Friday, June 20, 2008


What a difference one week can make.

Last Friday, I was so distraught I came home from work and cried for about an hour. I muscled my way through the weekend, every moment feeling like I knelt before the chopping block, waiting for the axe to fall. I made my way to work on Monday, my heart sinking with every step I took towards my office.

Allow me to explain.

The backstory: Having optimistically gone to film school, and my husband having graduated from acting school, we discovered after an eye-opening event that Brad has bipolar disorder. Over time, we found that he remains stable when he works a part time job, so I've become the main breadwinner. But I had film training, so my route to a full time, permanent job with benefits has been like Don Quixote, tilting at windmills.

At a particularly horrible time in my life, when I worked at a dollar store for a Simon Legree manager, my best friend Connie called me with an offer to be her assistant at her office. I can tell you how it felt exactly. It felt like the scene from Lord of the Rings when Sam is sinking and Frodo grabs his hand to pull him back to the surface.

With one phone call, Connie gave me that elusive office experience that is dearer to a person trapped in retail-worker poverty, than water to someone perishing from thirst. From a wonderful Cinderella time as her assistant, I went to a small office for eight excruxiating months. The boss was a snippy perfectionist who flew into snits, recognizing that I was on a rather steep learning curve. Every day I had to take a deep breath and force myself to take those steps over the threshhold. When he showed me something, I had to learn it immediately or else. So I did. Brad and I were barely squeaking by at the poverty line for a family of two.

I survived that boot camp experience, to land another office job with a dreamy manager and fabulous coworkers - but as a casual, still no benefits, still with enormous pharmacy costs each month to pay out-of-pocket. At least this time I'd climbed aboard the provincial government ship. Of course, getting hired as an actual, permanent employee with the province is all but impossible. Still, I applied for jobs I felt qualified for.

I lucked out by getting pulled aboard the government office I'm with now, again as a casual. Six months into that contract, I interviewed for my job - which was being made into a permanent position. I left for Toronto in October not knowing whether I had a job to come back to. As it turned out, I came in second. I went on unemployment, and in strange timing, was available to be with both my gram and my father-in-law as they passed away.

In January I got called back to the office, again as a casual. I was grateful to be back aboard, grateful to be in a position to once again apply for permanent positions, which I did. Again I came in second. The CEO's assistant took me to lunch to go over my interview, and she gave me feedback on what I could do at the next interview. Which I was grateful to get, even though I felt quite idiotic to need coaching.

I interviewed again - and once again came in second. I was crushed. Truly.

Brad's teeth began aching. He saw a dentist who said two root canals, for $2000.00 each, or two extractions for several hundred dollars each. The doctor put him on antibiotics in the meantime. And painkillers, too, of course.

I interviewed one more time. My manager went over my interview weaknesses beforehand, and once again I swallowed back my pride and was grateful for her generosity. I gave it an Oscar-calibre performance. Then I waited.

My contract was winding down. Still no word. No word. Hiring crawls at a glacial pace at the provincial level. My manager had to go to a conference, but told me not to worry. It's hard not to worry when I keep coming in second.

She got back from the conference, and still no word. My contract was due to end today. Last Friday I was on the edge of sanity. Was I heading into my final week of work? She'd told me when I didn't get the last position, that she wouldn't be able to extend this current contract past the 20th.

Meanwhile, the woman who won my old position started her job, with me training her. Of course she turns out to be a wonderful person. But it's very nerve-wracking to train her and not know if I'll last out the week.

So last week, I came home, sat on the couch with Brad and cried for an hour. He wrapped his arms around me, said not to worry, if I had to go on unemployment again, we'd get by somehow, like we always do.

Monday, I walked towards my office with a heart icing up with dread. My manager was so busy I barely saw her (she's managing our department, plus doing her actual HR job.) Tuesday, I walked towards my office with sweating hands and a rock-hard lump in my gut. My manager called the new woman into her office, and then me. Big, big sweat. Heart absolutely crushing inside.

First thing she said, waving a paper at me, was that the CEO's and Director's signatures were still drying on the approval, and she'd like to verbally offer me my current position. And that she hoped I would accept. (insert hysterically crazy laughter inside me that I had to keep from spilling out)

But wait - it gets better. She asked me - would I prefer my current position, or my old scanning position? I was stunned for a second, but quickly recovered and grabbed for that brass ring. I said I would love to have my old position back. So she switched us, easy as that.

When people quip, 'It's always darkest before the dawn', why does that always sound so poetic, but in reality feels like being tied to a stake in the arena, watching the grate roll up and the lions stroll out?

And now every cell in my body shimmers with rejoicing.


Annette Gallant said...

Congratulations!! I'm so happy for you, Julia. I knew something was up from your FB tagline but I didn't know if I should ask or not.

