March 5, 2011

A Jena-tastic Drama featuring my Spanish Teacher and my Guardian Angels.

A few weeks ago in my Spanish class, we were talking about those funny nuances of language. When you begin a Spanish sentence with "Bueno..." it's the same as the English, "Well,..." The teacher referred to this construction as "the introduction of doubt." We use "well" when we're about to lie about how much experience we have during an interview. We use "well" to indicate boredom when we are trying to usher out a guest who has overstayed his welcome. We use "well" to buffer any situation requiring the words, "What else was I supposed to do?" I thought my teacher gave a strange definition, but I think she's right.

"Well, I'm all set. I've got them all filled out, mailed and organized." That's what I said last November when I sent big, brown envelopes requesting letters of recommendation for my application for a graduate assistantship. I enclosed information about the position and I even stamped and addressed little envelopes for convenient mailing. But, notice the doubt I introduced. It's not that I don't trust other people, it's just that I want more control than that. I want my application completed as early as possible. Other people are not as, how to put this, early-minded, as I am. And I don't like that.

"Well, all I have to do now is wait, right?" That was December.

And January.

"Well, I'd better get another job to pay for school.They will decide the GA positions in the spring." That was also January.

And most of February.

"We should know the first-round GA offers on March 7." The woman in the English Department said, surely an angel's smile. That was earlier this week.

No work, no word from school. Lingering visions of adventure in developing countries. Political unrest in the Middle East. Gastronomical unrest in me. Hola, Doubt. Soy Jena. Mucho gusto.

Today: March 4. Voicemail. "Jena, this is Northern Arizona University. I was looking at your GA application, and we haven't received either of your recommendation letters. Please call me back." What? Did I address those stupid envelopes wrong? Did the letters get lost? Were they ever written? Forget doubt. Introduce panic.

I called back. The lady with angelic voice and the Italian name soothed my distress with a calm plan. She had been organizing the applications and recognized my name from a phone conversation we had just a few days ago, and she realized that my application was incomplete. "Get in touch with your references right away," she advised, "have them email me by Monday and I will put the letters with your application. No problem." No worries. Peace. Namaste.

Well, not exactly. It was Friday at 5:30. I switched into my get-it-done mode and immediately sent emails to both of my references, then untensed vocal chords for a few phone calls to alert my references. I got a half excuse/half apology and a promise for an email by Monday; and a voicemail that might as well have said "Well, you could leave a message, but by the time I get to the office Monday morning it'll be too late and your application will be tarred and feathered." I needed a backup.

"I need a big favor," I blurted to a trusted friend who has often served as a reference. She replied without introducing any doubts. "Of course I will do that for you, sweetie!" Relief.

I've been doubting many things this week. Between listening to the voicemail and calling my back-up reference, I doubted everything. My personal efficacy to complete an application, my responsibility to check on my application, and even my little stamped envelopes.

But really, what happened today showed me something other than catastrophic application scenario. The lady with the pretty name was looking out for me. She could've just thrown out my incomplete (and by this time...ahem...LATE) application and said, "Too bad for whoever that was, she won't even be considered for the GA position." Instead of doing what most people would do, she took the time to call me and explain the situation; moreover, she gave me a chance to have my application considered. She didn't have to do that. That's extraordinary character. I might not get the position, but at least I'll have a shot at it.

Although this post began with the introduction of doubt, it ends with the certainty that people will go out of their way for friends, or for strangers.

Thank you to everyone who did a good deed today. Particularly if you did one for me.  Muchos gracias.