Thursday, June 23, 2016

The day that changed my life forever


Continued from A date with a Mennonite

During the next week at work, every quiet moment I had, I thought about how much I would miss my job as I began to count down the days of the best job I ever had.

On Thursday morning, I had an appointment with my favorite nurse friend at the walk-in clinic, and she confirmed what George told me about my nerve problems being complete bullshit. She just used slightly different words to explain it to me.

She asked, “How is your appetite, are you eating three meals a day like I recommended?”

“Yes I am, well, some days I can’t but there are times when I actually get hungry.”

“That’s great, and how are you sleeping?”

“I often have nightmares, but not as much as I did when I first came to see you.”

She said, “Anna I don’t specialize in nerve problems, but I think you are and will be just fine. You were experiencing extremely high levels of stress and anxiety, which is perfectly normal in your situation and most people can manage that with the way they live their lives. One of the reasons that I think you are fine Anna is because you look so much better now that you have gained a bit of weight. I think that it is because you have found meaning and purpose in your life, which I believe is the cure for your nerve problems. But if you want a second opinion I will refer you to a specialist, just let me know if you would like me to do that.”

I realized I had believed that there was something seriously wrong with me. My grandfather’s nerve problems were real and I was convinced that mine were too. He had a mental illness that ultimately caused him to commit suicide and because his illness wasn’t physical, it had become known as “nerve problems”. I felt that I had the same illness, and my fear of ending up like him was one of the forces behind my braveness and my determination to learn about that and everything else I could.

I remember the feeling of relief trickling down my body as the nurse explained it to me and I began to believe her because I had also believed that I was a hard learner and that that wasn’t true either. I began to believe George and the nurse that I was perfectly healthy. Well, I knew I was a bit crazy, but I didn’t have the major health condition that I had been waiting to be diagnosed with. I felt so much better about everything as I started to believe that the choices I had made for myself were the right ones for me. Especially after I heard a nurse tell me that my nerve problems could be cured with purpose and meaning in my life. I had read about the purpose and meaning and I understood that going to school and learning gave me purpose and meaning. That changed everything, and it was the best news I could have heard.

I loved that nurse so much I wanted to be her best friend forever. All of that greatness she told me had replaced most of the worries I had about being unemployed in a week. I walked home over that same highway overpass where I stood not too long ago and thought of jumping off of. I walked over that bypass with a big smile on my face feeling so much more confident in my ability to figure life out. When I got home I sat down and picked up a book and continued learning about, ‘this thing called life.’

I had only read a few pages and then my phone rang.

“Hello.”

“Anna! I hope you aren't busy tomorrow morning. Are you?”

“George! Ah no...”

“Great! I made an appointment for you. I hope that is okay. Well, it’s kind of an appointment for both of us.”

“Okay, sure I am not doing anything important.”

“Okay fantastic, can you come to my place at 8:30 in the morning, we’ll go on my motorcycle,” he said and the little hairs on my neck began to stand up as those words settled in my ears.

“YES! I mean okay, I will see you at 8:30 then,” and right after I hung up the phone I thought, “I should have asked him where we are going.” The more I thought about it the more curious I got especially because he was so excited about wherever we were going. I thought “hopefully I will run into him at work on his way out before my shift starts tonight,” but sadly I didn’t.

Friday morning when I woke up the first thing that popped into my mind was “George! I’m going on a motorcycle ride with George today.” I was so excited I couldn’t even eat breakfast. I just got ready, neatly folded my pink slip, put it in my jacket pocket, walked over to George’s apartment and knocked on his door.

Still in his pajama bottoms, he opened the door and said, “Hey! Good morning, Anna please come in, have a seat. Would you like a cup of coffee, a real coffee?”

“Sure, thanks.”

He walked into the kitchen, poured me a cup of coffee, brought it to me and said, “Enjoy, I’ll be right back, I am just going to finish getting ready,” and winked at me.

I sat back on the sofa in his living room and enjoyed a real coffee experience while the butterflies swam around in the coffee in my stomach and his lizard stared at me. I couldn’t believe that such a short time ago I had been so afraid of George. I thought, “I don’t know where he is taking me and I don’t even care.”

I heard my mother’s voice in my head saying, “Anna, nich so sea glutzen” (Anna, don’t stare so much) when I saw him coming out of his bedroom ready to go. He looked and smelled amazing, wearing a simple white t-shirt, blue jeans and his hair pulled back into a ponytail.

“Alright, here we go. Do you remember the drill?”

“Ahhh,” I answered.

