I Quit (Trying to Make Fetch Happen)

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I found out over the weekend that I was not selected as a Fulbright finalist.

It was hard to hear.  It was disappointing.  I was sad.  (I was really sad.)  I ate an entire batch of double chocolate chip cookies.  (Because emotional eating is always a reasonable response.)  I went to a crafting party and drank too much sangria.  (Which is pretty much the tamest bender ever and resulted in some really awesome Valentines.)

Now it’s Monday.  Welcome back to real life.

I’ve reached another point where I’m not sure where I’m supposed to go next.  Living and working abroad has been my dream since I was 8 years old, and I have worried and fretted and planned to make it happen.  I’ve thought and schemed and networked and prayed and done my best to prepare, personally and professionally, to follow God’s call for my life, but at this point it seems so out of reach.  I’m not sure how the dots connect.  I’m not even sure what the ideal endpoint looks like.  So I’ve made a decision.  Right now, I’m done.  I’m done trying to make it work.  I’m done trying to figure it out.  I’m done pushing and striving and crying into my pillow.

I quit.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Jonah lately.  It’s one of those stories I’ve always been uncomfortable with.  Much like real life, Jonah’s story is not straight forward.  It doesn’t have a neat ending.  In fact, I usually feel like God forgot to include the last chapter.  He can’t really have intended to just leave us with the hero sulking under a dead shade tree.  Right?

But despite this discomfort, I’ve found myself drawn back to the story in the last few weeks, and it’s been oddly comforting.  The Bible makes it pretty clear that Jonah wanted nothing to do with God’s plan.  When God said, “Go west, young man,” Jonah got on the first boat headed east.  But God was determined that the people of Nineveh would hear his message, so Jonah ended up right back where God wanted him . . . on the shores of the very city he was trying to avoid.

So if God can take someone who is stubbornly resisting his plan and make sure they still end up in the right place at the right time, surely he can make sure that I get where I need to be, too.

Ultimately, the pressure of making God’s plan for my life work isn’t on me.  That pressure is on God.  I’m still going to finish school.  I’m still going to work and pray and network.  I’m still going to look for jobs.  But I’m going to stop obsessing about finding the perfect job, as though I only have one, narrow window of opportunity in which to follow my destiny.  I’m going to find a job that pays my bills and is moderately interesting.  And if at some point God opens the door for me to go overseas, that’s great.  I’ll be thrilled.  But if the time isn’t now, that’s okay.  If the time isn’t later, that’s okay, too.  God’s in control.  He’ll make sure I end up where I belong.

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Black Friday Rules (Think on these things.)

I’m working holiday retail again this year.  I thought that between my loans and the two jobs I’ve worked this semester I would be alright, but between replacing the timing belt on my car and missing three days of work to drive up and stay with my brother in the hospital . . . I’m a bit short on my January rent.  So instead of writing my finals and spending time with friends before the holidays, I’m going to be writing my finals and selling ham to frenzied holiday shoppers.

The busy week for my store was actually last week, but for most people in the retail industry the madness is just beginning.  For those of you who will be shopping tomorrow, here are a few things we’d like you to keep in mind:

  1. Be patient.  In most of the seasonal jobs I’ve had, I only worked one shift before Black Friday.  Sometimes, I just got a walkthrough and an hour or two of register training when I came to fill out my W-2.  If you shop somewhere regularly, you probably know more about the store than the seasonal employees at this point.
  2. Be realistic.  Regular retail employees have little to no power over how the store is stocked, how they handle coupons, and whether or not the in-store price matches the advertisement.  Most of the things you are angry about can’t actually be addressed by the people in front of you.  If something about the store’s policy or condition really bothers you, go home and send an email complaining about it to the company.  Don’t chew out an employee who can’t actually help you.  That’s just an attempt to make yourself feel better by making someone else’s day shittier.
  3. Be compassionate.  Retail is hard work, especially around this time of year.  It’s boring.  You spend all day on your feet.  Most of the people you deal with are grumpy or rude, and after a few hours you start to feel kind of invisible.  And most of the people I know who take seasonal positions are squeezing them onto an already full plate.  These are students who are trying to stretch their bank accounts until next semester’s loans drop or working mothers who are trying to scratch together Christmas for their kids.  Of course their performance is a little lackluster.  Their minds are always somewhere else.  And while they are being paid to be there, they probably aren’t being paid very much.  I’m currently making slightly less than half of what I make at my regular jobs.
  4. Be respectful.  Treat store employees like human beings, and treat the store like a place of business.  Treat the merchandise like it belongs to someone else because at this point, it does.  Look the cashier in the eye.  Say “please” and “thank you.”  Smile occasionally.  Hang up the clothes you don’t want after you’ve tried them on.  If you knock something over, fix it.  Put things back the way you found them.  One year I worked as a dressing room attendant at a women’s clothing store during the holidays.  On Black Friday, I walked into multiple dressing rooms that were literally knee deep in clothing that customers had tried on and discarded.  It took me ages to straighten everything out, and the whole time I had impatient customers complaining about the wait for a dressing room.

