Saturday, February 20, 2016

Faith, Trust, and Aloha

Last summer, in the midst of job rejections and figuring out new plans, my dad made a comment about someone he wanted me to meet in Hawaii. I had no impending plans to visit, and felt no urgency to get there. Of course, with my parents living there, I knew I would eventually get back, but trying to scheme a separate trip just wasn't a priority.

(And before you ask, nothing came of that someone, and this move is entirely unrelated to that.)

So once my new plans started coming together for studies in the southern hemisphere, it only made sense to stop in to visit my parents in Hawaii on my way back from New Zealand. It would give me some time to re-group, catch up with my parents and friends there, and enjoy Christmas holidays with them. I also hoped to work on some job applications. I had a few leads for teaching English internationally thanks to my new TESOL certificate, and felt like I just needed some time to sort through it all and find a clear direction for my next step.

I had only been on Oahu about a week when my mom texted me, all excited about something. She had run into the chair of the English Language Teaching and Learning department at BYU-Hawaii. I had thought about maybe doing some volunteer tutoring with the department while I was visiting. However, when mom mentioned to her that I had just finished my CELTA and also had a master's degree in language teaching, the chair was insistent to meet me. I sent her my resume, stopped by for a chat, and suddenly, I had a job offer! With 2 full-time instructors about to go on leave, and a new online curriculum under development, they need teachers! I happened to have the right training at the right place and the right time!

Although it was an exciting offer, I was hesitant because of my Canadian citizenship. I knew I would have to obtain some sort of work visa in order to work in the US. That was when they told me about a work authorization that exists through the North American Free Trade Agreement, that allows Canadians and Mexicans with certain professional credentials to obtain short-term work permission. University teacher was one of those professions. All I needed was an official job offer and to head home so I could apply for the permission upon re-entrance at the US border.

All of this happened so fast, I could hardly process it all! However, I had a couple months to do so, as I waited for the offer letter, and the right time to go home. I was also hesitant to get too excited, in case it didn't work out for whatever reason. I have had back experiences with sharing good news too soon and then it going sour...

An interesting thing happened in those 2 months. Though I have loved my time in Hawaii in the past, I still always felt a little out of place. I wasn't completely confident with myself whenever I was there. I met awesome people and made wonderful friends, but I felt too old for the student crowd, and too young for my parents' crowd. I helped with projects, but never felt like I could really invest because I always knew I would have to leave. It wasn't my place.

But this time was different somehow. Something about being just a couple years older made me feel more peace within myself. Honestly, much of that is probably thanks to my experiences in Australia and New Zealand. I had gained so much peace and trust in the path that my Father in Heaven was leading me on, that it gave me the confidence I had lacked before. And I guess it was finally the right timing. I felt like my life experience and age difference divided me just enough from the students to feel more professional. And yet, I still felt youthful, vibrant, and happy - in fact I am often still asked if I am a student here :)

I got involved with projects that seemed truly inspired, connecting with some awesome students. Things that would not only build great future opportunities, but also create bridges between departments on campus to improve the students' experiences. I went back to one of the best singles' wards on the planet, and had several absolutely amazing Sundays filled with inspired words, spiritual strength, and old and new friends. I also tried looking into a few other work opportunities, but each time I did it felt stressful, confusing or awkward. I suppose with everything being lined up so beautifully for me here, I didn't need to look elsewhere. I felt so much love and concern from God. It was so humbling!

With the new year came my offer letter, and just reading it got me excited again. It was starting to feel real! In an attempt to maximize my travel time and budget, and join my sister's vacation time, I set out on a multi-stop trip to visit close friends on my way home to pack and prepare for this new job. I spent a glorious, albeit chilly week playing at Walt Disney World with my fabulous younger sister, and catching up and karaoke-ing with old friends. I visited my dear friend and husband in their new South Florida home and got to attend her baby shower and soak up many hours of conversation and laughter. I then made my way to Utah for a very busy week helping my BFF and her brilliant students with their latest play, while cramming in as many visits as possible with friends there. And I finally made it home to sort through my stored belongings, pack some clothes and belongings for my new adventure, check-in with family, and head out again!

After all these wonderful travels and visits and wonderful times across multiple time zones, I felt so completely humbled and blessed! I had tried my best to just enjoy each day as it came, and not worry about the future 'what ifs' that awaited me. It was amazing!! Seriously, it felt like each day was a total gift, I felt insane amounts of love for each friend who made the time to see me, and I felt so much hope for my future. I knew that no matter how things went, it was the way God had prepared for me - and I was more than willing to let His all-knowing hand take the lead away from my limited view.

I felt good, but extremely nervous regarding the work authorization application and crossing the border. Of course, I have had bad experiences in the past, so that may have been part of it. But I really think I needed to feel that to help me better prepare with all the necessary documentation, and to be ready to respond calmly to whatever circumstances I would face.

My first flight was uneventful, and I knew I had only an hour and a half to go through security and customs, make my application, and catch my connecting flight. There was a bit of a line through security, but it moved okay. The bigger issue was once I reached the waiting room for customs pre-approval. They were making everyone use these automated kiosks to do their declarations, instead of hand-writing it while in line, then handing it directly to the officers, like they used to. Unfortunately, this bit of technology actually slowed things down a lot, and everyone was stressed out about missing their planes. It turned out that I had to do a hand-written form anyway, because of my work authorization... of course ;)

Anyway, after all this I finally got to the most kind, and even flirtatious, border officer I had ever encountered, with about 40 minutes before my flight took off. He led me to a very quiet waiting room for secondary processing, and left me to my thoughts. Everyone waiting in there looked worried. You couldn't use cell phones. I did my best to practice my yoga breathing and stay calm. Freaking out never made anything better, and I just wanted to send positive vibes to the girl processing my application. She called me up at one point for some clarification, then I was sent back to wait. As my flight time grew closer, my silent prayers became "Please let this go through in time for my flight!" But then I realized that it was much more important than it was done properly, so I let go and asked "Please let this process properly so that I can go begin this new life and opportunity in Hawaii. I feel like I can do some good there. If it means I have to miss my flight and get there later, I'll be fine. Please just let this go through as necessary."

A wave of calm came over me, and I completely relaxed. Eventually, about 15 minutes after my flight time, she called me up again, and kindly explained that though my documentation was adequate, my offer letter was missing some details. But instead if simply turning it down, she gave me permission to get on my phone and get what they needed. Within a half hour I had contacted my future employer (who miraculously answered the unfamiliar call), she had sent a new, more detailed letter, I had contacted my family, found a hotel for the night, paid my fee.....and got that beautiful little stamp of approval. I was in!! This new adventure was officially happening!!

The way it all came about, after so much anticipation, was rather humorous, humbling once again, and absolutely happy!! I could hardly believe it!!

The airline kindly re-booked me for the next evening, and I spent a relaxing night and day in the Vancouver suburbs before boarding my actual flight to Honolulu. The next step in my wacky and wonderful life has finally, officially begun!!

So that's the story. I am now in the process of all the fun paperwork, training, and preparation as the newest adjunct faculty member of BYU-Hawaii!! Patience is still a daily test for this little go-getter, but I have lots of practice with enjoying each day - so that's exactly what I'm continuing to do. And let me tell you, each day is filled with blessings! I have a real job, using my degrees, in a beautiful place with all sorts of awesome people to serve and learn from. I am blessed, blessed, blessed!!!!


Sandy Wallace said...

SO happy for you Amy!! Thanks for sharing your testimony and amazing life with us. Hugs from little ol' Carolina.

Valerie said...

Amazing. Congratulations, girl.