August 3, 2016
I noticed the change in pressure on Sunday. I think the actual ear buzzing started to cease a couple days ago, but I didn't want to say anything for fear it would start right back up. It was at night, though, and I was laying in bed thinking "my ear is not cracking like it usually does at this time of night." At first, I thought it was temporary, you know, something that would start back up again as soon as I turned my head to the right. [Why? I don't know. The noise seemed to diminish whenever I turned my head to the right versus the left. I digress.] The next day, however, I noticed I wasn't sensing any buzzing sounds during the morning. By Monday, I had little to no cracking noises at all. Just an occasional crick-crack, but nothing steady. It is Wednesday, and I don't think there has been any real noise for two days now. Oh, blessed relief!
On top of that, my head -- my sinuses -- seem to be very happy this morning. I am not stuffy. I have no postnasal drip. I feel clear. Yes, in between my eyes and ears, I feel nothing. No pressure, no pain. I am relieved. Thank you, Arizona Monsoon, for your blessed pressure change!
My night passed without much fuss. I slept like a rock, I mean, a ROCK. After my interesting day yesterday, I think my stress-level topped itself out, and sometime late evening, my stress-o-meter reset itself down to 1. Today, I feel pretty good. Like GOOD. I know, I know. Good is one of those relative terms where its meaning is muddied and clouded by personal observation and interpretation. In my view, good simply means "well." I feel well. And, for that, I am thankful, really thankful. I know I share a lot of personal details on my blog. I talk about my woes, my health crises, and my psychological ups and downs. I am pretty transparent on this blog. I bare my soul, so to speak, and I describe my inner most thought processes with focused attention -- almost too much -- down to the microscopic level. Yet, I write what I feel. I write about my emotions, and in doing so, I find my balance. Some people exercise. They run. They workout. They climb mountains or race cars or surf. Some people meditate. I choose to write, and I write boldly and without fear of recrimination. Writing for me is my freedom. I think when I write. I express myself, and I reflect on my experiences as part of the process of coming to "know" my world better. When I write about my life, my personal journey, my hopes, my dreams, my experiences, I find that I am better able to distinguish between real and fantasy, between what is and what is not. I find clarity of mind, of purpose, of intent. Yes, writing is my mental exercise. It is my "high."
So, to say that my stress level has been reset, well, I mean that it seems that I hit the top mark and as a result, the stress-relief value toggled on. It is like the pressure simply vanished. It went "whoosh!" One moment it was pounding me down, rubbing me to the nub, and the next, it was turned off. My stress simply vanished. I am not sure why, and I really don't know how it happened, other than to say that yesterday seemed to be a key moment or a turning point for me. Let me explain...
If I am honest with myself (and I am), I would say that the downward slide to pressure relief began on Monday. I had placed a mental note on my calendar some time ago to remind me of a promise I believe the Lord gave to me. Yes, it was one of those fancy "word of knowledge" moments when I felt the Lord say to me, "Carol, write the words CONFIRMATION OF PLANS on the calendar." I wrote those words on August 1, thinking that perhaps some major life event was to occur on that day. After I wrote them down, I moved on to my daily to-do list, and well, I just forgot about it.
Monday came in quietly, and without much fanfare, the day seemed to naturally unfold like every other Monday this summer. I decided to take my Mom out for a day of shopping. With my Mom's dementia, it is getting more difficult to take her out for a day. My Dad needs a break, and I decided I need to get some shopping done, and since I had little else on my day planner, I figured it was a good day for Mom to tag along. Yes, my Mom does slow the process down. She walks slowly, cannot process details, and generally struggles with change. I have to tell her when we are leaving one store to go to another. Once she gets to the store, she remembers what we are supposed to do there. But, she is not able to make choices anymore, so she just looks at things, considers them. I have to help her decide. It is time-consuming, but I was determined to just get out of the house for a couple hours.
It was while we were at Kohls that I received a call from GCU telling me that they needed my biography to run along side my article. The confirmation that my article was going to be published for certain made my day. I knew it was submitted. I knew that the editor said there was room, but I didn't have the confirmation that it would be published until I received that call. I was blessed beyond measure, and I thought to myself, "I cannot believe this is really happening to me." I cannot believe that I am going to be published. Sure, this is a local university journal, but not all the articles published are from GCU faculty. No, not at all. They receive submissions from all sort of faculty around the US, so I was quite honored to be accepted for review. My heart leaped a bit at the thought, "I am a published author now. I am a real scholar."
Later that day, I started to think more about my life, about the plans I have made for myself, and the plans the Lord has for my life (as in overarching plans). I started to wonder about fall, about how I would see myself through another year as an adjunct instructor. I mean, I have been seeking full-time employment for the past two years. I have applied numerous times, to numerous schools, and in all, I have had little movement on any of those applications (well, other than "Thank you, but not interested.") I should say it has been only recently, within the past 8 months, that I have seen "movement" toward finding steady work.
