Friday, May 25, 2012

The Universe Conspires

NOTE: I didn't share this post until today (June 1) because my job offer was contingent on the background and reference checks that were completed this last week. But I got the OFFICIAL offer/acceptance last night and still couldn't be more excited! :) 

Those of you who have known me well in the last two or three years know that I have this weird thing about books. I happen to find and read books that have a very distinct parallel to a big decision or life event that I'm about to experience. A few years ago it was Eat, Pray, Love. Last year it was Happiness Project. (Story here) This year, this month, it was The Unlikely Disciple. I knew fairly early on in the book (which, like the other two, found me...I did not seek them out!) that I was going to be changed by reading it. However, I thought for sure that the book's impact on me would be in my faith journey. The Unlikely Disciple is about a Brown University student - journalism major, liberal, raised by Quakers. Kevin decides to take a semester to attend Jerry Falwell's "Bible Boot Camp" at Liberty University. He does this as a means to write a book about Evangelical Christians. Throughout the book, Kevin's own thoughts and beliefs are tested. He has put himself into a situation that challenges every ounce of his being and teaches him more about himself and the world around him than he ever expected.

I am about to put myself into a situation that will challenge every ounce of my being. And if I am so lucky, it will teach me more about myself and the world around me than I can even imagine. This morning I accepted the position of Resident Director for Appleton's A Better Chance Program. Before you go all, "Hold the phone!" or "Shut the front door!" on me...I am NOT leaving my Housing Partnership position. Take your sigh of relief and let's move on.

A Better Chance is a program that recruits incredibly talented and intelligent high school students from disadvantaged school systems and brings them to Appleton to live and go to school. There are 25 A Better Chance programs throughout the country, and Appleton is unique in that is not a prep school or boarding school. The students live in a house owned by and located on Lawrence University's campus. They have a cook that comes in every day to make dinner and tutors that work with them every night. And they have a Resident Director. Basically, I am going to be something between the House Mom and House Big Sister for 3-8 high school boys.

I am taking a position that is going to give me the opportunity to mentor a group of high school students. I'm going to be their sounding board, mediator, disciplinarian, and hopefully...their friend. I remember high school fairly fondly. Although the last two months of my senior year were some of the worst that I've experienced in my life, when I look back at those four years I have a lot of amazing memories. I went to see Titanic at Appleton North earlier this year, and I had to hold back tears while they did the curtain call. My memories of high school theatre still bring me to tears. The camaraderie and family that I had with my peers in theatre is unmatched anywhere else. And I have a feeling that students who participate in sports know that feeling. I remember spending weeknights studying and doing homework at Copper between conversation, of course. I remember weekends that blur together, full of all sorts of adventures. I may not have ended high school in a happy place, but those four years were amazing. And now I get to watch a group of boys go through them. I get to be there for the amazing memories, the late night studying, and the rough moments. To say that I am honored to have this position is an understatement.

But I'm also scared. These are teenage boys! Most of them will be new to the school, to Appleton, to Wisconsin. And it is on me to help them adjust and make good choices in their first few weeks of school. Choices that will likely determine their success for the school year and in the program. I always talk about wanting to be a mom. Well, here's my chance. I'm skipping quite a few steps and years, but I'm about to take these boys under my wings and hope for the best.

The thing about this whole situation that gets me the most is that it all happened in a matter of 4 days. I saw the posting on Tuesday, sent an email to the director, got a call Tuesday afternoon to schedule a Thursday evening interview, and was offered the position this morning. Talk about a whirlwind! But when something feels this good, and this just know. This is where my life is taking me. And while it requires some major changes, I am very excited to see how the year unfolds.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Best Me

"Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. 
Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. 
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. 
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. 
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy."
- Max Ehrmannz
I printed this out and have it folded up in my purse. It will always be with me.

I've received some great advice lately. While the circumstances that have brought this advice to me are unique to me, I think the advice is sound and can be helpful to many people.

Here is what I've been doing lately:
- Thinking/writing about the changes that have occurred in my life in the last few years that I don't have any control over. How can I be ok with that?
- Thinking/writing about my personality type, what it means, and how I can be ok with it.
- Intentionally spend time alone. Notice how I feel.
- Focus on moving towards an internal locus of control (vs external). In other words, stop personalizing every little thing.
- Take risks and step outside my comfort zone.

I'm not where I thought I would be at this point in my life. I'm not in a comfortable place. But I am starting to feel like I am right where I am supposed to be. I said at the beginning of 2012 that this would be the year that my character gets tested, and I would need to stick to the things I learned about myself in 2011. Well, so far that has absolutely been the case. And although it was a rough start, I am feeling like things will come together, just as they're meant to.

So here I am. I'm working on becoming the best me possible.  I like to think I'm already a pretty good person, and in general, I do know who I am and what I want. The things that I'm working on have a much greater affect on me than those around me. Over thinking and over analyzing things hurts me more than others. Taking things too personally hurts me more than others. Those are the things I need to change to become the best me possible. For me.