Sometimes the Journey is the Gift

*This post has been two weeks in the making because, well, life. So do me a favor and let’s time-travel back to mid-June, when school was out and summer was just starting, along with a new chapter in my life.

contract-signing

It is Saturday morning, June 17th. I am sitting in my pajamas and sipping coffee atop a bed-turned-sofa in a basement apartment in Oakland. It is summer and sunny. The blossoms have fallen from the plum tree outside and the fruit is just starting to ripen. Soon the branches will hang down to my shoulders.

I say all of this to remind myself—to situate myself in time and space—because even after a full night of sleep and a strong cup of coffee, I’m still a bit cloudy about all that has happened.

It is my first real weekend in years. The first time that five days of work have been followed by two days of rest, which is a rhythm that my body and I are not used to. We are used to waking up when we feel like it and checking our phone to see what happens next. We are used to filling our schedule with things that seem important and make us feel real as we keep hunting for work and living at the mercy of editors and e-mail. We are used to working from home, living in sweatpants, and getting up to cook in the middle of a project. We are not used to meetings and managers, commuting or co-workers. We don’t even know what to make of badges and check-ins, trainings and support networks.

But all of these things will normalize soon enough. At least, I’m hoping they will because they are a part of a chapter I’ve fought fiercely to get to. The one where I finally have a reason to stay in the place I’ve been trying to call home for four years.

Ex_Posts_2015_September_v4_2

On Monday, June 12th, I started a full-time job writing UX copy for a tech company in Silicon Valley. It is my first full-time job. Ever. I am not entirely sure how I feel about this, aside from exceedingly excited and totally disoriented. Up until late May, this position was just another on an ever-growing list of jobs I’d applied for since finishing grad school. Then there was a point where that changed, which is a moment I’ve come back to all month.

May 15th, I was sitting at my desk, simultaneously working on an article, filing an invoice, researching a pitch, and scrolling through Facebook, when I got a call from an unknown number. I always answer unknown calls, even though half of the time they’re scams about “your Apple product” or offers for loan consolidation (how does everyone know I have loans?). The other half of the time the calls are sources for stories or first dates that just might have a future. This time it was a recruiter from the new company, wondering, “if now was a good time to talk.” (When there’s a job on the line, “now” is always a good time, even if the broccoli is burning or you’re covered in flour). I said, “Sure, now is great,” got up from my laptop and paced toward the bathroom, (which is also my laundry room).

33fe4880a8c6fec93342ed8fd3c80239--laundry-bathroom-combo-basement-laundry-rooms

It had been 10 days since my onsite interview, the semi-final step in a three-month long hiring process. Hardly a field trip, the onsite involved a 45-minute self-presentation to a panel of five, followed by 45-minute one-on-ones with each of them. Once the assessments were in and my thank you’s sent, all I could do was wait.

I’d been here before—on the brink of an opportunity, sure that the next steps would move forward—only to be told that I lacked experience or wasn’t a the best fit. I’d grown so accustomed to rejection that I started to expect it. Still, I was nervous.

“Well Amanda,” said the voice on the other end, “I wanted to tell you that we heard back from the hiring committee, and…” I don’t know how it is that time can just stop in the middle of a moment, but in the half-breath that the recruiter took between “and” and the rest of her sentence, I dumped a truck load of hypothetical scenarios onto the bathroom floor and started sifting through them at rapid pace. I was midway into imagined-future-five (which I think involved kumquats) when I heard the words, “they’ve decided to move forward with your application.”

[Insert “Say What” gif of choice right here]

The hiring committee had been the biggest hurdle between me and a job, but was it too soon to be excited? Should I wait for a caveat? Ask about a salary? Be sure I had heard this correctly?

My brain started flipping through my mental rolodex of appropriate responses. Meanwhile, the rest of my body started to cry. I leaned against the washing machine and thought of the hundreds of times that the response had been different. I honestly didn’t know how to handle good news.

