Monday, July 17, 2006

did i do right?


This job at USC, putting together the national interfaith conference, seemed like such a great opportunity. I'd get to keep working with the students I love, and I'd make some money, and I'd have a very cool thing to put on my resume.

But they just couldn't get me hired. They couldn't work out how to do it through USC. So for several weeks they fought the system. Then it finally came down that I'd have to go through a temp agency. So I went and signed up and did a mound of paperwork and a background check and all the hoopla.

Through all this I've been praying for guidance. I've felt on one hand unsure about going forward with the job, because it sets me back another year for graduating (because I have a 9-month internship at a church to fulfill, and I can't do both that and the job and school full-time). But I felt a lot of loyalty to USC and we need the money. And when I met up with my mentor after she'd been away 6 weeks, I felt really good about working with her again.

So I did all the temp agency stuff, and then randomly Friday night I got a call from my friends at 'SC saying the temp agency declined me. I couldn't find out why until this morning, when I called and they said they couldn't tell me why, "by law." My best guess is that I had a worker's comp claim back a few years ago when I worked for 'SC. Now it is illegal for them to deny me employment because I've used worker's comp, so that's why I figure they won't tell me the reason. But there is absolutely no other possible reason. So I'm a victim of ugly circumstances.

Or another way to think of it is that perhaps my gut telling me all along to stick with school has been correct. Maybe I was pushing to hard for this other thing, and God is sending the sign I was asking for.

Anyway, Friday night at the same time I was getting the call about the denial, I was sent an email by a priest friend at a very prominent Episcopal church. I haven't talked to her in ages and we've never specifically discussed working together. But she said she'd thought of me in her prayers, and she asked me if I'd like to do an internship with her.

Now if that's not a sign I really don't know what is.

I mean, I didn't even ask. She randomly offered. And it came out of her prayers, out of the Spirit prompting her. And I've been praying for God to guide me to the right thing, every day praying this. And there really couldn't be a clearer door slamming than "we can't tell you why, we just won't hire you."

So why do I feel so bad?

Well, I talked to mentor this morning, and she was thrilled with my internship prospect. To her, this is a seriously important offer and one that will stand me in very good stead for my career and ordination process. I felt great after that conversation.

Then I got a call from the head of the office at USC, and she had been working all morning on an alternative way to hire me, and had found a couple ways (one is another temp agency that the first temp agency said "probably won't have a problem hiring her"; the other is just saying I'm an independent consultant even though I'm not technically independent because they're giving me all my direction). I told her a bit about the events of the last few days and how I really felt guided towards this other option. She said, "So you just want to pull out?" And I said yes.

She is the kind of person who is very much all business and basically once I said that she ended the conversation. And really that is fine and appropriate. Why waste any time with me? But now I do feel bad. I feel like they put all this work into me and I dropped the ball. But I didn't - I really tried, and they did too, and the doors were just slamming all over the place. It just seemed not destined to be. But I hate talking like that to "normal" people because it sounds so superstitious. Of course she's a rabbi and she gets the whole God guidance thing. But I still feel icky. She certainly wasn't mean or anything, nor rude or short. She simply could tell it was over and that was that. I desperately hope I didn't leave on bad terms.

Anyway, how does this look to the impartial observer? I'm trying not to worry about it but I do feel quite badly, because they were ready to try anything to get me and I cut it short. When we can't pay for groceries in a few months (or more likely, gas), will I regret this? When I am trying to get a chaplain job and I want her recommendation...? When I am killing myself to finish "on time" because I'm anal...

I don't know. I don't feel great about it anymore. I did at one point. It seemed so clear. Now I'm muddled again. God, it had been a long time since something seemed that clear. It was great for a moment.


Marshall Scott said...

You're overthinking. Where was your commitment? To the USC job, or to the mentor who might have the job? In fact at the time you made your decision you made it on the basis of the best information you had: that you would be, at least for the temp agency, an "uncceptable" candidate. So, you dropped what seemed a sure loss, and accepted what seemed a sure gain. Moreover, you had no certainty that the other efforts they might make would have worked any better than the former.

In the meantime, you had the opportunity to pray yourself, and to hear a call that seemed in itself rooted in prayer - a call that would give you professional grounding in the ministry and the church to which you feel called. You have a sense of God talking to you, and you feel guilty about answering?

No? Then, what do you feel guilty about? Because, Beloved, that seems to be the question.

JTB said...

I get it. Always, in the back of my mind, is the conviction that I can take on any task, every opportunity offered, if only I dedicate a little more time and effort...and therefore I'm obligated to take it on and go for it and not doing so is somehow wimping out. Mutually exclusive obligations just tear me up, because I struggle like the dickens to figure how to make them compatible rather than simply recognize that one or the other isn't doable.

You're not wimping out. And neither am I, when I take the summer off from dissertation work to learn how to be a mom.

Maybe think of stepping back from the USC job as a way of making room for someone else to answer God's call to that responsibility. And maybe keep in mind too that answering God's call isn't always unambiguously joyous (some of those OT prophets really agonized...)

I feel a little preachy, which makes me uncomfortable. Maybe I just should have written "don't feel bad."

Stasi said...

No, thank you! What you said is wonderful!

Delia Christina said...

don't feel bad.
i'm thinking about this in two ways, the Office Wench way and the ChurchGal way.

Office Wench says this is just how business goes - potential employers are scared to death of even the whisper of litigation (even temp agencies). so to minimize risk as much as possible they usually take the road well-traveled and say no to anything resembling risk while not exposing themselves to litigation because they called someone a risk. (get it?)

on the other hand, another opportunity presented itself that was advantageous to you and you took it. this was a wise decision.

ChurchGal thinks - always follow your gut (intuition, Spirit, discernment, whatever.) i've been on enough interviews while wondering, ok jesus - what the hell now? and, sure enough, while i'm pragmatic enough to consider all opportunities, i always know that if i'm truly discerning of the Spirit (and open to what God's will in my life is), then i'll be where i'll be.

and are you feeling 'guilty' about the lost opportunity or disappointing the USC contact? or are the feelings sort of hurt-y that the agency declined and that the USC contact might not think well of you? if it's any of these things, it's totally natural (we always want people to like us) but there's nothing wrong with looking out for our well-being first.