June 10, 2016

Maybe Change, Maybe Not

It is a good day today. It is Friday, and I am feeling better than I have in a long while. My back aches, but that is pretty much par for the course. I am not tired, PTL! I feel refreshed, and I feel a bit more energized to tackle some projects and other important work today. It is weird how one day you can feel so "meh," and then the next, you feel like you are ready to take on the world again. Yesterday, I was feeling rather low, down, and as though, my life was stuck in neutral. The engine was revving, but I wasn't moving forward at all. I was just spinning my wheels. Today, I feel better, still not 100% ready to tackle everything, but so much more like I did earlier in the spring. I feel rejuvenated, and that is a good thing.

It is a lovely day here in Phoenix. It looks like another hot summer day, but I am thankful to be indoors WITH AC that actually works. Yes, whatever the repairman did last week seems to have solved our problem. So far the inside temperature has stayed consistently at 77 degrees. Blessed, so very blessed.

It is funny how times change, how things shift a bit left or right, and you just feel better. You may not be like me, but I tend to change things up whenever I feel bored or depressed. It is not uncommon for me to reorganize my desk or clean my closet just so I get a boost of "Ah!" I need to feel that momentum that pushes me through and says to me, "You've got this, Carol! You can do this work!" There are times when I will just clear my desk in order to get my mind to refocus on my tasks. I do my best to stay on top of all my work, but sometimes with delays and false-starts, I lose that sense of accomplishment. I need to get it back, to start feeling like I can overcome, I can achieve again. Once I recover that sense of "I can do it," then I seem to feel empowered, good, and able to do most anything.

This is how I feel today. It is such a good feeling. I was so down yesterday. I don't mean like deeply depressed or anything of the sort. I wasn't in a foul mood or walking around with a little rain cloud over my head. It was more like I was in a funk. I felt so helpless, so unable to function. I was struggling just to make it through the day. I was bored. I was empty handed, and I felt so lost, so really lost. Let me explain...

A False Start Brings a New Hope

So yesterday, I was blogging about how I am 100% dependent on the Lord for everything (I am, this is true!) I have relinquished my decisions to Him because I want to make good choices from this point forward. Actually, I gave over my need to be in control some 10 years ago, but it has not been easy to let things go. I have had to learn how to be submissive, and with my personality type (INTJ), that doesn't always come easily to me. I have some authority issues, nothing major mind you, just a bit of struggle when it comes to following -- when -- I am concerned about the integrity and honor of the person who I must follow. I don't always go willingly, and I tend to "reserve" judgement so that if that person disappoints me, I can easily walk away. It is like, "Okay, I will follow you, but if you slip up or do something I do not like, then I reserve the right to walk away." I have always been like this, even as a child. I think it is, again, part of my personality. I am judgemental as a rule. I analyze, I scrutinize, and rationalize everything. I must see proof that things are as they are stated before I will buy into them. I am careful, almost to a fault, and I don't trust easily. However, once you have won my loyalty, I will be loyal until the end, through "thick and thin." You will not find a more stable, steady, and solid companion.

I would say that this entire week has been "off" for me. Okay, let's go back an entire month because I think this is more accurate and a fair assessment of my life. School ended at GCU in April. I started May with a bang, meaning I was bent on proposing my dissertation project by the end of the month. I worked so diligently, faithfully, but in the end, my project got sidelined due to my chair's overworked and overbooked schedule. I had to wait. I was desperate for some feedback, and I thought "If I don't hear back, I will not be able to work on my project this summer. What will I do then?" In true form, I didn't hear back until I pushed it with him, and then I ended up with my answer -- ON HOLD. Okay, I can deal with being on hold. I had a contingency plan setup just in case this turned out to happen to me. My colleague, Kelly, felt the same way, and she is "on hold" too.

