Happy Chinese New Year!
If someone had told me four years ago that I’d be seeing spectacular Chinese New Year’s fireworks from my 4th floor apartment in Taiwan, I wouldn’t have believed it. But here I am. I am often asked why I came to Taiwan to teach. The short answer is that I was invited, but in reality, it was the culmination of a series of invitations. Even though I didn’t always understand where the invitations would lead, I embarked on several extra adventures that eventually led me here. This post traces those invitations and the resulting events that brought me to Taiwan.
Invitation 1: New Job Position
In my previous life, I worked in church music. I planned the music for services, played the organ and piano, rehearsed and directed choirs, trained and scheduled people who were interested in serving in various liturgical ministries, and “other duties as requested.” In the late 90’s, after many years in liturgical music, I received an unusual invitation to try my hand at directing the religious education program for our parish. At first, I wasn’t sure about this unexpected opportunity, but with some encouragement from the retiring Director of Religious Education and the pastor, I decided to give it a go. Turns out I loved it, and it gave me my first experience in curriculum design for a multi-year program.
Invitation 2: Entering a Master’s Program
While I was exploring my new position at the parish level, I received a call from the director at the diocesan level, inviting me to participate in a master’s level theology program through Loyola University. Initially, I hesitated because I hadn’t finished my BA, but he assured me that I would receive funding for the program and a certificate upon completion. I took the plunge. I attended weekly meetings, requiring substantial reading and assignments in preparation for each session. Our group of ten completed the 30 credit hours over three years.
Consequence: Decision to Complete BA
By the time I completed the certificate program in theology, it was clear that I could handled the routine of going to class and completing assignments, while still working full-time. So although it had been 30 years since I started my BA, I returned in 2000 to complete it. At six hours a semester, it would take a while (I went in with 38 hours completed during my freshman year back in the 70s), but it would add up in time. A happy coincidence during my first semester back led to my decision to major in sociology and minor in English.
Invitation 3: A Marriage Proposal
What is a marriage proposal if not an invitation to share your life with another? I had been married before, and it hadn’t been the best of experiences. This invitation took a lot more consideration, weighing pros and cons, and deciding whether I was willing to make such a risk again. In the end, I accepted his invitation, and our lives have been blessed in many ways because of it. More about the details as this list continues.
Invitations at College (#4, 5, 6, 7)
#4 Join the Honors Program: It required taking honors courses or creating an honors version of a few courses and completing a research thesis, but an invitation to return to the Honors Program I had left 30 years ago seemed a worthwhile endeavor.
#5 Become a Writing Center Mentor: A friend invited me to apply to become a mentor in the Writing Center. I’d always loved writing, and even the application process led me through a process of assembling a writing portfolio and reflecting on my own writing process. The number of “mini-invitations” that resulted from joining the Writing Center was totally unexpected. Conference presentations, starting an English Corner for international students, and coordinating the Writing Center’s English 111 course presentations were just some of the experiences that resulted from accepting this invitation. Little did I know that it would be instrumental in my later certification in Taiwan, particularly my extensive work with international students.
#6 Take a Second Major: I enjoyed the classes I took for my English minor, but the only writing major at the time was Professional/Technical Writing. I didn’t think I was interested in it, but at one of my conferences about a writing project, the professor made a case for turning my minor into another major. At that point, it would only add one year to my time in school, and as will be seen later, there were lots of other things going on that made it hard to argue his point. When I asked whether the courses I needed would be offered in the following year, he offered to do an independent study with me if needed.
#7 Consider Graduate School: Another professor asked to see me as a result of some peer review activity we had done in class. A student I had worked with made significant progress in a rewrite. The professor asked about the techniques I had used and then asked if I was considering graduate school. She encouraged me to pursue teaching, particularly in writing. This suggestion, along with the other three “college invitations” resulted in an honors thesis that combined sociology, teaching, and writing, a trend that would follow me to Taiwan, even though I didn’t know it at the time.
to be continued . . .
Who knew that invitations held so much possibility? I used to think about invitations as social obligations to be included in one’s calendar, but the question about how I’ve gotten to this part of my life got me thinking about all the choices we make when it comes to all kinds of invitations.
In Part 2, I will share the final invitations that brought me to Taiwan. It involves an invitation that led to admission to a fellowship program and a trip to Asia. Stay tuned for the details.
Also, if you have any specific questions about the journey to Taiwan, feel free to add them to the comments.