Friday, November 20

Changing Directions

It was my freshman year of college.

A few weeks before classes opened for registration, I had a powerful prompting: I was supposed to be an ambassador.

I signed up for Hebrew, Arabic, Middle Eastern Studies, and American Sign Language. My goal was to work for the State Department in Israel and other war-torn areas, trying to help people find peace in their lives.

My parents, interestingly, were supportive of my goal. And the first week of classes was a blast. Arabic and Hebrew are strikingly similar, so I could apply the little things  I learned in one class in the other.

The day after the add deadline for classes, I got another prompting, this one just as strong as the first: I was definitely not supposed to be an ambassador.

So I dropped Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies, leaving myself with the lightest credit load of my college tenure.

I still don't know why I got those changes in direction.

A few years later, I had another circuitous set of promptings. First, I felt prompted to go against education department rules and take an art class during my student teaching. Then I felt like enrolling in the classes at the BYU Salt Lake Center. Then to live in Salt Lake during the week so I could attend. Then to enroll just as an audit course. Then to drop the course. Then to attend Institute instead. Then to join the Institute choir.

By the end, I had purchased three different sets of art supplies, paid for a new ID card, begged an instructor to let me audit his course only to drop it two days later, convinced family to let me live with them, and broken half a dozen BYU policies.

The Institute choir I joined performed in General Conference, and during one of the Institute classes I attended, I routinely received powerful guidance for my life (totally unrelated to what was taught, but whatever). That was the end goal of all the changes in direction... and it was definitely worth it.

If God had tried to tell me what to do from the beginning, I probably wouldn't have been able to understand. That said, I'm glad what happened, happened.

A few years later, I was walking on the campus of Stanford University. I was there to learn about their PhD in Learning Sciences, the most compelling program I had found to date and one that made me feel absolutely awesome inside. My experience at Stanford was nothing less than stunning. Everything seemed to shout at me that I was going the right way, and that all the cards were in my favor. The admissions committee director told me that my application was extremely impressive, and current students were sure I'd get in. I had flown out to be there, meet people, and attend the one in-person info session available. I fell in love with the grounds of the campus and met people there who I hadn't seen in years... and had some great learning, growing, and teaching opportunities with people I knew and had never before met.

When I returned at hit the phone interview stage, I found myself talking with my chosen mentor, who honestly sounded like he was trying to convince me that Stanford wasn't the right place for me. He talked about how his current graduates would have been better served by getting an MBA - the degree I already had. Halfway through the phone call, I had the strange feeling that nothing I said was going to make a difference. He had been prompted to deny me admission, and the interview wasn't really to determine my fit... but more of a search on his part to try to understand a prompting he couldn't disobey. My rejection a few weeks later wasn't a surprise. But it was definitely a huge change in direction from the passionate, fiery course I had set just a few weeks earlier. Maybe the entire push for Stanford was so that I could talk with one person on campus that day. Who knows?

Not long after, I tried out for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I pulled all the strings I had and recorded my audition CD, studied for the exams, and finally auditioned in person. It all felt right, and the hours of preparation and study was a thrill feeling like I would get in. Every step I got back feedback that I was doing awesome. But when the final letter came, the simple reason was yet again the same - MoTab wasn't right for me. It didn't match my vocal style. And yet again, I felt peace. It had been the right direction, but MoTab wasn't the right destination. There were still changes to make. Trying out for MoTab and doing so well - in every step of the audition - gave me the courage and confidence to start my own a cappella group - Grace - just a few months later. I think Grace was the reason I had started that journey.

Fast forward to today. A year ago I emptied my personal bank account and started a new business called The Soap Factory. My store is in a great area - blocks from BYU - but a terrible location. The store has been growing like wildfire. We're one of the top rated attractions in Provo on Trip Advisor, and people come from all over the world after Googling "Things to do in Provo." Our current lease ended in October, and the landlord decided to take advantage of our growing success to raise our lease rates by over 30%. So we started looking for a new location, and found one that felt perfect. It's just across the street from the new Provo City Center Temple, on Center Street, and it had the perfect layout for us. Massive main floor, and a huge basement, at a great price. We felt like it was the right thing, so we submitted an intent to lease the same day. We expected to hear back within a week, since the intent to lease required us to not pursuing other locations until negotiations had finished. We pushed and pulled, met with the owner and submitted financial data, and all the while got no response. Days turned into weeks, and we found ourselves between a rock and a hard place as our current landlord wants an answer and we committed to not look for other locations or negotiate other leases. It seemed like good news was on the way... Then today we finally learned what happened when we went to the location for their last event of the year. The listing agent had encouraged the owner to sign a lease with Sub Zero Ice Cream... because "they have more money"... and she had already done so.

I'm sure that the peace and confirmation and hope will come eventually. Right now, though, I feel burned and frustrated and confused. I spent the last month waiting, hoping, working, jumping through hoops and sending in lists of potential improvements and finances and paperwork... and nothing came from it. Of course my newly-founded startup business isn't going to have as much money as a corporate franchise with 49 locations. They've been around for 11 years, and I've been around for 1. I didn't even get the feeling that they would have told us about the resolution of the deal had we not asked so many times. But isn't our success enough proof? I had a total of 10 minutes to cry in the back room tonight before we had so many customers that my best friend couldn't take care of them all.

I know that changing directions is an important thing. God uses situations like this to help me to get to destinations that I never would have imagined... and I'm grateful for the absolute knowledge that everything will work out. It will be for the best. The world isn't ending, and this, more than anything is proof of it, because God is actively involved in my life.

But, in the moment, sometimes it just feels like hitting a brick wall.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, from the depths of my soul. Just by your sharing of this experience, my own understanding has increased 10 fold.


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