. Born in Hong Kong, she received intensive writing training at The University of Iowa, where she double-majored in journalism and political science. Apart from the Hawkeye State, she’s lived in Chicago and Philadelphia. When she was a guest student at Georgetown University, she fell in love with Washington, D.C. She also has a Master of Arts in Communication. A little side note—she cannot imagine a world without her Mac and iDevices. Like many crazy ones, she hopes to change the world one day at a time.
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