As the recruiter went on about next steps and potential timelines, I flashed back to October of 2015, when a member of my church’s prayer team had stood beside me during a service and asked God for someone, anyone, to “just give me a chance.” For the next 20 months, those five words played on repeat in my head and my heart. It was all that I wanted—in all parts of my life—for someone to just give me a chance.

It wasn’t the job that brought me to tears that Monday in front of the washing machine. It wasn’t the company or the benefits or finally having the ability to indefinitely take care of myself. It was the opportunity to try. The fact that someone—actually, a bunch of someones—had decided to give me a chance.

All of this played in my mind as I stood in the corner of the bathroom, wiping my eyes with one hand and holding my phone with the other.

“That’s…great,” I stammered. “So, what happens next?”

email-laptop-computer-marketing-ss-1920.jpg

It was a week before they emailed the offer and another before I signed it, but all of that was just a matter of formality. Someone had given me a chance, of course I was going to take it.

When I shared this with my parents, they were giddy, probably even more than I was. This job that had been such a long time coming was, as they called it, an answer to prayer. It was a promise fulfilled. A reward for persistence. And I’m not going to say it wasn’t, but something about that language just didn’t sit right. While this may have been my parents’ story—that they prayed for a job, and in time God gave it—it hasn’t exactly been mine.

29034-prayer-praying-pray-prayerhands-hands-table.1200w.tn

If I’ve learned anything about prayer and provision in the past four years, it is that I do not understand how it works, and that asking the questions of how or why are not the best use of my time. Sure, I have prayed for things that I want, sometimes with the fervor of a child at Christmas and sometimes just because it is what I think I should do, but “ask and receive” as a basic transaction isn’t a good construct for the things I believe about God. My prayers have not been answered by prayer-ordered provisions as much as they have by presence and perspective.

I do not view this next chapter as a long-awaited gift, but as the most-recent step of a journey that I have already been on for years. It is not an obvious answer to a repeated request, but the unexpected and inevitable result of dogged persistence mixed with haphazard hope.

I did not get this job (or any of the jobs I have held) because I set up a tactical strategy to attain it or because I was in the right place at the right time. I got it because it was what was next. And I owe that as much to the Saint Mary’s alum who hired me to write content for a startup or the marketing director who badgered me about the advertorial copy I ended up using in my onsite presentation, as much as to anyone else. I would not be here if it had not been for the years I spent teaching ESL, the professor who gave me my first shot at freelancing, the confused state in which I graduated college or the four engineers that I’ve dated since (one of whom helped me learn the code that I needed for my application and another of whom checked it — like I said, it was a long process).

confidently-navigate-web1

And while I am grateful for the theater major from Nebraska who happened to be sitting near me on a flight from Omaha to SFO back in 2013 and who would later recommend me for the job I now hold, what I am more grateful for are the years in between.

I am grateful that I have never really known what I am doing with my life, that any plans I have had have only been a sketch, because this has taught me to see value in the days and years and moments in between the things that feel stable and sure. I am grateful to have met so many like myself, who have ended up in places that they never expected—some for the better and some for the worse. I am grateful that being in want has taught me to be generous instead of tightfisted, and that being heartbroken and ignored has cultivated compassion instead of bitterness (though really, if I’m honest, there’s a bit of that too).

But mostly, I am grateful that none of this has happened in darkness, that not a day of my life has gone by unseen in the years that I’ve spent in confusion. Though more often than not I am a party of one, I know I am never alone. And that is I gifted I didn’t know that I needed. The gift is not the job. The gift is the journey.

Dollarphotoclub_82975357.jpg

Exactly four years prior to setting foot in my new office, I stepped onto a flight from London to Chicago, to head back to the States for an indefinite time. It was the end of many things and many dreams in my life, but it was also the beginning of many more. It is always like that with endings, and so it will be with this one. I hope I do not lose what I have learned in the meantime, the value of small moments and the power of connection. I hope I will remember how it feels to be aware of how little you control and yet how powerful you are. And I hope that my heart will be open to the hard and the holy that is certain to keep coming, whether or not I am aware of its presence.