Yes, starting back in January, I started to see interest in my resume. First it was Ohio Christian University. Then, in March it was Regent University. In April, it was Colorado Christian University. In July, it was Auburn University and Arizona State University. It seemed that this year, this particular year, the doors were opening for me. The kicker was that the schools where I found success were schools that needed adjunct and not full-time faculty. At first, I was put off by that thought, but after a time, I accepted the fact that perhaps I needed to remain adjunct for another year, just to wrap up my dissertation and defense at Regent. Still, the thought of another year without steady income panicked me greatly.
July was really the turning point for me. I had two interviews and a request for interview. I regretfully had to turn down the request to interview at Auburn simply because of logistics. I couldn't up and move across country for a position that was starting in less than a month. No, no, no. I did interview at UHC at the end of June, but that produced nothing. I then interviewed at ASU (yesterday), and while the outcome is unknown, the process was so very similar. I mean, it was like I walked through the motions of interviewing without feeling as if I was making any connection to the interviewer at all. The people I interviewed with were nice, don't get me wrong. They were very nice, cordial, and respectful. It was more like I was a "duck out of water," so to speak. I simply felt a disconnect between myself, my life, and the needs of the department hiring.
Really, two things struck me during the interview process. The first was that I was clearly cut out to be a professor. This came to me quickly when I was interviewing for the position at UHC. I realized mid-way through that interview that I was not meant to be an analyst. Well, not anymore. I can do the analysis, sure thing. It was more that this type of role would never fulfill me like teaching and scholarship does now. No, I realized that I was not meant to go that way. It was like I walked through the process in order to have my eyes opened to the fact that the path into business lay behind me, and not ahead of me. I have passed by that marker, and to walk that way, I would have to retreat, retrace my steps, and go backwards to a time when it was a good fit for me.
The second thing happened to me yesterday. While I was interviewing for a full-time position at our local school, I realized that my specialization in Communication made me the "odd man out" in English circles. I have known this for a while, a long while, and I have felt the long stares and glares of English departments that prefer instructors with Rhetoric backgrounds only. My experience teaching composition opens doors for me, but it is my education that sets me apart from others. I am not "trained in composition studies," and thus some schools simply do not want Literature instructors or Communication instructors to teach writing. I get it, I do. I had hoped that my choice of PhD wouldn't cause this distinction, but it has in some regard.
No, as I was sitting here at my home computer, having this conversation with the search committee, I realized that I am not going to find a good fit in a writing program. I am not going to fit into a department whereby the design of the curriculum is strictly on writing. For example, at Regent, the curriculum is culturally-relevant. The same is true at Ohio Christian, and to some extent, at GCU. There is a happy-medium in these programs, with an emphasis on academic writing mingled with real-world application. Furthermore, as I stressed my qualifications, I realized that I wasn't a good fit for this writing studio position. I am too independent, too culturally invested, too hopelessly student-centered. Yes, I am passionate about helping my students succeed. I am not staid. I am not so writing focused. I am about living first, and then writing your experience, second. In fact, to cite a familiar communications scholar whose work I greatly admire, there is great benefit to researching lived experience (Van Manen). More so, writing about lived experience is central to ethnography, one of my new found passions. Thus, I am all about writing when it comes to writing about lived, about personal, and about real experiences.
It was like I knew, really knew, right in the middle of that interview yesterday that my path was not 100% centered on traditional writing approaches. No, I am a communications scholar. I study rhetoric within the framework of communication, and I prefer to research in the historical/critical method. Yet, I enjoy other aspects of social science as well and of course, I still have a strong affinity for literary criticism and theory. In all, my interests pull me into narrower fields of study, along the lines of linguistics, language theory, and communication more than toward the confined discipline of writing studies.
I realized after the interview ended that I would not like the job. Don't get me wrong, a job is a job, and when it comes to paying the bills, any job is preferred over "NO JOB." I get it, I do. But, I also have this strong predilection for doing things my own way, for choosing the hard road over the soft one. Yes, I tend to go the "round about" way instead of choosing the more obvious, the more straightforward path.
