Castles in the Sand

When the waters rise, will our castles remain?

February 2016 was probably the roughest month of my life. The busiest stretch of the year at work meant I was working close to 80 hours per week without any sign of rest or a single day off. Frustrations mounted as what I thought would be my dream job turned into more of a nightmare. And in the midst of it all, on a Monday night my mom called me in tears.

Her big brother, my Uncle David, had been killed in a snowmobile accident.

My first thoughts and concerns were for my mom and her other two brothers, my Aunt Renee and cousins Trisha and Amy and my grandparents. Then it hit me – I couldn’t get away from work to be with them in this time of mourning.

That week we hosted the conference swimming championships, which involved planning all week and being at the venue to cover the event for a total of about 40 hours over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Also in the midst of that week would be my fiancée Kelli’s birthday and Valentine’s Day. So much for those.

I briefly made it up to see the family on the Monday after the championship meet, and I did as much as I could to assist with planning the funeral and just being there. It really wasn’t much. Then the following weekend featured home basketball and baseball (and I’m sure even more; I can’t remember it all now), with my uncle’s funeral scheduled for Sunday afternoon. I frantically set everything up for baseball Sunday morning, made sure the rest of my workers could cover the game and then jumped in my car and drove north. I made it up there about a half hour before the funeral, changed into a suit and mentally and emotionally prepared myself for the event, where I would be reading the eulogy.

After the funeral wrapped up, family and friends gathered at my Uncle Kevin’s house to eat and reminisce together. I sat in a room upstairs throughout the evening, working frantically on my work laptop to put together stories for tennis, baseball, softball, probably golf, and who knows how many other sports. To say it was a draining experience would be an understatement.

The next two weeks did not improve, even as the sport schedule (slightly) lightened up. I’m not going to say anything more about my work experience except that it was not where I needed to be. For my emotional and physical health, I needed to move on. But it’s hard to admit that to yourself in that moment, when you don’t have anything else lined up and you’re four months away from your wedding.

Countless tearful phone conversations with my parents and Kelli set the stage, but as I prayed desperately for some sort of answer I still didn’t know what to do. I reached out to Jeffery, our lead pastor at newhope, and shared the condensed version (which still took probably 20 minutes since conciseness is not something I’m capable of) and asked for his guidance. I’d never quit something in my life, and I was worried that walking away would be giving up, admitting defeat and copping out.

He reminded me that he knew me, and from knowing me and what I’d told him about the situation there was no way I would be “copping out.” It’s just not something I would do. Instead he told me to continue praying and seeking God’s peace, and he said at that point whatever God puts on my heart will be the right thing to do.

To be honest, I don’t think I’d ever felt God’s peace before. So that makes for quite the daunting hope and expectation. As that night passed and I still felt extreme turmoil I just didn’t know what to do. Finally the following night just as I was about to fall asleep it happened. It’s not really something I can describe aside from the biblical description of a peace that surpasses understanding. But it was there. I needed to walk away.

The next morning I awoke nervous because I wasn’t sure if I’d dreamed the peace the night before, but sure enough it was still there. So I told myself I’d get through the next weekend of work (hosting baseball again along with covering all the other active teams), and if I still felt that way Monday I would quit. But something else happened. A few hours later I felt a nudge on my heart – God calling me out.

“Are you serious? You wanted peace; you got it. You know what to do. Why are you putting it off?”

It wasn’t audible, but it was clear. And it brought a shy chuckle of admission to my face. It was right (surprise!).

At that point all fear about the next step was gone. I knew God would take care of me, although I had no idea how long it would take. But I was still terrified of meeting with my boss the following morning to deliver the news. I called Jeffery and asked him to pray with me over the phone as I drove to work that Friday morning, after requesting a meeting time late the previous night.

One year ago today, one year ago this morning, I did it. I did my best to explain a certain side of what happened (in the same effort to maintain diplomacy that I’m keeping here by only sharing vague and limited pieces, I left out a lot of the frustration) and explained that I simply couldn’t continue. I devoted the following two weeks to organizing and taking detailed notes about the various aspects of my role to assist the rest of the staff in covering the position for the remainder of the school year. And after those two weeks I walked away.

I would be lying if I didn’t say there were some nervous moments even after that. Applying for probably close to 100 different jobs, many of which I still feel I was overqualified for, without receiving so much as a call back can do that to you. But even through it all it wasn’t overwhelming because I knew that peace. It would be okay.

About 10 weeks later I did get a call back. Over the course of one week I went through two interviews and began work at Clover Park Technical College. Now nine months in (time flies…), I cannot begin to properly express the joy I have both from my new work environment and the possibilities it opens in my personal life. Kelli and I get to spend time together; we get to spend time with our families. We’ve done more theatre shows together during times when I never previously could have done shows, and now I’m in the midst of my biggest role yet in the wonderful Diary of Anne Frank.

Time doesn’t make everything better. Uncle David is still gone (but we’ll see him again someday). In the past year we’ve had more losses in our extended family. That’s what time does. But while February 2016 was probably the roughest month of my life, February 2017 was wonderful. It is amazing and humbling to simply look back one year, 12 months, 365 days, 525600 minutes (#rent) and realize what a difference one year makes.

And in a world full of uncertainty and some truly terrifying political climates, that gives me hope that someday soon we will be able to look back and again realize what a different one year makes.

2 thoughts on “One year later

  1. Tyler,
    I feel equally lucky to have had you accept the opportunity to join us at CPTC. You bring creativity and fun to our group and we are glad you are a part of us!

  2. Jakki Parks says:

    What a ride Tyler! I’ve been there, at the end of the two years of teaching classrooms of 2nd graders. I’d done it for eight years, and the last two years were the most intense, the most joyous, but most frustrating years… And even six months before the end of the year I kept thinking I needed to try this or that, all the while “Jakki” was slipping away. The day I decided to leave the classroom, it was a complete blur, and it was until the day I turned in my key. Looking back, I really was harming myself, while thinking I was so persistent and determined. I’m glad you experienced a peace and we’re able to leave your job. You remind me that, now that I’ve “healed” and moved on, to be wary of staying in situations that are filled with too much hard work because it can “rob” myself of time to be with family and friends when I need to be. And it can also be harmful. Thank you for sharing Tyler. I consider you wise and also generous, sharing when life for you is great, which is easy for everyone, but also when life is challenging and even more… and that takes courage. Looking forward to reading more from you! And say hi to your lovely bride for me! – Jakki, Allison’s Mom 🙂

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