Hope you and Brad do something wonderful this weekend to celebrate! :-)

Heather D said...

Hooray Julia!

Akelamalu said...


You know the universe couldn't give you the job before because you had to be there for your Gram and FIL don't you?

Go celebrate honey, you deserve it. x

Leah Braemel said...

Oh, huge huge hugs, Julia!! And a major snoopy happy dance for you too!

What a roller-coaster you've been on, I'm SO glad to hear you've finally had that brass ring sent your way. Big cheering going on for you over from my neck of the woods right now.

Julia Phillips Smith said...

Thanks, everyone. I'm celebrating at the ballet today - my best form of bliss.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Oh, geez. Talk about making me perch on the edge of my seat and try to keep from rushing to find out what happened.

I'm so glad the good karma finally caught up with you, Julia. You've LONG deserved this and you've put up with a lot of garbage as you waited for your time.

I'm proud of you and excited as hell for you. Savor the ballet today. Soak it in. You've earned this.


Alan said...

Hey Julia,

Congrats and I'm really glad things worked out so well.

I know if I told my 18 year self that one day I'd be overjoyed to be getting a full time job in a office that pays decently he'd be shaking his head in bewilderment, but not having to worry about money all the time is a big relief

Wylie Kinson said...

Oh Julia -- I'm so happy for you!! What an emotional ride you've been on... thank God it's over and you can now feel secure.
Rejoice, indeed :)

{{Big Squishy Sistah-Friend Hugs}}

M. said...

your story transported me back to many years in northern ontario, where 'no permanent job' is a reality for many, many people during their whole career. they just keep going from short-term contract to short-term contract, sometimes with long gaps in between, and, as you say, having to figure out how to manage without benefits (which is a, if not the, big reason why those jobs are not made permanent in first place).

difficult enough in itself - how much excrutingly more so when coping with bipolar life. you are your husband are to be commended.

Unknown said...

Julia I've been worried about you for the past week. Coming on your blog to see if you posted good news or bad. I'm so relieved and happy for you.

Couldn't happen to a nicer person.

Toni said...

Okay, I literally left my computer to go tell my dh this entire story. INCREDIBLE! Absolutely awesome, Julia. I am (let me scream this now) SOOOOOOOO HAPPY FOR YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
As you know, I don't believe in chance. As such, I'm off now to praise God for meeting your needs during the lean and uncertain times, and for blessing your socks off right this very moment. YAY!!!!!!!!! Congratulations, friend.

Julia Phillips Smith said...

Annette, Heather, Akelamalu, Leah, Susan, Alan ((hug)) - I miss you - Wylie, M., Anne and Toni -

Thank you for your friendship and love. It's always precious to me, but especially so now when I can share my relief with all of you.

((BIG HUG)) to you!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story. I'm absolutely delighted for you - and how exciting.

I spent many, many years as the main breadwinner because D was mysteriously sick. I know how very hard it is - the pressure is unbelievable. Plus, you have a house to care for.... arg.

D. is better - dx autoimmune disorder that destroyed his thyroid among other things - no one tested his thyroid because he's male. Grrrrr....


You should think about writing this as a short story - I think a lot of people could really relate and learn from it.

I hope this job is every thing you need it to be, Clark Kent, so you can get to the business of being Superman.

Julia Phillips Smith said...

Claudia - LOL! Where's that phone booth...? I hear you on the husband-with-health-issues thing. Though Brad's bipolar problem might seem to be horrendous, he was diagnosed early for that disorder and really does well with his treatment. Not knowing what your husband's problem was must have been excruxiating.

And house...what house...? Oh, you mean my mom's house, where we have a basement apartment? You mean that house? There would be no way in this millennium that Brad and I could afford the shutters on a window of a house, let alone a house. LOL!

Jill said...

Good to hear that everything is arrenge for you!

Sans Pantaloons said...

Congratulations Julia! This is indeed a reason to rejoice.
I am pouring a Macallan in your honour. Three Cheers for Julia!

Sandee said...

What wonderful news Julia. A great big CONGRATULATIONS honey. I so know how you felt. Been there and done that. I'm so happy for you. Big hug. :)

Amy Ruttan said...

Congrats sweetie!! :)

Cole Reising said...

Congratulations! Your title is perfect! :-)


Joy Renee said...

Congratulations! I'm thrilled for you and Brad!

Karina said...

OH YAY!!!!! Congrats Julia, I am so happy for you!!! YAY YAYAYAYAYAY!!!! (Doing a little happy dance for you!)

Anonymous said...

Wow, congratulations Julia!!!

Thomma Lyn said...

Oh, Julia! That's fabulous -- big hugs and huge congratulations! I'm so happy for you. :)))))

Anonymous said...

I mean: cleaning, shopping, feeding, generally caring that we call "housekeeping". Even if your husband does some, I'm certain you still "work at home."