A note: TOO-uh-con. That's how you say it. Not Tuna-can, or Toocon. TOO-uh-con. With an "uh" in the middle. Like "Uh...yes...I'd love to work at Tuacahn. When can I start?"
I really need to finish this little series. But I needed some time to pass before I wrote about my most recent high school experience. I intended on making this short, sweet and to the point. But there were a few more rocks in there than I anticipated.
This was an unexpected fork in my road with the fingerprints of God all over it. That was hard to see from the front and eye level, however. Isn't that how it always is?
A Strange but Magical Chain of Events
I was working on Fiddler on the Roof at Lehi High when Hyrum Smith wandered down the auditorium aisle after rehearsal one day and shook my hand. Not Hyrum Smith, as in the brother of Joseph, the first prophet of the LDS church, that would have been very magical indeed....but one of his progenitors - the man that invented the Franklin Day Planner, and co-founded Tuacahn Center for the Arts. I was very confused at how he ended up in the Lehi High auditorium. He was, also, the father of two friends of mine from college, and I had eaten Hawaiian food in his home once, but I was just one of thousands probably. He didn't say he knew me.
Instead he told me how coincidental it was that his wife's sister lived in Lehi, kitty-corner from my mother and she was bragging about my plays one day. He thought he'd check it out. I saw him sitting at the back of the auditorium. Thought he was someone's dad waiting for a kid. But he let all the kids leave and then he approached me in all my painted-overalls-and-no-makeup-for-weeks glory.
Brother Smith invited me apply for a job at Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Ivins, Utah. He told me that they were looking for a new artistic director and when he ask Fred Adams and Scott Phillips (Utah Shakespeare Festival) who they would suggest, my name was the "common denominator." I felt shocked to be considered for an Artist Director position. Fred Adams is my personal hero after all and Scott Phillips too...men that I adore and respect. Hm... I thought. I had been asked to teach at Tuacahn before, in fact, nearly every year since it had opened. This time it wasn't about teaching and after seven years at Lehi, building the twelve-headed monster that was eating my heart and soul, I said..."Yes...I would like to considered." W.H.A.T. D.I.D. I. S.A.Y?
I'm the person that takes 47 minutes stewing over which toilet paper to buy, something I've been using for 47 years. Yet, in 4.7 seconds, I had essentially quit my job in the middle of the school year. W.A.I.T. Why did I feel so good about it? HOW on earth did those words come out of my mouth so quickly? Without thinking! Why did I feel so warm and fuzzy, and that I might be having a heart attack at the same time? Did he inject me with something? Wow. Nice job, I thought...Tricky.
He said "think about it, and I'll be back." Poof. What else would I think about? Hyrum Smith was just in my auditorium!
I walked into my house that night, to the yelping of two anxious 12 week-old dachshund puppies. Ever seen dachshund puppies without wanting to take them home with you? Yeah...I would be selling them.
Walked around my adorable two year-old house, built perfectly for me. Yeah...I would be leaving it.
Walked a block over to my sisters house, the light of my life! YEP. Leaving her.
Walked to the Chevron by my house that had Fresca ON TAP. Leaving it.
Looked at my beloved Timpanogos Mountain. And I thought...I'll be flying over that next week when I fly to Tuacahn to interview for a job.
Which I didn't get.
Dumm, dum, daaaah. Yep. Didn't get it.
And after seeing the job description, I didn't want it either. It would take me completely out of the class room and into the board room, raising money for Tuacahn. But I didn't have rich friends. Oh, there was an astrophysicist I dated a few times, and I did go out with President Hinckley's chiropractor once, but I did not have Larry Miller in my back pocket if you know what I mean. I was a high school teacher. Bad fit.
I was confused. Why had I been so quick to assume that I would be uprooting my life the minute I shook the man's hand? Was my compass off-kilter? I try to live in the Spirit! Must of been the extra jalapenos I had eaten at lunch that day. Hm...whatever. I went back to work at LHS as if nothing had happened. No one knew I was interviewing, and no one needed to.
But about two months later, Hyrum was back at another rehearsal. Only this time, he said, "We are not through, you and I, I can feel it. (Weird! So could I!) I need you to come and be an Assistant Principal at the high school." Jolt of confusion. I was a teacher, not an administrator and I NEVER wanted to be an administrator. MAJOR conflict of interest to discipline a kid during the day, and then love and trust them at rehearsal. "I'm not certified for that," I said. "I don't have those skills." "You don't have to be certified in a Charter School," he countered. "When can we talk about how much you're going to cost me?" So direct. Swift. Intimidating. Sticky like fly paper.
At that point, I would have worked for $3 a day but something, much more logical than myself, took over. "I really can't take a pay cut, especially if my house doesn't sell." Where did that come from? Known to throw my power out the window, I silently congratulated myself! Good job, Jan! I'd been teaching for 15 years and I had a masters degree in my field. I threw out a number and he said he would make it work.
Funny thing...I was so confused at my power right then, I thought to myself "WOW - that school must really be broken if they are so desperate to get little 'ole me. What do I know? Who the heck am I?" This is a theme in my life. Even when I was dating someone a.w.e.s.o.m.e. I would say "There must be something wrong with this guy if he's attracted to ME." And I would dig for his issues...look for the quirks...leave him to wonder what he said or did. All the while...it was just....my serious lack of self, self....knowledge? I know stuff! But why did people always have to tell me. Why didn't I believe that myself? I didn't know that I knew how to do what I did.
Shucks - I can't even read that last sentence back to myself. But I'll pick that apart in the Ladies in Waiting series.
I met Hyrum at The Grand America later that week to sign a contract. I had turned 40 sometime that week. I had never married. It was shortly after an eye surgery and I wasn't allowed to drive yet...so my parents drove me. Hahaha...yes, I felt 12. And I had a giant black eye like I'd been in a playground fight. But this is key to the story because when he arrived, I was able to introduce him to my mother. Turns out she had lived in Hawaii when he was growing up, in the same ward. They were distant cousins...it turned out. She knew him as "Wayne," it turned out, which I guess is what everybody called him back then. Another sign from the universe? How weird! Everything was...t.u.r.n.i.n.g. o.u.t.
He had a plan. A hope. And he was laying it in my lap. My self-doubt raged. My intuition, however, sharp as a tack as usual. "Thank you Heavenly Father," I prayed, "for giving me this opportunity. I know this is You. Who else could do this kind of magic? Whatever you have in my path, I will take it on."
The puppies sold in 24 hours to a family with property and a love for dogs. The house sold four days after they dropped the sign in the lawn. Boom. Done. Magic.
It was meant to be. How else would you look at it?
Contract signed and sealed. Packing. Excited! I love change! I love progress! And, I assumed that everyone at Tuacahn was as excited for the change as I was. I'll bet they'll make a welcome sign, flowers, maybe a "Glad you join us!" note taped to my office window.
Nope. Nada. Not. Excited.
More like "WHAT THE HELL?"
Like a rubber mallet to a chicken piccata. I would be struck dumb for months. I would vomit from the anxiety of making a very big choice in a very fast way. I would add four prescriptions to my daily regiment. I would feel lost in the wilderness. I would not see: THE BIGGER PICTURE for years to come, if it weren't for the fact that the only friend I had access to in the world was Andy Hunsaker, who was just 50 miles north.