Come up higher
Fall is at the door, the gentle breeze that warmed up my bedroom few weeks ago now makes me shrink into a ball under my covers. The squirrels living on the trees at the back of my house have been busy all day collecting acorns and nuts...the cool weather doesn't seem to bother them at all!
Sometimes I wish I could be as self assured as they are, running around in search of the next forest finding without ever doubting that one more will be found.
I feel like this year has been a treasure hunt for me as well, except that I haven't always displayed the same faith and composure of my squirrel friends.
Summer has been a tornado of highs and lows. After quitting my volunteering activity at the shelter back in May, I spent a few weeks collecting my thoughts and trying to come up with a conclusion to my sabbatical. I wasn't fully sure of what I wanted to do next but at least I had a better idea of what were the things that I liked or did not like.
I spent countless hours siting down, journaling and thinking but nothing seemed to help with the resolution of the dilemma so I eventually decided to stop focusing on it and give myself some extra time to clear my mind. In that frame of time a dear friend of mine came to visit me. We hadn't seen each other for some time and we had a lot to talk about.
When she asked me about my life I told her that my sabbatical was over and that I couldn't afford to be home anymore. So she asked me if I had finally made my mind on my next step but my answer was negative. I had a pretty good idea of the things that I liked or disliked but other than that I was clueless. I explained to her how I had tried long and hard to think of something that could match my preferences but at the moment I hadn't found that yet.
So she asked me to list out the few things that I thought were important to me in a job.
My #1 was "help others". I knew I wanted to do a job that gave me a chance to help others but I didn't want "the help" to be the focus of my job. I wanted that to be a random, collateral consequence of another major interaction. In other words, I didn't want to be a psychologist or a clinical therapist who would initiate the interaction with the person that they were trying to help based on the title they held. While volunteering at the shelter I had a chance to talk to many of the clinical therapists that worked there and I quickly realized that the nature of the job didn't suit me well.
My #2 was "being able to use my engineering background". I wanted to stay in touch with math, numbers and data.
The last one was "being able to be in contact with people". I've come to realize how much I enjoy interacting with people, getting to know them and build knew relationships on a daily basis. It enriches me, it nurtures me...I just love it.
So I looked at her with the yearning of a gambler who had just pulled his last shot.
"It sounds like you would be a great teacher!" she said.
"Teaching?????" I thought.
Omg, someone else had suggested that to me at the very beginning of the sabbatical but my answer at the time was "Yeahhhh....that would be nice but....I don't know...I don't think it's what I love."
That flashback immediately reminded of Jesus talking about desires and explaining how the process of engaging with them would cause them to be challenged (if unloving) and therefore eventually purified.
Maybe the reason why teaching didn't appeal to me at the time is that I was looking for something that gave me instant gratification. I had a positive desire to help others but it was mixed up with an addiction to feel important, special and valued. This selfish and unloving part of my desire drove me to select activities that responded to that addiction and also to discard activities that would be in line with the true loving part of my desires.
So, charged with the realization that teaching could be my next step in life, I started to reach out to every person I knew asking if they knew someone who was teaching in school and who could give me an idea of what I needed to do to become a teacher.
Many friends and acquaintances stepped in to help out and within a couple of weeks I had a full picture of the requirements, tests and titles that I needed to take to start this new path.
There was only one problem left at this point: Money!
For the first time in July I had skipped a payment on my mortgage. Until that time I had been able to keep up with my bills but now the source had run dry for good and I had to find another solution to keep my head above water before finding a new job. So I decided to call the bank and luckily enough they agreed to put me on a plan that allowed me to pause my mortgage payments for a few months.
My first interview with a school happened at the end of July. There were a few requirements (involving translations and transcripts) that slightly delayed the process but I finally landed a second interview by the second week of August.
After the first interview, though, my enthusiasm deflated and I started to have mixed feelings about the situation. The reason for that was that I learned a couple of new things that I didn't know before:
1) My salary was going to be less than 40% of what I was making before (ouch!!). I knew the salary was going to be less but not that much less!
2) I had 30 days to pass a test that pretty much summarized all math covered from elementary to first year of university and my job offer was contingent to that.
3) If I passed the test within the 30 days of being hired I would have to be enrolled in college by December 31st of 2021 and I would have to take care of the expenses related to that.
So, before my second interview was scheduled a million questions were crowding my mind. "Will I lose the house?" "How am I going to survive with 40% of the salary?", "Is this just a big waste of time?", "Am I going through all this process just to end up without a job again within a month?"
The path that before seemed so clear now presented an infinite number of uncertainties. My confidence started to sway and I found myself again scared and overwhelmed in front of my little gate.
Last time I was in this similar limbo an ex colleague of mine reached out to me to offer me a position in the corporate world. Like a perfectly played dejavu, this time as well I was offered the opportunity to quit the race and take an exit lane towards the corporate world.
Two days after my first interview with school I was contacted by the recruiter of a major automotive brand for a position that not only sounded like the best next step in my old career but that also involved some of the coolest tasks you could think of (i.e. periodically testing products on race tracks with professional race drivers).
After speaking to the manager and finding out more about the position, I felt like a mini nuclear bomb exploded in my head. A mix of thoughts crowded my head for two days in a row:
"The automotive position is great"
"But teaching is my calling"
"How do I know? I never tried it!"
"What if I find out that I don't like teaching but I find out only after I have declined the cool engineering position?"
"What if I don't like the engineering position after declining the school position?"
"With the corporate position I would have a brand name on my resume and I would learn some really cool stuff...I know I would be great at it. Plus..money, flexibility of hours, familiarity with the tasks.."
"But it will be what I already had before..then why did I go through all the trouble of the sabbatical? Burning all savings, screwing up my credit and taking a chance to destroy all that I have built over the years only to go back to what I was doing before?"
"Hey..the sabbatical was for myself. I needed a break AND I didn't have to come up with a specific answer!"
"Am I following my heart or my head here?"
"Maybe I should do a quick pro and cons chart..they always help!"
"Awesome....everything leads to engineering position. Challenging and interesting subject, flexible time, good pay..."
"Still...I think I would regret not finding out what it would be like to be a teacher"
"But you have a daughter....Hello????"
Two days after this strenuous back and forth of thoughts I fell sick.
I was bed ridden for two days with fever and terrible body ache. My fears were ramping up but I wasn't letting myself experience them.
Eventually I did what I always do. Talk to God.
"I surrender!" I told Him.
I was exhausted to try and decide what was the best thing for me so I asked Him to clear the way for the position that could impact my future and my life the most (not only here on earth but in the spirit world as well). I didn't care about money or brand. And I didn't care about having an appealing end to my sabbatical. I just wanted to be happy.
With that prayer in my heart I fell asleep and woke up the morning to find out that the cool automotive position was given to an ex-expat that was looking forward to coming back to USA.
I jumped out of bed. Typed a short and kind email to the manager congratulating the other candidate for his new job and rushed out of the house to join the professional development week that had already started in school.
Today is my 18th day as a school teacher. I am still broke, I might still lose my job in a few weeks and I have no idea how I am going to handle the thousand requests and expectations that lie ahead.
I feel as if I'm speeding at 100mph on a shaky bicycle on a bumpy road in the dark.
There are so many things I still don't know about the future, so many questions I don't have an answer for but one thing I know about the present: I am happy!
The gate is finally behind and a new playground is laid out in front of me for me to explore. As I take my first steps on this new land a permanent smile brightens my face and Aphraar's words play incessantly in my head:
"Come up higher. Rejoice with me, for I have found that which was lost".*
*The gate of Haven - R.J.Lees
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