I thought to myself, "How will I make it through this summer if I don't have any work to do?" By "make it through," I mean keep myself active and not "survive" (just to be clear). I need work. I need to be busy. I don't do "down time well" unless I am sick or on vacation (short-term). At first, I was upset that my chair put my proposal off, then after a time of cooling down, I realized it was for the best. My proposal was a first draft, and while I think it is a good start, I know it could be better quality. I am aware of its faults, so in truth, it is good that I will have more time to work on it. Second, putting off my defense simply gives me a bit more time to work on the quality, and I want to pass my defense so I am okay with the delay. Last, I love my chair (as in deeply respect him), and if he is overworked, then I want him to have some leeway with my case. I am not pressuring him to take me on, to put me to the top of the pile. I am okay with giving him his space. He is a God-honoring man, a good professor, and a strong supporter of all the students at Regent. I have no issues waiting for him to catch his breath. It is a good thing, a God thing.

But, with no work on the horizon, all I could see was two months of wasted time. Then I received a contract to teach online at OCU. Hooray! I was so happy. This meant I would have some extra income to push me through to fall. Then came the contract from GCU for a 7-week summer class and I thought I had hit the jackpot. But that class was a no-go from the beginning, and it just didn't pan out. It was "off" from the first, and while I was thankful for the opportunity to teach, I realized right after the start that I was so "over" teaching English 1. I cannot really tell you what happened, but perhaps it was the curriculum (which I loathe) or the fact that the class was high school and accelerated, I just don't know. All I can say is that I was depressed from the start. I didn't want to teach the class. I wanted the money, for sure, but I didn't want to work to earn the money. Something was wrong. Something was really wrong.

Thinking Clearly

All of this is to say that I had an epiphany of sorts. Yesterday, I was praying over my situation. I was trusting the Lord, resting in Him alone, and letting Him lead me, guide me, and provide for me. I was feeling sullen, sort of like "what's the point," when I felt the Lord move me to apply for a corporate job. I say corporate job only to distinguish it from my current search for an academic position. I have been seeking full-time work for over three years now. All I have had is temporary short-term contracts. It has been okay to work part-time, and I credit the part-time work as helping me achieve my goal of a perfect 4.0 GPA throughout my doctoral program. However, with part-time work comes high credit card debt and the uncertainty of "surviving long-term." I know the Lord has me covered because over the past six years, since my separation and divorce, my bank account has never run dry. I have gotten close to the bottom, but never once have I defaulted or ended up short at the end of the month. He has provided for me, and I have survived all these many years on next to nothing, income-wise. Now, I am no longer a doctoral student. I have no classes to take anymore. I am a candidate, ABD, and ready to finish my PhD degree. I am able to work full-time. I can work full-time, but there have been no positions open up for me. I have applied numerous places this year alone, even at places where I was known personally, and nothing has materialized. Nothing has opened for me. Hence, the lack of "movement" is one of the reasons why I feel stuck in this "neutral zone." I see the great need, I see the future looming ahead of me, yet I cannot do anything about it. I cannot move forward to help work toward resolving my problem, and well, that really bugs me.

I've blogged about my situation ad nausea, and frankly, I am tired of thinking about it. Everyone who comes close to me knows I need a job. My Dad reminds me of it, and my bank account as I mentioned, looks sad and lonely. I need work. Plus, I need to make plans for my future. I have to get moving toward my future retirement, and the longer I tarry here in "no man's land," the more my future looks bleak and not very accommodating for me. But, what can I do about it? I mean, ever since I moved into higher education, I have been on this path to find a full-time faculty position. I have tried my best, and while I have not given up entirely, there is part of me that wonders if the time has come to "read the writing on the wall." I mean, I need to work. How much longer can I wait for the "perfect job" to come to me?

