Saturday, January 27, 2018

Failure and Success

One of my favorite Catholic speakers/talk radio hosts, Jennifer Fulwiler, has talked about how as a society, we need to learn how to embrace failure. She said that we get so wrapped up being afraid of failure that we try avoiding it at all costs. She gave her listeners a goal for 2018 to learn to embrace failure. She also cited the now-viral video from Will Smith about the importance of failure in our daily lives. 

Think about it—what is your connotation of failure? To me, failure equates to a bleak future. It makes me uncomfortable. I hate it. But I’m trying to change my mental perception of it. 

This year, I’m working on being more transparent and breaking down stigmas, so in that spirit, I’m going to share a story of how failure was a good thing for me and my life.

Let’s take a step back to this time last year...that seems like an eternity ago! I was still engaged and in a long-distance relationship with Thomas. I was a heap of anxiety. I was worried about the wedding, moving to Texas right after the wedding, and about aspects of my work (looking at you, state testing!), but most of all, I was worried about finding a new job for after the wedding. 

I applied to many places, but didn’t have a lot of success. It was frustrating, but I moved on with life. I was okay until the day that I received a hard rejection from the school that I really thought would hire me. I made a solid connection with the interview panel, I liked their benefits package, and most of all, it felt right. When I received that email at the end of my planning period that day, telling me that they went with someone who was more qualified, I felt like I had been shot in the gut. I was inconsolable. I knew that I had failed. 

This failure brought me to what I now realize was an awful anxiety attack. I felt hopeless for my job prospects, my ability to actually be a teacher, but most of all for my future marriage and my ability to contribute to our financial success/future. I couldn’t understand—I prayed on it constantly, I painstakingly edited my resume and cover letters for each interview, and nothing seemed to be going right. I was at the end of my rope. 

Everyone in my life did a good job of trying to help me, saying things like, “God’s got a plan” “Things happen for a reason” “It’s not the end of the world” “Something better will come along”. Those sentiments were nice (and very well-intentioned), but were of no help to my anxious, depressed self. One of the more helpful things that happened in this time was that my brother-in-law gave me a book to read. (How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie) While I didn’t ever quite finish the book, it did immediately provide me with some incredible tips on how to effectively manage my anxiety. 

Soon enough, I received my opportunity to work. I was connected to one of the homeschooling families with whom I now work. The pay wasn’t stellar, but it was something to keep my skills up. Better yet, it sounded like a nice break from the chaos that naturally comes with teaching in a classroom setting. 

The job was (and still is) nice. I love working with these girls, and I feel as though I’m a better teacher for it. After being frustrated about wanting more hours and more pay, God gave me more opportunities to expand to 2 more families and the tutoring center. 

As it turns out, the flexibility in my schedule was a blessing for many reasons. First, it allowed me to get settled and establish myself as a Texan with a new last name. Heaven knows that was enough of a task! Second, it allowed me to be present and help Thomas and his family with various things. Most of all, I had the freedom to establish friendships, to learn the city, and to just acclimate to married life in general. 

Life is really good now. I still get anxious, but I’ve learned better coping mechanisms. I’ve learned to be more open with myself and with those around me, although that can still be a struggle. I’ve learned that I’m not the only one who feels this way at times, which is incredibly comforting, believe it or not. Most of all, I’ve learned that God is very good and faithful, and He provides for us in ways better than we can imagine. He also works in mysterious ways...

Imagine my shock when I received a call on Monday from my mother-in-law, telling me that the very school that turned me down last year (where she happens to work in the business office), had an immediate opening for a high school math teacher. The principal emailed her, asking about me and if I’d be interested in talking with them again. Then, I received an email asking if I could come in the next day, Tuesday, for an interview. The interview committee still remembered me and had my old resume with my maiden name and Oklahoma address plastered at the top of it. Once again, we got along smashingly.

Wednesday at 12:30, the principal called, asking if I could be there at 2:30 that day to teach a sample lesson for the interview committee. She gave me the topic which, as it turned out, was one that I already had a lesson plan written on from my last 2 years of teaching. It was all waiting for me in a binder in a closet at my apartment. I grabbed it, and any other relevant lessons, and sped away to my interview. I had no time to talk through it start to finish beforehand, but had a rough outline in my mind. I was terrified of the outcome.

Despite a plethora of distractions once I taught the lesson (including an intercom call for a lady on the interview committee to get to that classroom, another teacher popping in to ask a question, and an alarm going off on my phone), they were blown away by my lesson and how smoothly I responded to every little distraction and how well I had taught my lesson. Truthfully, it was just par for the course, as any teacher would likely agree. The rest was God working in me, because I know I couldn’t have done what I did just by relying on my own strength. 

To top it all off, yesterday I received a call from the principal, telling me that I received the job and that I can come observe a class, which I did today. In great news, it turns out that the algebra class, which will take up 4/5 of my teaching day uses the EXACT textbook I used back at Waukomis. The exact book I assumed would be deemed outdated and obsolete by any other school. The exact book to which I have already planned every lesson, homework assignment, quiz, and test I could ever need to fall back on if I can’t find something in the lesson plans that are being left for me for the remainder of the year. Also, in what I consider to be one of the coolest little “God winks” of all, my new room number will be 501. My old classroom was 105. God’s got my back in all of this, and I know that I’ll have all the support I could possibly need from my new coworkers and administrators! 

The upshot is that I will start teaching full time on Monday, so I could definitely use some extra prayers as I begin this new journey! This new step in my journey will not be without its own set of challenges, but I’m certain that I’ll be okay, even if I still encounter failures. If you’re wanting specific intentions, be praying for my new students that they may be open and receptive to me and transition well. 

Ready or not, here I come!
Now that I have a little bit of hindsight and a newfound appreciation of failure, I realize that what could be called the worst thing that ever happened to me actually just propelled me to the life I live and love now, and to one of the best opportunities I’ve ever received! This failure led me to learn more about myself. It led me to so many great people and places that I never could have imagined. I’m not the same woman I was a year ago, and I’m so incredibly happy for that. Now, excuse me while I go back to teacher mode!!!

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