By Leah Scheitel
So I got dumped and then quit my job, and exactly in that order. This town is too small of a town to have that big of an ex in. From the stoop of my office, I could stand on my tippy toes and see into the ex’s bedroom window. Which I did, on more occasions than I would like to admit. There is no doubt my colleagues wondered about my sudden desire to stretch outside. They knew it wasn’t to “take in the views” – just one specific, creepy, stalker-like view, to see if he was home, what he was doing, and if he was even a fraction as sad and pathetic as I was.
I never saw him standing across the highway, trying to glance into my window. He wins on this one, and that sucks.
This all happened in late August.
After a night of whiskey cocktails with my 73-year-old friend, Joe, I used the bathroom at a bar and ran into my boyfriend, who was drunk and with his boys. I was playing pool with two other guys I had met that night, and was guilty of extensive flirting. Nothing else. For some reason, it caused a fight worthy of a Bukowski novel. Insults were hurled, song lyrics were referenced, and he threw my actions with an ex-boyfriend from four years ago in my face. He brought up my most vulnerable time, right after I lost the five teeth and the majority of confidence, saying my actions made him think that he didn’t want to be with me.
That hurt. A lot.
I would parallel it to him eating some dodgy sushi in Chinatown, his digestive system and confidence strained because of it, and then telling him his resulting stench and actions in the bathroom made me re-think our relationship, as I could never be with someone who produced that smell.
I didn’t tell him this. Instead, I sat at the foot of his bed, looking at him and wondering why I chose him. What was it about him that made me get over a decade’s worth of intimacy insecurities and give a relationship a solid try?
I knew it wasn’t the healthiest relationship and I knew that was why I was holding on like a fat kid would to a Twinkie – I picked him. I chose him and I wanted to make it work with him. He was not the most adventurous, the cleanest, or even the most ambitious. He was a pack-a-day smoker and had no interest in ever reading a book, let alone any of my work.
But I picked him and I wanted him, for better or for worse. It was worse, and there was no way I could make it better.
He kept yelling at me to leave his bed and to sleep on the couch, which was the first wish of his that I ever refused. So he continued to hurl the insults and I kept sitting there until I couldn’t. I gave him back his key and told him I would return the minimal things he had at my house: a book about baseball and a weathered iPhone cord that only worked on an awkward angle. He said he wanted to be friends, and I asked him what that would look like.
“I don’t know, when you see a cool GIF, send it to me, or the occasional text.”
At that, tears burst from my eyes for the first time during the entire fight.
“I’ll return your shit,” I spluttered as I closed his apartment door.
That was the last time we spoke. Five days later, I left the baseball book and the stupid iPhone cord outside of his door, with two Jerkface 9000 beers – apt because we used to drink them together and the fact that he was being a bit of a jerkface – with a note that said, “I’ve had some lovely nights with you.”
I’ve heard nothing. No funny GIF, no text asking if I was okay. And I’m not okay. But he doesn’t know that, because he hasn’t asked.
What a shitty friend.
It’s weird to say, as an independent, modern lady, but there was no reason to stay in small town B.C. without him. I was miserable there for six months, and that unhappiness was the main culprit to my strained relationship. He had found his life, making beer, smoking and watching sports with friends. I had just begun to look for mine, and while I could have made more of an effort to make it in that town, I wasn’t prepared to. So after he dumped me, there was no reason to stick around in his town. He dumped me on a Saturday. I quit on the Wednesday, giving my employers one more week than required, a courtesy I hoped would be noticed.
As soon as I quit, the job became easy. Once I quit, it became the job I wanted it to be: people giving me accolades for my work, me calling the shots, and only writing the stories I thought were deserving. The sudden change in affection for my job made me question my decision, and I wondered if there was a way I could stay. But as I stretched on the front stoop for the third time on a Friday afternoon, I remembered it wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t healthy. I was stalking my ex through advanced outdoor yoga and crying at my desk nearly everyday for the past six months before this climax of quitting.
To better illustrate the frustration of my job, below is an essay I wrote a week before The Dumping, when I was at a loss for what to do – save my relationship, which I invested so much emotion into, or save my career, which I invested so much money into.
Selenium and Sanity Aug. 17, 2016
Even the big, brown leather swivel chair positioned at my desk can’t make this job comfortable. In fact, the obvious signs of neglect the chair features almost parallels how I feel about my career – the longer I spend in this office, the more weathered it will be.
