This is the reason people hate blogs: I’m getting ready to talk about myself, and no one even asked me to.
Sometimes we go through these spectacular seasons, like living in the land of Mardi Gras, having daily coffees and margaritas and bagels and shrimps and po-boys; becoming a scholar, trained by all the best trauma & Disaster Mental Health people around— even if they don’t actually lecture you, but start out their year on sabbatical, which leaves you staring at theories of attachment slides from the 60s, but whatever. You stumble upon an accidentally perfect international project to culminate your learning experience, and it happens to be in Belize, your fave, with all your favorite people, and you are sort of forging the way for this kind of work there, and you feel a tiny bit like floating because the project was executed so flawlessly with such a kind and encouraging supervisor. And you come home to a two-week graduation festival/margarita marathon with free dinners and parties and regalia and sleepovers, and you walk away from New Orleans with a diploma in one hand and a certificate in the other hand—I mean, so what if you ran to the LBC for your big congratulatory reception through the rain to find four stale pieces of cheese and two hundred confused family members? (Tulane was sorry, they dropped the ball: would your family consider coming back for another reception? We promise cookies this time.) It doesn’t even phase you. Your family’s there, your best friend is on your one side, and your boyfriend is looped through the other arm, and two weeks later, at the top of the Hancock building in Chicago, at dusk, in the snow, he proposes. Seriously. A spectacular season. It doesn’t get any better.
Then you come home and move into your dad’s attic. Although, to be fair, he did clear out a lot of drawers and squares of closet space to be the most accommodating. And you’re not actually living in the attic. All your stuff is up there, but you have a nice cozy bedroom on the main level. You start the job search. You! The best most awesomely trained Master Social Worker with the best resume in the world, straight out of New Orleans with your shiny new diploma and your new fiancé and your new city—Madison WI, of course, which you prayed and prayed and prayed God would help you love. And he did. You love it. So you start applying. The first place contacted you way back in Belize, so you go though two rounds of interviews with seven board members, including an hour-and-a-half role-play while they watch you through a two-way mirror, and they say, “We’ll let you know by the end of the week.” Two months have passed.
You apply for more jobs—part time, full time, lots of types, lots of interviews, lots of blasted role-play, lots of promising contacts, lots of people affirming your resume and experience despite your age, which is great because your smile is getting a little droopy, and you’re starting to wonder if Tulane lied to you. But nothing materializes.
So you go home. Or, really you feel like you leave your new home to go back to Indianapolis: land of boring familiarity with grey winters and no fiancé (not to mention a super bowl loss to your OTHER city), but a curious job opportunity. You didn’t apply for it. It found you. Before you know it, you’re sitting in a second-round interview with an unexpected chance to be the Social Worker at a level 1 trauma center, and the option to pick up shifts at the children’s hospital you always wanted to work for. It’s a dream. EXCEPT IT’S IN THE WRONG CITY! You’re like, “Hello, God? Remember that part about how I’m supposed to be in Madison? Wrong hospital. Call Meriter or UW or something. If I’m good here, I’ll be good there, too.” God’s plugging his hears & humming like, “I can’t heeeaaaaarrrrr youuuu….”
In the meantime, fiancé gets an opportunity to go to Haiti with an international organization and a team of PTs. Your joint dream has always been to find a way do these types of things together! This is perfect. The two of you put together a proposal explaining the need for a Disaster Mental Health worker on the team and list your skills. The agency, to your surprise, believes you, and they schedule an interview for the next morning at 11am. The hospital agrees to give you the six weeks off to go. You wink at God and say, “Okay. Okay God, I get it. Yep, this is it. This is better. We must be supposed to go to Haiti.”
You and fiancé spend the weekend weighing out the costs, benefits, problems and solutions of leaving for 6 weeks before a wedding in 4 months. You don’t really trust yourself making huge, life-altering decisions, so you’ve been praying all along that God will only open the door you’re supposed to walk through, and so far you haven’t had to make a decision. So, in the same way, you promise that if the Haiti door opens, you’ll walk though it. But if it doesn’t, you’ll trust the provision.
The door doesn’t open. You glare at God.
You’re disappointed for you, and for fiancé. You realize with the Haiti door closed, and the Madison door closed, you’re back to the attic. (Which is fine, there’s nothing wrong with dad’s attic, if he’s reading this. You have lots of food here and free laundry and water aerobics on Wednesday nights!) But you feel exhausted from stacking up every possible opportunity and then starting to build a life around each option, attempting to get a head start on every possible thing. On top of that, you did hot yoga and almost died. You really feel, physically and metaphorically, like every single thing in entire world is flowing in the opposite current you’re trying to walk through.
You don’t understand why God isn’t helping. You thought you were clear with your order. Obviously God didn’t write it down when he was at your table…
Then you read this, by Donald Miller (A Million Miles in a Thousand Years):
A while back I was working on a novel about a performance artist-turned-ecoterrorist. I never published it because, well, it was about a performance artist-turned-ecoterrorist, and I couldn’t exactly find a market for the story.
I’d get up every morning and make my coffee and toast, I’d put my laptop in a backpack, and then I’d walk… I’d create my stories while I walked, thinking about what I wanted my characters to do, what I wanted them to say, and how I wanted them to throw headlong into whatever scene was coming next. By the time I got to my desk, I’d had plenty of time to plan whatever was coming in the book.
But stories are only partly told by writers. They are also told by the characters themselves. Any writer will tell you characters do what they want. If I wanted my character to advance the plot by confronting another character, the character wouldn’t necessarily obey me. I’d put my fingers on the keyboard, but my character, who was supposed to go to Kansas, would end up in Mexico, sitting on a beach drinking a margarita. I’d delete whatever dumb thing the character did and start over, only to have him grab the pen again and start talking nonsense to some girl in a bikini.
And as I worked on the novel, as my character did what he wanted and ruined my story, it reminded me of life in certain ways. I mean, as I sat there in my office making my worlds, and as my characters fought to have their way, I could identify with them. I was also that character fighting God, and I could see God sitting at his computer, staring blankly at his screen as I asked him to write in some money and some sex and some comfort [and some job in some city].”
Maybe I’m the ecoterrorist in Mexico. Who knows.
But I accepted the job at the hospital. Translation: I accepted three more months away from fiancé and the nights & weekend shift. I’m closing both eyes and crossing my fingers that a loving author is writing something perfect for the two of us…