I certainly don't plan to run off "willy nilly" and start applying for any kind of work. Not just yet, that is. I am looking for work in my field, and that means that I am willing to do any work that aligns somewhat with my experience, whether as a teacher or a corporate communications specialist or analyst or the like. I need a good job. I need a decent salary. I am tired of being poor. I am tired of standing still. Of course, the Lord leads. He is the one who guides me, and ultimately, He is the one who will provide for me. But I wonder about it, just the same. Have I stayed too long in this field only to see the result of my effort return void? Am I to consider that my time in higher education was simply temporary, a short-term measure to enable me to complete my education with less stress and more ease? Perhaps, the answer is yes and yes. I don't know. What I do know is that yesterday I applied for a corporate communications position with a good company. I applied for a job that I am qualified to receive, and I am being considered (screened) at the moment. If this position comes to pass, I will have my answer. If not, then I will remain faithful to His will, and that means, I will continue to wait for His provision.

The positive thing in this whole process is that just applying for this job has given me that "oomph," I have needed. Furthermore, the thought of working full-time in a position that pays a living wage encourages me so greatly that I cannot even tell you how I feel. I am happy. I am relieved. The thought of teaching another semester has been so depressing to me. Don't get me wrong here, I love teaching. I love working with students, helping them, mentoring them. It is just that I need to move on. I need to work in a job that pays me well. I cannot, no matter how much I love the work, sacrifice my life, my welfare, my son's welfare, simply to appease my sense of "happiness." No, I have to look at the obvious. I have to recognize that while I love teaching, and no doubt, I always will, for now I don't see any hope of a job materializing soon. It might come later, down the road, in four-five years. I just cannot devote that time to the pursuit. I have to make money now. I have bills to pay, student loans coming due, and the practical thing says "Think and go this way."

I struggle with making this decision, to move away from higher education and to begin to seek, in earnest a corporate position. However, part of me says, "This is the right way to go." Another part wonders if I am choosing this path out of fear or doubt of the Lord's provision. But, then again, I am also pragmatic (which means, "dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations"). I've blogged about this before, many times, how my practical and sensible side says to me, "This is the right way to go," but my other side, the emotional side, says "Wait a while and see what happens." I am so fearful of making a huge mistake. I don't want to do what I did in 2013. I don't want to have to go through that all over again. UGH!

You see, back in 2013, when I started at GCU, I couldn't handle the low pay (hourly wage) associated with working as a part-time instructional assistant. It was a God-thing the way the Lord opened the door for me, and I knew it. But, after two months of no income, I panicked, and I looked for another job. I found one, was hired immediately (at a much higher salary), and started working for a good company. I lasted all of 31 days. Yes, I did the unthinkable. I ran tail as fast as I could back to GCU. It was a horrible mistake. In truth, it wasn't a mistake at all. It was just an error in judgement. I was given two opportunities -- one to transition to teaching and one to move into a business analyst role. I tried both, and in the end, went back to teaching because I felt I hadn't given it enough time. I should have waited the semester out. I should have just waited until December before making my decision. I wasn't honest with the employer, and I knew it. I wasn't happy in the job. Perhaps in time it would have worked out. Or the Lord may have used that job to spring board me to another position. I will never know. I just know I made the choice to go back to GCU, and since that time, I have been afraid, literally afraid to go any where else (back in business, I mean). I have taken secondary contract jobs, but I have been afraid to leave higher education for fear the same thing will happen again. I will goof up, and never be able to live the shame and humiliation down.

Making Mistakes is Part of Life

In hindsight, I can see how my fear of making mistakes has crippled me in some respects. I can remember having a conversation with the Lord about this very matter. It was back in 2012. I had started working at CVS Caremark, and things weren't going well there (as a company). I was panicked about my situation, and with my looming doctoral program, I was fearful that I could do both (work and school). I remember discussing my fear with the Lord, and I recall the Lord asking me about making decisions. I remember the conversation clearly. I said that I didn't think I could make good decisions because of my failed track record (thinking about my marriage, for example). I was recalling all the mistakes I had made, financial ones mostly, and how I was scared of making those kinds of errors again. I recall the Lord saying He would help me, guide me in making good choices. I trusted Him then, but I remember saying to Him that I wanted Him to make all the decisions for me. I didn't trust myself, but I trusted Him.

