Sarah M. Coyne
Associate Professor, School of Family Life
My story begins at fat camp (i.e. a camp for overweight children). I was 19 years old and had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. That summer I was a camp counselor and tennis instructor for overweight children in Massachusetts. One day, the directors decided to take the kids out for a field trip – to see a movie. The movie they chose was American Pie, a rated R movie with extremely strong sexual content. I protested quite a bit saying that we didn’t have parental consent, that I had heard the movie wasn’t appropriate for kids, etc. but they ignored me and took the kids to see the movie. On the way back to camp, on the bus, I noticed that the girls in my division (13 and 14 years old) were being particularly catty and mean to each other. In my self-righteousness I thought, “Well, I’m sure that movie made them act like that.”
In hindsight, the movie probably didn’t make them act like that. However, it sparked a question in my mind: “Does media influence mean girl behavior?” I went back to Utah State and asked my professor for some research studies on this topic. She said that this type of study didn’t exist so I decided to do my own research project for an honor’s thesis. The study wasn’t particularly well designed or successful, but I realized that I LOVED research. I loved finding out something that nobody in the history of the world had ever discovered before! I was also able to be this same professor’s TA for psych 101. She was out of town and let me teach one time. I was 20 years old and teaching to a class of 400 undergrads. It was exhilarating and one of the best moments of my life. I realized that I knew what I wanted to be – a professor where I could do research AND teach!
After graduating from USU, I got married to Paul (who I incidentally also met at fat camp…that is a different story!). Paul is from Dublin, Ireland and was currently in the middle of his law degree in England, so we moved there so I could begin my graduate work. We both studied very hard and graduated the same year (2004). My “plan” was to be a professor part-time, perhaps teach an evening class or two. Paul, as a lawyer, could earn the big bucks and support our growing family.
Well, I have learned that our plan is not always God’s plan. In 2007 we decided that we wanted to move to the USA. I got a job at BYU in the school of Family Life and Paul was accepted to the MSc in Comparative Law at BYU Law School. Perfect timing! Everything was falling into place! I worked hard for two years and supported him through his degree. At the end of the year he took the bar exam…and failed. We were devastated. We had just had our second child and this was a big blow.
We decided to persevere. Paul has horrible test anxiety, but he decided to try again. 6 months later he failed again, this time by only 1 point. I watched him spiral into a depression. He tried again in 6 months, but ended up not being able to take it due to such high anxiety that it landed him in the hospital getting surgery. International students have 2 years that they can take the bar so he tried one more final time 6 months after that. He failed again.
Our plan was completely off track. We now had 3 children and I was feeling very conflicted. I was working full-time at BYU and supporting the family but had never expected to be the primary breadwinner. I worried I wasn’t following the prophets or the Proclamation to the Family. I began to doubt everything.
This time in my life was very difficult, but one of great growth. I prayed constantly for guidance. I attended the temple. I read conference talks and my scriptures. I got the same answer over and over again. “You are SUPPOSED to be at BYU. You are doing a marvelous work there. You are needed there. Especially in the School of Family Life, where most of the students are women, but most of the faculty are men. They need you. Your family will be strengthened because of your work.” I have relied on these promptings time and time again as my husband has primarily been a stay-at-home dad and I have supported the family financially.
Now that it has been a few years, I realize what a blessing this turn of events has been. I never would have said that after Paul failed the bar exam for the third time. But we have a great life! I LOVE my job!!! I can’t imagine not doing this job. It has been such a blessing for our family! And it has been such a blessing to have Paul at home. My dad worked 60 hours a week when I was a kid, but my own children see their dad every single day. Paul now teaches very part time as an adjunct professor at UVU (international law) and we have a wonderful balance to life.
I have such a testimony that Heavenly Father looks out for us. His vision is so much larger than our own, and we need to be willing to trust in him in all things. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else in my life. I love being a faculty member at BYU and know that I am supposed to be here.
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