For example, when I was looking at Masters programs, I seriously considered ASU's MA in Rhetoric and Composition. It is a well-regarded and excellent program. I liked the coursework, and I could see value in the outcome. Out of the box, I mean, I would be trained as a writing instructor. It would have been a straight shot, I mean, had that been what I wanted to do. Instead, I wanted to study Literature. I wanted to take a Masters that was similar to my undergraduate study at SJSU. I wanted to study Humanities or classics like I had before, and I had hoped that there would be a MA program out there that would work for me. And, there was. Mercy College had the right degree at the right time and it was a good fit for me. I didn't learn the writing process; no, not at all. Instead, I learned how to teach expository writing, writing reflection, writing personal narrative. I found my love, my niche, and my passion when it came to writing. In many ways, the course work was liberating to me. I unlearned habits and tendencies that had sidelined me in the past. I learned how to be a writer, a free writer, and how to begin to express myself through the written word.
Shortly after I finished my program at Mercy, I had to decide on a path to the PhD. I had looked at English programs again, and I didn't feel led to purpose a Literature degree. I did consider writing again, Rhetoric, and I looked at a number of programs in AZ and in Texas and VA. In the end, I felt the call to Regent, and I pursued that call. I found my "sweet spot" in this program, and I found my niche, really my niche.
Now, I am a composition instructor who doesn't have a composition background. I am a literature instructor without a PhD, and I am a communications PhD that doesn't teach communication courses regularly. What a messed up path to follow! But, as I said, I don't always take the straight path. No, I tend to take the side way, the byway, the meandering way.
So where does that leave me today? I think the answer is that I am right where the Lord wants me to be. I am right in His "sweet spot," so to speak. I am wholly dependent upon Him for my financial needs. I am wholly dependent upon Him for my dissertation, my defense, and my research (all of it). I am wholly dependent upon Him for my career progression. I cannot go where I want to go anymore. I cannot do the work I think will please me or suit me or fit me. No, I must relent. I must allow Him to move me, to show me, to grow me, and to challenge me. All of my assumptions have come to naught. I am where I am for a reason. I am content to remain where I am because it suits Him, it pleases Him, and it is His perfect fit for my life. Selah, it is done!
Now that I have come to terms with where I "fit" in the grand scheme of things, I realize that my work is very unique. I am called to pursue ministry, and that pursuit is single-minded, devoted to a cause, and driven by my desire to see His will be done in my life. In addition, I realize that the work I do, day in and day out, while not to be the focus of my life, is very important to me. More so, the work is very important to Him. This means that while I do not consider teaching as the fulfillment of His ministry call on my life, it is clearly part of that overall call. Teaching forms an important part of His calling, and as such, where I teach is just as important as what I teach. I get this now. I understand that I cannot just teach what I want. No, I have to teach certain course. But even more specifically, I have to teach courses that are culturally significant. Teaching academic writing is all good and well, and I am not knocking it. But, the Lord desires I teach in places where students are asked to consider the cultural implications of current events, lifestyle choices, and decisions that ultimately could influence their relationship with the Lord and with others. In short, I need to teach at Christian universities only. Furthermore, I need to teach at schools where there is no distinguishing line between English and Communications. I need to be placed in a school where rhetoric is understood to include both aspects of communication -- written as well as verbal.
What does this mean for me today?
In truth, it simply means that I am where He wants me to be for now. At the least, until I complete my defense. He may choose to open another door, but I am confident that I am right where I belong. In fact, I am so confident that I can say that in a matter of hours after I completed that interview, I had several smaller "confirmations" come to pass to give me this boldness, this assurance. First, I received word that my course at ACU is set to go. I am not sure how I will teach 5 students, but Lord willing, I will do it. Second, I found out that my courses at GCU include a larger section so I will be paid more money. Third, I found out that I have been assigned two sections to teach at Regent this fall. In all, my schedule is full. I will be teaching four campus courses along with two 8-week online classes. My income should be solid, consistent, and enough to cover me well through December.
Just an aside, after the call ended with my interview at ASU, I realized that their timeline to hire was going to be too close to the start of school for me to accept. I mean, I had already felt the twinge of guilt and regret in cancelling contracts. When they said that they were seeking to hire someone by the start of school, I really laughed. I mean, truthfully? Without any heads up, time to warm up? Sigh.
In truth, the Lord provided oodles of confirmation to me. In His way, the word I received several months ago has come to pass. August 1-2 proved to be a sure-fire confirmation of His plan for my life. I am right where He wants me to be. I will stay here until He moves me. End of story.
As I close out this blog post today, I am content. I am happy. I am a bit panicked, of course, but that is normal for me most days. I am not sure how I will do everything I need to do to finish at Regent. I am not sure how I will see my way through to the end. Yet, amidst some slight panic, there is this resolve, this peace that says to me, "I've got you covered." I know the Lord has me in His hand. He has my life ordered, my steps prepared, and frankly, if I submit to His will, the details will proceed without a hitch. Yes, I can be assured that His will is perfect, and it will come to pass as He decides, delights, and directs. He is good. I can trust Him this good, good day. Selah!