I feel called this week to share an example of a time in my life when Better Endings meant NOT getting what I thought I wanted in relation to my work life and career. It reminds me of Garth Brooks’ lyrics with this blog’s title: “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”
I was in my last year of completing my dissertation in Arizona, getting ready to apply for university positions to teach and move on. I had been teaching for several years already for a community college, and I was almost full-time there with the number of classes I was teaching. The department received a faculty “line” for a full-time Instructor, and I was approached as the person they had in mind to fill that post. The job description was written directly with me in mind, based on courses I already was teaching there, although there would need to be an invitation for other applicants. I took all of this initially in stride as, ‘Well, okay, maybe this is my next step and what I should be doing.’ So, I applied for the position and went through the interview process.
Around the same time that this job had come about, another woman—a graduate student cohort from Archaeology also just finishing her dissertation—returned from a several year research stay in Russia. She had gained some acclaim there for archaeology work she was doing. She was invited to also apply for the open position, even though it was explicitly for a Cultural Anthropologist (my area) rather than an Archaeologist.
Both this other woman and I interviewed for the one position as the primary two candidates. I felt that the questions we were asked in the final round were so basic and simple that anyone who had studied even an introductory level course in general anthropology would have been able to answer them well. We were both given an “Excellent” rating, equally, and it was given to the president of the college, then, to select the person they would offer the job to. The other woman was selected. It felt to me that was simply because of a certain degree of political clout she might bring, and at first I was upset that the position was being filled by someone of a different discipline than what the job description called for. Several people I knew had chosen not to even apply because the job description called for areas of expertise not within their own disciplines in anthropology as a whole.
Because I felt the college and department were violating a policy by hiring someone whose background only tangentially fit the job description, I stood up to the system enough to file a complaint at the district level. Officials at that level agreed with me in principle and told me that if I wanted to, I could challenge the hire. I had a tête-á-tête with the department Chair and tearfully expressed to him all that I was feeling about how the job search process had transpired.
But here’s where another perspective came in.
In contemplating whether to pursue the legal challenge of the hire, I soon came to understand that it was time to “Let It Go”. I chose not to pursue the case any further, and determined not to teach for that college any more at all instead.
Time went on, just a couple of months, actually, and I was on a ‘short list’ for a university position in Colorado. This would be a full undergraduate and research institution rather than a community college. My background was very suited to the needs of that department and I was hired and began teaching the following Fall. I have been at that post ever since, for the past twenty-one years. And, it has been an excellent position for me to be able to accomplish what my heart and mind have set me to fulfill. Like the story of the Three Bears and the porridge, I would say that my career post has turned out to be “just right” for me, all along.
So here’s the rub, folks. We are often placed in situations where if we were but to assert our “will,” we might achieve something that, in the end, could turn out to have been absolutely “wrong” in the bigger picture. Had I received the community college position, I would likely have remained in Arizona, teaching at the standard workload level of a community college Instructor, and much of what I have been doing in Colorado instead, I would never have done! I would have missed so much—yes, of hard times as well as good ones—but all very exciting and worthwhile.
So yes, “Thank Heaven for Unanswered Prayers.” Although, when I think about that idea, I realize that actually the result of my total job search WAS a FULLY ANSWERED prayer…just not in the manner I initially had thought things would go. The best form of prayer, to me, is listening TO God/ Spirit/ the Universe, as IT has greater Vision and much higher awareness than do I.
The tricky part is knowing what to pursue and when to Surrender. This, I would offer, is when some form of meditation, contemplation, prayer, or even a nice long hike in the out-of-doors can be helpful. We must have a way to communicate with that which is deepest within us, rather than just “go with the winds” or obey the Mind’s dictates or fixed opinions.
It is especially with job and career choices, I would think, that some form of “checking in” with Self/Soul/God is so important as we wend our way through life.
Thinking about this memory today led to another lyric that I used to think of a lot; now, in retrospect, I see why. It’s from Don McClean’s “Crossroads”:
“You know I’ve heard about people like me,
But I never made the connection.
They walk one road to set them free,
and find they’ve gone the wrong direction.
But there’s no need for turning round,
‘Cause all roads lead to where I stand,
And I believe I’ll walk them all,
No matter what I may have planned.”
(Find your North Star)
So, how about you? How have you ‘tuned in’ and arrived at Better Endings? Or, is there some situation you might be facing even now that might benefit from Tuning In? I welcome your Insights and Stories!