Enjoy your Black Friday.  Get great deals.  Shop ‘til you drop.  But be nice about it.

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I Press On

I am not good at self-discipline.

I tell myself that I am not good at sameness, that I like challenge and spontaneity.  Really, though, I am very good at sameness, as long as that sameness is comfortable.  As long as that sameness does not involve challenging myself to alter the habits I already have, I am wonderful at sameness.

I am good at projects.  When I was in high school, I told my mother that I had plenty of self-discipline; I just had trouble applying it sometimes.  She laughed.  I didn’t find it funny.  What I meant was that I could practice four hours every day for twenty-eight days in preparation for second round all-state auditions.  I could write a paper or study for an exam and make a good grade.  I am still like that.  I can keep up with something for a week or a month.  I can get assignments done for school or work.  I can clean my entire apartment all at once when it gets to messy for me to stand.  I am good at big things, at flashy things, at short-term things that captive all of my attention while they are going on.

I am not good at the small, daily things. I have never been good at reading my Bible daily.  I have never been good at keeping up with an exercise regimen.  I can’t remember to put the dishes in the dishwasher every night before I go to bed or to wake up in time to do them the next morning.  I’m not good at bedtimes or grocery shopping or diets.

I am not good at consistent, sustained attention with little immediate payoff.  I am not good at delayed gratification.  I have taken the metaphor of the big rocks and the small rocks in the jar to its illogical extreme in that I always manage the big rocks, but I get so fascinated by them that I never remember to pour the small rocks in afterwards.  (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, google “big rocks first jar metaphor.”)

I want to be better at this, and I’m honestly not sure how to do it.  Every year, this is my New Year’s resolution.  Even when I write down “Lose weight!” or “Exercise more!” or “Read the whole Bible!” what I am really writing is “Remember self-control?  That fruit of the Spirit that you’re terrible at?  Let’s work on that this year. Okay?”  I come up with plans and schedules and chore charts and reward systems, and by the end of January, I’ve half-forgotten I even tried.

What I really want is for God to zap me and make me a more disciplined person.  I want to wake up one morning and find that all of these little habits that I’ve never mastered are easy.  It doesn’t happen that way.  It wouldn’t really be discipline if it did.

So instead, I slog on.  I make goals and rarely meet them.  I make plans and rarely stick to them.  But maybe, eventually, all of this trying will stick.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14

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His Eye is on the Sparrow

The series I mentioned in yesterday’s post isn’t coming quite yet.  It’s going to take a bit of thinking and planning on my part, and I didn’t have time for that today.

The reason I didn’t have time for that today is that I had a JOB INTERVIEW!!!  I’ve been looking for a second job for a while, and this is the third interview I’ve had.  So far, nothing has been a good fit, one way or the other, and I’m getting a little desperate.  As for today, it was the strangest interview I’ve ever had.

The interviewer asked me to tell her a little bit about myself and why I was interested in the position.  Then she told me about the project and what she was looking for in an employee.  Then she told me what I had come into the interview dreading, which is that I don’t have enough experience to be what she needs.

At this point, I was a little frustrated.  I mean, it’s always flattering to get an interview, but I had clearly stated my level of experience in my resume and cover letter.  Why had she wasted everyone’s time by calling me in?

Then she told me something I never expected to hear.  She said, “I didn’t really think you were a good fit for the position, but your cover letter was so great that I just really wanted to meet you!”

She went on to say that she thinks I would be a better fit for another open position on the same project and that she has passed on my materials to the appropriate supervisor.  Additionally, she said that if I am hired for that position, she would be happy to work with me on building some additional skills in the area of the job I originally applied for.

It’s easy to look for God’s hand in the big things.  It’s easy to see Him in the split-second avoidance of a terrible car crash or the completion of a life-long goal.  It’s easy to see God in the scholarship won, the degree earned, or the promotion gained.

But sometimes, the little things slip by us.  The moments that are just as beautifully, carefully orchestrated but not quite as life-changing go unnoticed.

I could not have arranged these opportunities myself.  Had I applied directly to the other position, I likely would not have stood out as much.  Had I been hired for the other position, I might have never had the chance to ask this woman to mentor me in her field.  Even if I end up not getting the job she’s referring me for, this means that I’m getting talked about within my department, which can only help my chances of finding a job somewhere.  And at the very least, this gives me a much-needed ego boost about my ability to present myself well to potential employers.

And with all of that in mind, I can’t help but see God’s hand in this.

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