Lip Service or True Grit: Put to the Test

Some days you go out to your truck in order to head over to a friend’s house for a home cooked meal and some much needed relaxation. And every once in a while you find, upon starting your truck, that someone has stolen your catalytic converter in broad daylight.

The day this happened to me also happened to be the evening before my first interview for Physician Assistant school, the culmination of more than a decade of effort. Interesting timing. Night before last I had a dream that my truck would break down on the way to my PA interview. And it was only reluctantly that I agreed to take a break from preparing for my interview to go to dinner. Had I not, I wouldn’t have discovered this happy little surprise until tomorrow morning, when, dressed in a suit, hair combed, and wearing deodorant for the first time in possibly 12 years, I started my truck and heard a, shall we say, odd noise. So I guess that’s something to be thankful for. Gotta celebrate the small victories. Lucky for me, I have an incredible support system of friends and the same person who was gonna make me dinner also offered me her car for the day. Thanks Jillian. I’ll stop introducing you as “This is Jillian, she’s the worst.” for at least a few weeks.

But it brought up an important point. I’ve been practicing for this PA interview for a few weeks now. And arguably, I’ve been preparing for this opportunity, this one day, this tomorrow for the better part of a decade. Interviews are a tricky thing. They’re uncomfortable. You have to talk about yourself. And you have to do so in a way that isn’t so humble that you fail to convey your passion, but that isn’t so arrogant that you come off as a pompous ass. It’s a fine balance. And the easiest way to do this is to tell the truth.

Over these past weeks I have been throwing around a lot of buzz words that will make a good impression in an interview. Words like dependability and flexibility and compassion, seeing the bigger picture, and being even-keeled. And while I thought I embodied some of these and a few other ideals, apparently the Powers That Be saw fit to offer me a gut check moment. Are these things I just say, or are these things I actually am? I was as surprised as anyone to discover, it’s the latter.

I never thought about it much, but dependability, responsibility, and commitment go hand in hand. Pepper in a bit of preparation as well and tough times will be little smoother. I committed to this process. Years ago. I committed to this interview date. Weeks ago. And it is my responsibility to overcome any challenges that befall me on the way there. Life will never cooperate and make itself convenient for anything worth doing. If you want it, you have to prove it. No need and no time for excuses. I never predicted a truck-sans-catalytic-converter. But I anticipated the unlikely possibility of far more elaborate and traumatic challenges. Say an earthquake that splits the I-17 in two. I was confident I would find a way to make it. My borrowed shoes are pretty comfortable. And my built in legs can run jump and climb. Come what may, I’m getting to that interview and I’m getting there on time. I have contingency plans in place. And I know that come hell or high water, I can handle it. Thus is life. Naive confidence and good luck have carried me through.

Being even keeled is especially important when unfortunate events transpire. And while there was an ember of anger that someone would do this, I remembered quickly that it wasn’t personal and that anger wouldn’t serve much purpose now. Instead I reflect. And I write. I have a much bigger purpose to focus on. And that bigger purpose is a smaller part of an even bigger purpose, that of Ropa and Peacework and the contribution I want to make to the PA profession itself. And there are a lot of people who have stuck their necks out to help me get to this moment. That’s the bigger picture. An inconsiderate action by another person would be a paltry reason to fail. Nothing I own, not one material possession is worth  fretting over and missing the opportunity that lies before me. This thing I’m doing tomorrow, it matters. I don’t say that about much that I do. But this does. And it matters more than the minor inconvenience of a well (or poorly, depending on perspective) timed theft.

I have to admire the literal balls on the man or the proverbial balls on the woman who crawled under my truck in the middle of the day, in the uncovered open air, in full view of 30 apartment windows, and cut out a piece of my exhaust. I sincerely hope that they were desperate in some way. It makes me feel better to think that my misfortune would satisfy some of their fundamental needs. Hungry kids. Maybe their catalytic converter is broken and they deliver food to the infirmed elderly on Thursdays and can’t afford to get it fixed before that and people will die if they aren’t fed. Crack addiction. Whatever. As long as it was a need. I would be irritated if it got traded for an XBox. But I guess even that could be for the kids. Kinect is fun. And it decreases the likelihood of obesity, a central goal to any aspirant in the medical field.

And it couldn’t have been personal. Because if it was, they would have known that all they had to do was ask, or even offer a subtle hint that they needed help and I would have given whatever I could. Stranger or otherwise. And that is the truth. That is the truth about everyone involved with Ropa and Peacework and all of my friends and family. We give a shit about the person next to us, without any prior rapport. If you’re a person, you need something, and we can help, we will. I’m already a part of something big. I am made of it, and it is made of us. I just hope I can convey that in my interview tomorrow.

In the meantime, if someone you know is selling a suspicious looking catalytic converter for a 99 Toyota Tacoma, just tell them I’ll buy them an XBox if they need it.

3 comments for “Lip Service or True Grit: Put to the Test

  1. Cathy Higgins
    09.06.12 at 07:03

    I have tears in my eyes as I read this. Not because your catalytic converter is MIA, but because of the way you wish to perceive the situation. You make this family swell with pride Colten Smith. You are an inspiration to us all to live simply, do better and try to make the world a better place, if only in some very small way. I hope and pray that whoever interviews you today for PA school can see through the borrowed shoes and fancy suit and see the huge heart and soul that lies within the man sitting in front of them. You would and will make a difference. I love you, son…always have, always will. Aunt Naners

    • Carolyn Diaz
      09.06.12 at 19:09

      I have always known that you are a gift to the world, and to the universe. You are an inspiration to many, and an awakening to everyone else. Thank you for all you do and all you will do in our lifetime.

  2. Jodi Hay
    09.07.12 at 08:01

    Look at you, making lemonade! I’m sure you had an outstanding interview, and I know they will see what the rest of us see. Plus you were wearing deodorant, I’m sure that sealed the deal 😉 Thanks for having the dedication and determination to do what so many people only think of but never act on.

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