Seven months ago I was in Santa Barbara, prepping for a grueling 2 week interview at the Westmont, where I was serving as Interim Coordinator of Intercultural Programs. This is my dream job. It was the exact kind of work I wanted to do when I envisioned myself in this field during graduate school. This job was the kind that I wanted to give myself to and it was at the kind of institution that I wanted to do the work in. I had the opportunity to teach students about social justice, helping them understand their intersections of their identities and what that means for who they are as they engage as a global citizen in the world, and theologically as they continued to engage their relationship with God. It was a dream come true. I also worked the hardest I ever had without community and trusted relationships to replenish me as I weeded through the murky waters of institutional politics and engaged in dialogue about issues of race and inequity. But I loved it. I felt purposed, and happy. Not to mention the fact that I got so much sun, I was as dark as I was when I lived in the Philippines. I was able to forge a wonderful relationship with my co-worker Amy, and found some kindred spirits in a couple from Indiana who I had a lot in common with. I lived next to campus, so my commute was 3 minutes, and I had some amazing students. I was living out a lot of things I had been reading and studying about in graduate school.
So seven months ago, when I was just about ending the job process and praying that I would get to continue the position that I had laid groundwork for, my heart was really bursting at the seems. I can’t describe the feeling when you know you’ve been put on earth to do something, and that something gave you the same amount of joy right back to you. I was so grateful for the experience, and really hoping I would get to stay. So, when I found out I had been passed over, heartbreak found me again. It wasn’t the same kind of heartbreak that you feel when you’ve lost a love, but it was a crushing heartbreak that breaks your spirit. I had to come to accept, and accept quickly, that God’s answer to my prayer for staying at Westmont was “no”. Trust me, the road was a difficult one last year. It was filled with traps and dark corners and the diminishing regard of my alma mater, but the truth really made me see more clearly my commitment and also made me love the people who serve at Westmont even more despite its cracks.
So what does one do, when the answer is “no”. I mean, it wasn’t just “no”, it was more like, “NO”. It was a soul crushing rejection. I missed California from the moment I left it, 7 years ago, and I had a chance to stay, but what I didn’t realize was how much I actually missed Seattle. I missed the city, the people, the culture, the art, and MY COMMUNITY. I had built a beautiful life in Seattle, and I knew when I got my answer, that I would head back to the haven of Seattle, where my soul was healed and where I found my relationship with God once again. I was going back, and having a hard time with the word “back”. That concept of two steps forward and one step back felt more like a leap backwards as I packed up my apartment and got ready for another long drive. A feeling of failure started to come over me. I was exhausted from the previous 10 months, the constant transition, the change of dialysis care and doctors, and the overwhelming emotions surrounding me. I wasn’t taking very good care of myself during this job, unfortunately, so I wanted to take the move as a break to replenish and regroup. Still, the devastation of leaving made me re-think my career choice, and the consequence of funding my graduate career. Though I could never regret my time at Seattle University. It was the best 2 plus years of my life where I met incredible people whom I will be lifelong friends.
I got back to Seattle at the end of June and though coming close in at least one job, did not land any positions in my field for three months. I was at the end of my rope at that point. I started to despair again, the resting was complete and I needed to find a job to stay in my apartment. In the meantime I was transitioning my dialysis and kidney care back to Seattle and getting back active on the transplant list. It’s a lot of work to be active again on the transplant list. You have to go through many different tests and go through financial clearance, etc. So, on August 30th when I got the call from the transplant coordinator that everything was in order, I was relieved. I estimated another 6-8 months before I would be at the top of the list. While I was in California, I put my status on hold so I didn’t lose my place in line, but I had only been waiting 17 months and I expected to wait another 7 months (best case scenario) to get THE phone call.
Six days later, on September 5th, I got another call from the University of Washington Medical Center, and they wanted me to come in to give some blood to see if I was a match to a potential donor. SIX DAYS LATER. I mean, it couldn’t be, right? That’s what I thought. I got the call right before I was meeting my friend Luci for lunch at Cafe Presse. I love having lunch with Luci – she’s a hoot – so when I told her about my call, she was immediately thinking the best. That’s the kind of person she is. So after lunch I went to blood draw and by 4:00pm I got a call telling me to be at the hospital at 7am the next morning. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? I still can’t believe it. I told the woman on the phone I wasn’t ready. Her response was, “are you serious?” and I said, “no, I’m just nervous”. I’m still nervous as I write this down. I mean, I didn’t expect this at all. The timing is off, I didn’t have anything ready but my medical directive. I didn’t have potential parents for Oscar and Guinness if I didn’t make it out alive. I hadn’t prepared my apartment, and I was just feeling surprised. It was most unexpected. And then I began to be scared. This was major surgery, right? Suddenly everything that was at stake plowed me over. I was shaking a lot in those first few hours as I texted everyone I knew, and posted it on facebook. I was overwhelmed with joy, fear, joy, fear, in that order, over and over.
But, luckily I had my partner in life, Irene, come to my rescue. She even got on the plane a couple hours after I called her, and told them that I was her “partner” and needed to get to me as soon as possible. It was amazing. Then my sister caught an early flight from Idaho, and my sister-in-law caught the red-eye from Hawaii. And the pastoral staff from Quest church, whom I started this kidney disease journey with came to be with me – Thanks, PE! This calmed my nerves, the people, the prayers, and the texts and messages from all over.
I’m going to save all my commentary about community and relationships for another post because this is getting long, and it’s about a month overdue now, but I just want to say – thank goodness for my big disappointment in Santa Barbara, because God knew. If I had stayed, I’d still be on dialysis, and on a waiting list of 7 years in California. If I had gotten a job over the summer, I would have had to quit, because I wouldn’t have worked 3 months to get the time needed off for this surgery and recovery. God knew, and despite my faith wavering in so many areas of my life, I received this huge gift. I think this is what they call GRACE. I did nothing to deserve any of this. But here I am, healthy, and happy, and surrounded by a wonderful group of family and chosen family (aka friends and community). I usually hate Christian rhetoric because most of my life it was hurtful and misleading, but I have to give in when I talk about it here, because there is nothing else to explain the events of my life in 2012. It was more than just magical, more than blessed, it was God ordained (I just cringed as I wrote that). So today, I believe the hype, and I will live continue to live my life with gratitude.