I did not want the job I was invited to interview for. I’d been teaching at this particular Twin Cities public high school for almost two years — student teaching one fall, long-term subbing in the spring, interning full time the following year. It was great. But I was tired. I was all over the map in preparing different curriculum for the different subjects I was asked to teach, and getting burnt out from the late nights and weekends I was at the school stage managing or directing after-school speech and musical productions. It was invigorating and overwhelming. I knew my limits, and while I was happy the administrators wanted me, I knew that no one would benefit from a “not breathing” me. In my humble opinion, whoever took the job that the administrative team had posted was on the fast track for a nervous break down, or a very early retirement.
I had a long weekend to discern my application — my “yes” or “no” to interview. I was en route to Chicago when the invite came to apply and interview. I had just dropped off “Ayana” at her mother’s house. (Ayana, who had just qualified for State Speech and was the first student in the school’s history to make it that far in Speech competitions.) As her speech coach, I was ecstatic, but I was also very ready for a break and enthusiastic to hit the road and enjoy a long weekend away from my job and home. I wanted to relax. I was going to spend time with my cousin in the Windy City, maybe drink a beer or two, unwind in her downtown warehouse loft, and revel in the energy of another space and set of human stories. This is what I wanted to do. But then the call came.
For the next 48 hours, I basically breathed questions around my calling to teach at this school. I inhaled pros, exhaled cons. Details of my last two years in the classroom flooded my brain as information; images of joy and mental exhaustion filled my mind and informed my spirit.
I arrived in Chicago, after 6 hours of road trip weariness in thought and contemplation, with a resounding “NO” on my lips. I shared all of this with my cousin Jill.
She, the elder, wiser, more learned and seasoned English and theater teacher, advised me otherwise. “Just interview for the job, Melis. Get the position before you turn it down, or ask them to change the position.” I appreciated Jill’s advice, I took it in as wise counsel and went to bed for two nights with a greater sense of peace. On my third day, I rose in the morning unnerved by a vivid dream.
It was Sunday morning, and as my cousin and I were getting ready for mass, I relayed the dream.
“I was stuck in a closet. It was dark. I couldn’t find my way out. I didn’t know why I was there. I was searching for a door.”
My cousin responded, laughing, “Well, it’s not about this place! We have no closets in our condo.”
She was right. But it occurred to me: “What if it isn’t about my physical space, but where I am professionally? I feel trapped, and I’m looking for a way out?”
We laughed; we dressed and went to church.
I’ll never forget that Sunday. My cousin and I walked into Old St. Pat’s in Chicago, to a packed house, looking for a place to sit, feeling we must be very late. Was it the homily we walked into, or just a long pre-amble to the service, I wondered. The priest was on fire.
“You have to ask yourself why you are here!” Father exclaimed. He invited us to to tune into the gospel and apply its lessons to our current life situations. “When you go into work on Monday morning, you are going to ask yourself why you are there. Some of you may recognize it’s not a fit for you, and you are seeking a way out. You have to trust that God will open a door.”
I got goosebumps. Jill nudged me. “I think God is talking to you.”
Can you imagine what happens next?