Timing is Everything

I’m sitting on my bed in Barranquilla all jittery, not knowing how to contain the excitement within me. I have been promoted from alternate and selected for a 2015-2016 Fulbright U.S. Student Award to Brazil. Well, that’s what the email said. What I said was much different with much fewer words: I was speechless. Just seeing an email with the subject line ‘Update Fulbright Application Status’ had me hyperventilating and weak in the knees. So weak, in fact, that your girl straight dropped to the floor. Between tears welling up in my eyes and gasping for breaths of air, I managed to quite literally freak out — in the best way, of course. C’mon y’all, they were the happiest tears. Okay, there were some bittersweet ones, too, but I can’t pinpoint how many emotions I let fall from my eyes.

Bittersweet tears, you say. Yes. Arousing pleasure tinged with sadness or pain. You see, Fulbright is something I hold very dear to me. I have poured my heart into applying for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) to Brazil for two years. Just ask my college roommates how many emotions were shed in the process of writing my Personal Statement and Statement of Grant Purpose essays, yikes.

One of the things I spoke to my dad about before he died was Fulbright. I told him I wanted to apply. I was thinking about applying as early as my flight home from Madrid in May 2013. I was planning on speaking with Pat Taylor, Marist’s Graduate School and Fellowship Advisor, — or as I would say, Marist’s go-to human to inspire passion, motivation, direction and the all-too-necessary confidence boost for all things future related — on Friday, June 7th, 2013. Our scheduled phone call didn’t happen that day because my dad unexpectedly passed away that morning. As I endured my family changing in an instant, I felt this fire within me grow. I had to apply. I had to go. It is what I believe I was meant to do.

Sitting in that hospital waiting room, staring blankly into my unforeseen situation, I could only think of what my dad would have said to me. It’s the same thing he said to me when he and my mom dropped me off at the airport for my flight to Madrid a year earlier: “You’re not coming back, are you?” Maybe…maybe not, I’d say with a smirk.

This other completely unforeseen moment that is happening right now has never felt more carefully planned. I applied for a Fulbright ETA to Brazil for a second time last October. In January, I advanced to the final round, again. In April, I received word that I was an Alternate, again. So there I was in Palomino, Colombia during Semana Santa suddenly meditating, crying and listening to music on a beautiful beach in the Caribbean. I was lucky enough to have two solid dudes there for support. They further strengthened my love for fresh, positive perspectives from recent, yet deep friendships made during TEFL training and orientation in Bogotá. Travelers, man. I ended that trip with loads of gratitude for the opportunity to be living, teaching and traveling in Colombia until December 2015.

I set it up that way. Colombia until December with hopes for Brazil the following February. I continued hoping for a month after receiving my Alternate-status email. Grantees have a month to accept or decline, leaving Alternates in limbo for the time being. I had been in this same position a year prior, when I was about to graduate from Marist College and had accepted a temporary contract with Academic Programs International (API) as a Campus Relations Representative in the Northeast until just about the time Fulbright could have started if I received the grant last year. Here we are now: I’m a freaking Fulbrighter to Brazil. I’m going to Brazil in February. And I’ll be working with university students in programs to graduate as English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers. 

Like, what! Is this real?

It must be because the timing of it is impeccable. Seriously impeccable. I’ve been hanging out Colombian-time style for the past two weeks. My two-week vacation turned into four waiting for my new teaching schedule at SENA to present itself. And it just so happens that I received that email at the same time as the Fulbright one today.

When I piece together all of the signs, as they say, I can string several together: A few weeks ago, I brought back my Portuguese workbook from my intensive language course at Vassar thinking I should brush up on it. I was just talking to my friend about what an honor Fulbright could be. Maybe I’ll apply again in the future, I thought. Just yesterday, I started applying to English teaching companies in São Paolo. Today, I crossed the street to the bilingual library singing Shimbalaiê by Maria Gadú, an artist I heard in Portuguese class senior year that inspired my love for the sultry sounds of Música Popular Brasileira (MPB).

Like, what! Is this real?

Yes, yes it is. I write that for you, dear reader, and for myself. It is in these unpredictable moments that I feel I must convince myself that this, indeed, is happening, and it is, in fact, very, very real. For the yoga and RumbiaTerapia classes tonight, and for the two ice creams that followed, I am, like, really grateful. For the always-inspiring, absolutely-endless support from the humans I cherish, I am so very grateful. For the bittersweet, happy tears that fall for you daddy, I’m still, and forever will be, grateful. In happy moments and in sad moments, I still find myself completely stunned at how this life has shown its blessings in some sort of magically-timed manner. For that, I am beyond grateful.

18 thoughts on “Timing is Everything

  1. Dear Kerianne ,

    This is so bittersweet and I am so happy and yet sad again to anticipate you going away again but with all heart I am so very thrilled for all you have accomplished. You have been awaiting yet again a second time for this Fulbright selection. I know that exact feelings of your legs feeling weak as I feel the emotions for excitement for you and the time it took for you to get to this point and yet lifeless as I prepare for days possible weeks with you only to say goodbye again. I know I try to keep my spirits up in talking to you and I am so thrilled beyond words for this amazing accomplishment you have achieved to be selected for Fulbright. Actually in talking about career planning just yesterday I referenced this Fulbright process and the long waiting game and how understanding the interview process for job interviews and taking into account what actually happens is all a waiting game. I did say in my morning meeting that I wished you would just hear from Fulbright and then I get this emotional call from you with these few short jittery words “I Got it, I Got Brazil ! “. As tears roll down my cheeks as I write this to my amazing, beautiful, talented daughter yet all I can simply think of is yes, “Kerianne my daughter, my wonderful world traveler whom I love dearly is going to Brazil.” Dad and I always talked and pondered of days we knew we would be saying a lot of goodbyes to you thru your life’s journey. We both knew it would be emotional but we always hugged and talked of how you looked to set a path that was unchartered. He would smile and would say we could visit our sweetie. To this day I still hear from friends how much Dad bragged and loved his trip to London and Madrid as much as he loved being with our family at the shore.

    I wish dad was here as no one can understand the joy we shared hearing your voice telling us of your next adventure. I do know he is with all of us always. Hugs to you doodle 😘.

    I love you dearly my sweetheart and filled with joy and a shimmer of a smile each time I think of a trip I can plan to see you.
    With all my love always ,

  2. Enjoy the roller coaster of emotions…you deserve the very best Kerr.
    Teacher talking – your perseverance keeps you moving forward… on to the next chapter …. And enjoy the ice cream to celebrate.
    Love you,

  3. Congratulations Kerianne. Arnie and I are so very happy for you amd we wish you all the best as you begin this wonderful journey and experience in your life. i know your mom and dad are so very proud and happy for you.

    Looking forward to sharing new experiences and fun with you and mom in Barranquilla!
    🙂 xoxo

    1. Diana,

      I am so excited your joining and I keep looking at the places we plan to travel. I cannot wait to have our tour guide and world traveler Kerianne show us Colombia.

  4. Kerianne, I was stalking your facebook profile for information on the fullbright program and found this really great post. So encouraging! I’ve been wanting to go to Israel for years now, and this reminded me that it is indeed possible. God’s timing is perfect!

    1. Hehe, I’m glad you found it & found it helpful! Things do work out – they just might test your patience and determination every now and then. Good luck!


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