My Reluctant Resignation

Three years ago, I began a relationship that developed into the love of my life, thus far. Yesterday, I ended it. This is the story of my reluctant resignation from my dream job.

I work at a women’s centre. It’s a community organization where women come for a range of programs and services to make positive changes in their lives – personal, social, financial. It’s a welcoming space where women feel safe to be vulnerable, to share their stories, and to form personal connections with staff and with each other. I have had the honour of supporting women who are struggling with abuse, poverty, mental health, social isolation, physical disabilities, systemic oppression, and more. Every day we have meaningful conversations about what it’s like to be a woman in this world, and what it’s like to be sensitive people in an insensitive society.

In April, due to financial difficulties, our Centre had to start closing on Fridays and several staff were told they would be laid off for the summer. Like most workers in social services, our pay is low enough to begin with so any further reduction is a financial blow. I was lucky to keep my job through the summer, but I did get hit with the 20% pay reduction. We were told this change would be in place for a year at which point the situation would be reevaluated, meaning if fundraising managed to bring in enough money then we might be able to expand back to a 5-day week. All eyes turned to fundraising.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll cut to the bottom line: I don’t believe we have the right person in fundraising and, for a number of reasons, I have no faith that she will be able to raise the kind of money we need. Unfortunately, this person is also best friends with the Executive Director, so it’s likely going to be some time yet before a much-needed change is made. Therefore, it’s going to be an even longer time yet before Fridays are back on the table.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that we have no health benefits. In fact, most of the staff would be considered to be financially vulnerable by our region’s standards, and most of the staff qualify for the poverty supports we provide to clients. We work there because we love the work that we do and we believe in the Centre, but while we are empowering other women, we are not being empowered ourselves.

When the Friday decision was made, I gave a lot of thought to what it would take for me to leave the Centre. Financially, I could continue to subsidize my career from savings, but that wasn’t a long term plan and I realized I had to start thinking about next steps. I decided that I don’t want to give up working with women, I don’t want to give up my 5-minute commute, and I don’t want to give up key elements of my job. This narrowed down my possibilities to literally one organization, and only one position within that organization. On June 17, that position became available and so began the whirlwind that ultimately led to my resignation.

When I walked into the Executive Director’s office yesterday, I closed the door, looked up at her with a sad face and she knew. “You’re leaving us, aren’t you?” she said. I nodded. She came over and gave me a long tight hug while I sobbed in her arms. This is a far cry from the gleeful resignations I had made in my corporate career. As my best friend said, this is “like breaking up with a high school boyfriend. You know in your heart that it wasn’t going to last, but there’s a sweetness to high school boyfriends that makes you nostalgic about saying goodbye.”

So, I guess it’s time to break out the wine, grab the ice cream and tissues, and start saying my goodbyes. Breakups suck, but they pave the way for new adventures. And maybe, hopefully, if I’m really lucky, in two weeks I’ll be embarking on what will turn out to be my next great love.

time to move on

The Other Side of the Story

Recently a friend of mine had to meet with my ex for work reasons. She wasn’t sure if he remembered her from four years ago, but throughout the meeting she felt very uncomfortable. In a moment of anxiety when he left the room, she shared with a woman in the room that it felt weird for her and that she used to work for his ex-girlfriend. The woman tartly replied, “Well I know the other side of the story.”

Over the four years since the breakup, I’ve heard from various people snippets of what the Other Side of the Story sounds like, and it’s pretty amazing to me how he has managed to reframe himself from perpetrator to victim.

I bet the Other Side of the Story doesn’t include how he was making plans with me one morning to get a shared financial advisor to plan for our future, and then on the same day after I left for work how he packed every single item of his from my house and moved out. He even thought to grab the kayak – on a cold February morning – and drive it home 45 minutes away. He then even stopped to get a new haircut before he finally showed up at our shared workplace, came to my office at the end of the day, closed the door and announced, “I’m not going home with you, I’m breaking up with you.” No conversation, no dialogue, the decision had been made and that was the end of that.

Maybe the Other Side of the Story talks about how he repeatedly asked me to take him back just a few months later, but I bet it doesn’t include the part about how I had told him on the day he broke up with me that he’d better be completely sure that’s what he wants because there would be no going back from this decision, the way he was carrying it out.

Probably the Other Side of the Story includes how “controlling” or “selfish” I was because ‘we always did what I wanted to do’, despite my constant requests that he tell me what he wants and needs, something he was ultimately unable or unwilling to do. I suppose it’s much easier to blame someone else for your unhappiness than to take responsibility for it yourself.

