Around 2005, I was living in southeastern Massachusetts and teaching part time at two different universities. I was also in a little bit of flux--having just gotten my master's degree in 2003, I wasn't sure if I wanted to move on to a PhD or start flaming the spark of pursing this new love of novel-writing. I also was thinking about relocating, although I wasn't sure where I wanted to go. I was thinking of staying in the New England area, but no town or state had piqued my interest enough.
One day I received an email from a friend and colleague--it was a posting for a full-time teaching position at a college in Greensboro, North Carolina. This person didn't know I'd been looking for anything new, or to relocate. Certainly I hadn't thought of someplace that seemingly far away, even though I had family who lived in the Raleigh-Durham area. "I think you would be a good fit," he wrote.
He was right. When I read the job description, it was as if every cell within me had lit up--it was as if this position was created just for me. I absolutely had to apply. Moreover, everything in me told me that this job was already mine, that this was the change I'd been seeking.
I applied, and sure enough, the college invited me to fly down to Greensboro and interview with them. It had been my first time on a plane in a little over ten years. I went, full of confidence. The campus was cozy and inviting. Everything felt right.
And then I blew the interview.
Or so I believe. It was something I said in passing, a kind of foot-in-mouth comment that had been misunderstood, and no amount of walking it back could undo it. I saw the look on the interviewer's face. She'd made up her mind at that moment.
I flew home, in shock and disbelief. What had happened? Had I somehow subconsciously sabotaged myself? Had my intuition been off? Had I just monumentally screwed up?
I came home to find a message on my answering machine from another university, one in the southern New England area: a position had opened up there, and they wanted me to fill it. No one else in the running. On paper, it was a great job; part teaching, part consulting, and part administrating, very much in line with the career direction I'd wanted to take while I was still in grad school. I thought, maybe this was what had been meant to be all along.
The North Carolina college informed me that I didn't get the job. Thus, I accepted that position at the other university.
And I was miserable.
I'd had a hard time coming to terms with what had happened. Had a hard time forgiving myself. And I didn't like the new job, even though it had taught me something important: I wasn't cut out to be an administrator.
Over time, and with the help of a counselor, I forgave myself and the outcome of the situation. And when I did, something interesting happened: that same college in Greensboro had yet another full-time teaching position open, the very same one. I got excited at the notion of a second chance, and I applied again.
But something told me I wasn't going to get it this time, either. That the woman who'd turned me down the first time had still remembered my comment, and she'd not changed her mind.
And then, while sitting in a faculty meeting, a sense of calm came over me. Following the meeting, I drove home, and announced to the friend that had been staying with me: "I'm moving to North Carolina regardless of whether I get that job."
And then, it was as if the waters parted. a number of colleges and universities in the Greensboro area were hiring, and I applied to them all. I flew down again, conducted a couple of interviews, and, just as I was living, was called for an interview with North Carolina State University in Raleigh. I had applied to this school almost as an afterthought, a "might as well."
You guessed it. That's the one that offered me the job. And when I accepted, I realized that's where I was meant to be all along. I relocated in 2006 and stayed until 2012. And during those six years I got to watch my niece and nephew grow up, met someone who took me under his wing and taught me all about how the publishing industry works (at least from the author's side), and by 2010 my debut novel found success beyond anything I'd ever dreamed about. Not only that, but at NC State I was honored and privileged to work with the most outstanding faculty I'd ever known, met some remarkable students I still keep in touch with to this day, and made a bunch of new friends.
Sometimes your intuition is right even when your expectation is wrong. That is to say, you always must listen to your heart, but surrender the outcome. "This, or something better," you say. Yes, maybe that college in Greensboro really was supposed to be "the one." Maybe I did fumble the ball on the goal line. But the sequence of events--the alternative job that revealed what I don't want; the forgiveness; the letting go of the outcome; the decision to go regardless of the outcome; the following all roads--every part of that landed me in Raleigh. And once I'd arrived, I knew it had all worked out "perfectly."
Have you ever been faced with something you desired in which you surrendered the outcome, only for it to work out even better than you'd expected? Is there something in your life that you currently desire in which you can ask the Universe for "This, or something better"? If you're comfortable doing so, please share in the comments below.