The most ironic thing about it is that I took this job to start a career. Fresh out of business school with a dream of becoming a writer a la Stephen Marche, Chuck Klosterman and Chris Jones, I was bright eyed looking for jobs a year ago. I was prepared to go anywhere that my cats could come, and I applied non-discriminatory of geography – three jobs in northern Saskatchewan, two in the Yukon, a position in Nunavut, and several in my home province of British Columbia. If it was within the vast playground of journalism, I was sure it was going to spark my trajectory towards writing infamy.
Now, one year after starting a job at a community newsroom in southeastern B.C., I have no hope of that ever happening. My only hope is to get through the day without crying and a sliver of optimism. Some days, that’s a tall order.
Community news is a different beast. It doesn’t have the guts, glamour or pay cheques most people dream of when they start writing for their university papers.
There is nothing sexy about writing stories on the town’s tallest sunflower or largest tomato – both of which I’ve done.
And the stories that do get me excited – such as digging into City Hall to discover it is nothing more than incompetence packaged nicely into six councillors and a mayor – garner no accolades. Besides providing extensive conversations between my boss and me, it does little else.
Perhaps the hardest part about community newspapers is that it is a pseudo-façade of journalism. It should have another title, like content garbage collector or something less romantic. After a year at this paper and working in the capacity of both the reporter and the editor, I can say with confidence that, for the majority of the time, we are not doing journalism. We are providing content that pleases the many egos in the small town we service. People don’t really want news, they want stories that make them feel vindicated, honoured and celebrated. And how dare I piss off any advertisers, which is extremely difficult in a small town, where nearly everyone is an advertiser. For the record, I have pissed off two advertisers with articles that they both pulled thousands of dollars worth of advertising and my job was in jeopardy. And I’m also on City Hall’s shit list. I’m pretty proud of that.
The journalism façade hit a low point while working on a story about a large mining company, which employs roughly 60 per cent of the town, and more across the entire valley. The area is home to five coal mines and they send trainloads of coal to the coast every day. They also produce all of the shit that is left behind after decades of mining, such as selenium, which they have been accused of dumping into the local waterways in ample amounts. In September 2015, I wrote about the mining company facing 19 charges under the Fisheries and Environment acts for their dumping of selenium. Deformed fish were washing up on the shores of the river; fish with gimped fins, compressed lungs and no chance of surviving. The company says they are taking steps to rectify their affinity for donating selenium to the local streams and rivers, but no one, including my little newsroom, is investigating the story to test the validity of their claims. In July, I went against my better judgement and printed a story citing their claims that the waterways are 99 per cent clear of selenium and they are the environmental masterminds they want to be portrayed as. It was the 11th hour. I needed a story, and I printed their claim as if it was fact – without investigation, question or editorial thought; without any journalistic integrity, with the exception of spell check. That’s when I knew I wasn’t doing journalism, or even writing, like what I set out to do, before this job and my education. I am doing public relations, and I am doing it poorly.
This utter disgust for my job has been a long time coming, ready to spout out of me like the foam from my chair.
With this extreme disdain for my job – it’s a disdain normally reserved for Justin Bieber look-a-likes and any songs by the Police – it was easy to leave. There was one thing I wanted before I left the office, an exit interview. The job took so much endurance, I thought my insights might make a difference when hiring the right person for the job. They don’t need a trained journalist – they need a mother with a talent for writing and who wants to get back into the work force. They need someone who is invested in the community in a way other than their job.
The group publisher, essentially my boss’s boss, drove four hours one morning to give me the exit interview and to ease the concerns of the reporter, who was going to be on his own while they found my replacement. He sat with me for five minutes, listened to my honest rant about why the position was so shitty, repeated the word, “okay,” blinked an alarming amount, and then asked me one question.
“Can I get personal?” he started. “I heard you just ended a relationship. Are you leaving just because of that?”
And what the fuck? I recited an eloquent rant about the problems with the position, the strain the editor is under and why the current structure of the job is not sustainable, and he thought I was leaving because of a boy.
He wasn’t entirely wrong. I was nursing a broken heart and needed time away from the ex to get over it. But I was miserable there for six months, and I tried to articulate that to him, but he couldn’t see any of that. All he saw was a brokenhearted girl, not someone who was serious about their career.
That erased any doubts I had for that job. And the best way to seek revenge, either on an ex-boyfriend or ex-employer, is to be better than when you were with them. That’s what I plan to be, better. I just have to get better.
Leah loves a stiff drink, is obsessed with Saturday Night Live, and lives for her cats. She’s the most articulate date you’ll ever have. Voting turns her on.