But definitely the Other Side of the Story doesn’t include the night he raped me about a year after we had broken up. I was extremely vulnerable, having quickly entered a complicated relationship with an emotionally abusive man who had effectively crushed whatever self worth I’d had left after the breakup. And despite the fact I told this ex he could stay over but I absolutely didn’t want to have sex with him, and despite the fact that I said no several times as he kept climbing all over me, he didn’t care and ultimately got what he wanted when I gave up and laid still to hurry up and get it over with. The next day he had the audacity to tell me how special the night was, I replied that I was angry and reminded him that I didn’t want that to happen and that I had told him so repeatedly. I didn’t call it rape that morning, but he recognized that’s what it was and eventually I was able to name it that, too.

I can’t help but remember stories he’d told me about how his ex-wife (before me) was disengaged during sex, and how after several unhappy years and a period of time without sex, he decided maybe if they had sex again it would help the relationship. She ended up getting pregnant, the relationship didn’t get better and he left her while she was still pregnant. I wonder if that’s part of the Other Side of the Story he tells other women about his ex-wife? Probably not, though I remember when he told me, he still managed to somehow come out sounding like the victim. If I knew then what I know now…

I don’t tell people the bad things he’s done because I don’t want my experiences with him to cloud other people’s friendships/working relationships with him, I don’t want to put people into difficult positions of feeling they have to take sides, and I believe whatever happened between us should stay between us. But I’m getting pretty tired of hearing from third parties that so many women are sitting around saying “that poor guy, he deserves to have a nice girl.” I bet girls say the same thing about the emotionally abusive asshole who came after him, too. People have no idea.

So please, if ever you feel compelled to take sides after an acquaintance’s relationship ends, try to remember that no matter how nice this person seems, there’s an OTHER Other Side of the Story and you have no idea what it is. But maybe if you knew it, it might change the way you see the person, maybe in pretty significant ways. At the end of the day, all you know is nothing more than just that… a story.

New Shoes, New Lessons Learned

Today was a hell of a day. After a couple of days of not feeling great and skipping training runs, I finally pushed myself to go out for my first 10k on a trail. The incentive? On the way to the trail, I would stop off at the store to finally pick up my first pair of trail runners. My Saucony Guides have been getting pretty beaten up doing double duty and I need them to last until my half marathon in September, so I’ve been on the hunt for a pair of trail runners that offer similar support and width to the Guides so they can work side by side with them through the next few months of training. After a few visits to Running Free to get fittings and advice, I finally decided on a pair of Brooks Cascadia 10 men’s runners today – free, thanks to the sweet sponsorship of Brooks and Team Running Free!

I immediatelIMG_20150702_171708y headed to the trail, a little nervous about doing 10k in a brand new pair of shoes but knowing I could always switch out to my Sauconys mid-run if I needed to since they were in the car. There was no need. The Cascadias were super comfortable and the tread on them was incredibly helpful on those uphills… so many uphills! (I’m beginning to hate uphills.)

Though the run was a beast to get through – I really struggled to find any enjoyment or motivation today – I ultimately did manage to crank it out and finally arrived back at my car after almost 11k of ups and downs only to discover that my car key was gone from my pocket. Somewhere in that maze of forest trails, my little black key had fallen out. After a few minutes of searching, I realized it was a hopeless endeavour and accepted that it was gone.

Thus ensued a series of phone calls to roadside assistance and a new friend to make arrangements to first be able to get my house key out of the car, then be driven to my house to get my spare car key, and finally driven back to the forest to get my car.

So today I have learned three important lessons:

1) Don’t store your car key in your pocket while you’re running, no matter how secure you think it is or how many times you’ve done it before. Sooner or later, it will fall out.

2) Always make sure your phone is fully charged before you go out for a run, because you just don’t know how much you might need to use it before you’ll get a chance to charge it up again.

3) No matter how miserable the hills feel, you will get through them. And I think we all know quitting feels more miserable than hills anyway, every time.

Notice that not one of those lessons was don’t run too long in a brand new pair of shoes. My body feels no worse than it would have after a trail run in the Sauconys and I think the hills actually felt marginally easier thanks to the wicked treads on the Cascadias.

So despite the car key foibles, I think today was actually a pretty successful day. And I’m happy to welcome Brooks into my running shoe family – I get the feeling we’re in for a hell of a ride.

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