“Remember to hold on to me and don’t let go,” he explained as he zipped up his black leather jacket.

“Okay,” I answered as I thought, “Ah yeah… that won’t be a problem anymore,” with a big smile on my face.

“Alright let’s go then. Oh yeah did you remember your pick slip?”

“Yes, right here in my pocket.”

“Perfect!” He said, grabbed two helmets and off we walked to the parking lot where his motorcycle was parked. He put his helmet down on the seat and gently slipped a helmet over my head and adjusted it for me. He put his helmet on and got on the motorcycle, waited for me. I climbed on right up against him, wrapped my arms around his waist and interlocked my fingers.

“Ready?” He asked.

“Yes.”

“Okay, hold on.”

“Okay,” I said as he took off and the butterflies in my stomach couldn't keep up with his speed. I felt like I was on that motorcycle for no longer than five minutes when he parked.

“What? That was fast, I was hoping that you would take me further than this.”

“After we take care of some things, I will take you for a real ride, okay.”

“Okay,” I said as he opened a door that entered a building I had never been too. We sat down in a waiting area and I looked at George thinking “Okay I'm just going to ask, what the heck are we doing here?” and a tall woman with dark shoulder-length hair walked up to me with a welcoming smile on her face, she reached for my hand and said, “Anna, nice to meet you” as she shook my hand.

George turned to me and said, “Anna, this is Sharon.”

She turned to George, shook his hand and said, “Thank you for bringing Anna this morning, how was the ride up here?”

“Anna thought it was too short,” said George and winked at me as we followed Sharon further into the building.

“Well, this shouldn't take too long, please have a seat and let’s get the paperwork started. Anna, did George explain any of this to you?”

“No, I have been wondering what we are doing here.”

“Well, I am an employment counselor and my job is to help people find work. George tells me that the factory you are both working at is closing?”

“Yes.”

“I understand you are going to school and would like to finish your grade twelve?”

“I would love to. I know that I can't really get another job if I don’t. I got laid off a while ago and everywhere I went to look for work they asked if had finished grade twelve. But I need a job so I can pay my rent while I go to school,” I explained, and held my breath when the sound of that reality sucked all the oxygen out of Sharon’s office.

I slowly began to inhale as Sharon explained to me, “Well, you’ve come to the right place. I can certainly help you with all of that, and the timing couldn’t be better. Many changes have been made in our now Mike Harris government, which has upset many, to say the least, but you will definitely benefit from the changes that he has made.”

“I have heard that name before, people at school were talking about him and a lot of people got really angry,” I said as I turned to George and wondered if I should have even said that. He just sat there leaned back in the chair with his right ankle resting on his left knee, smiling and nodding his head.

“Alright, so with that being said, did you bring your pink slip?” Sharon asked.

“Yes I did,” I answered as I pulled it out of my pocket and placed it on the desk in front of her. She looked at it and began typing on a computer, printed a few documents and placed them on the table in front of me.

I liked Sharon as soon as I saw her, but I began to love a little more each time she spoke to me. “Anna, I have some great news for you. All you need to do is sign your name here, here and here. Start your next semester at the adult learning center on Monday while you finish your last week of work at the factory and you will be able to stay on unemployment until you finish your grade twelve.” And the air in her office began to feel lighter making it easier to breath following each word she spoke.

“There are only a few things I need from you Anna, and this is very important. At the end of each grade or three-month semester period, I need you to drop off a copy of your transcript. The teachers will know about this and make a copy for you and the only time that you are allowed to miss school is when you absolutely have to because you are sick, and I am keeping track of this.”

“Okay,” I answered as I thought, “What does all of this mean?”

“Each time at the end of a semester I will call you and we will talk about how things are going and for this to continue you have to have a passing grade. If not, the cheques will stop coming,” Sharon said, and I held my breath again as I looked at George.

George turned to Sharon and said, “That won't be a problem, Anna is going to pass every single grade with flying colors. It’s just a feeling have.” He turned back to me and said, “Now you can start breathing again Anna.”

“I have no doubt that you are going to do well Anna,” Sharon said as she handed me a pen and pointed to where I had to sign my name. I took the pen and signed beside all three x’s. I put the pen down and Sharon said, “Can you also write the date beside your name, Anna?” and my heart began pounding with fear as I tried to remember what date it was. I had completely forgotten what the date even was. I was way too embarrassed to ask, and while Sharon was typing on the computer, I noticed George sliding a piece of paper toward me. He whispered, “Like this,” he had written the date down for me to copy onto the document. 
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