As I think about this now, I realize that my fear of failure is a driving motivating force in my life. I am absolutely panicked over making mistakes that could be life shattering. I don't ever want to fail. This is why I am driven to achieve. I am driven to succeed because I cannot handle failure. I will do whatever it takes to keep from failing, and when I see the writing on the wall, I will pick up and move in order to avoid having to deal with the end of things. Yes, I have this deep desire to succeed, and it at times, consumes me. I must be busy. I must work. I must achieve. I must accomplish tasks, goals, anything in order to feel validated, good, and as though I matter. Achievement and failure are twin components of my psyche, my identity. As a Christ-follower, this is wrong. My identity is firmly rooted in Christ alone, therefore, no matter what I achieve (or don't) in this life is immaterial to that point. I think this is why the Lord has consistently said to me that the job I do is immaterial to His work. It doesn't matter whether I teach or I work in business, so long as I do honorable, good, and faithful work. He will provide for me.

John Wooten once said, "If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes." I agree with his advice. I think making mistakes is part of the learning process. I tell my students that to make mistakes simply helps you see how to improve, how to become better at something. We must overcome mistakes in order to find success. It is a key component of success. Therefore, to avoid mistakes is as Wooten says -- demonstrates inactivity. 

I know that this is my problem, probably one of my deepest problems (psychological). I have chosen a path that is safe in order to avoid failure. I have chosen a path that was a good fit, temporarily, but that long-term isn't the most practical. Yet, in order to avoid making mistakes, I have stayed where I am so that I could do excellent work at school, achieve high honor, and succeed academically. Do I fault my choice of profession? Not really. I have had a wonderful experience teaching, and I have loved every single moment of my PhD program. It is just now that I really would like to do something other than teach English Composition for the rest of my life. I would like to do more, that is all.

I know that doesn't seem like earth-shattering news, but to me, it is news that has been hidden for a very long time. I think I am ready to move on. I think I am ready to do something different. I think I am ready to explore new options for my life. I would like to go places, do things, see things, and generally begin to work toward building wealth and success. I know the Lord will guide me and provide for me. I know He will lead me to the company that would be open to hiring me. If He chooses to keep me in higher education, then so be it. He has a plan, and it is a good one. If, however, He chooses to move me elsewhere, then so be it as well. He has a plan that accomplishes His purpose, and I am content (or will be content) in whatever outcome He chooses for me. It is good, He is good. It is done. Selah!

Moving On and Taking Hold

I am ready to move on. I am ready to explore new opportunities as the Lord leads. I am ready to go where He sends me, do the work He has prepared for me to do, and live wherever He provides a good life for me.

The Lord knows my needs. He knows my frailty. He knows what I can and cannot do. I am trusting Him today to show me the way to go, and I believe He will provide for me. He will show me. He is good to me. He loves me, He cares for me, and He knows me so well. I let go of this whole process now. I am no longer holding onto the idea that says I must be this or that thing. No, the job is inconsequential to me. It is immaterial. I need good practical work, that is all. I need a job that will provide a decent income, a good salary, and a way that will make it possible for me to build a good life for me and for my son.

Dear Lord,

I am ready to embrace these next steps. You have a good plan, and I am trusting in that good plan. I believe you will provide a job that will suit me, my skills, and fulfill your will for me. I let you bring me this job. I accept whatever provision you have for me, and I will faithfully go and do this work. I trust you to do this now, and I ask that you provide a good practical job for me. I will go wherever this job is located, live in whatever city you determine is best, and I will apply myself to study, to learning, to becoming the best worker I can while you have me in this position. I believe that there is a job for me. I believe that you have a way out of my situation. I believe that your provision is perfect. I will trust you. I will rest in your ability today. Thank you for what you have done thus far, and thank you for what you will do this good day. I ask all this now in Jesus' name, Amen.

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