Chapter 63: “Out With the Old”
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Over the next few months, I felt that Tonya had been acting differently. I couldn’t explain why and when I asked her if she was okay, she would be quick to give me the answer I was looking for. “Yeah, I’m fine.” I was confused for I knew she wasn’t fine.
Meanwhile – back up north – MBNA was preparing to close. In June of 2005, Bank of America bought the credit card giant, causing the entire branch to fear the worst; that they would be out of their jobs. The company reassured them that they wouldn’t do such a thing and our immediate managers surmised that since Bank of America didn’t have an outward telemarketing arm that we would be safe in our profession.
Clearly, it was just a matter of time (and assessment) until the branch was shut down. In fact, not only did the company buyer shut some of the offices, but all of them. The Fort Kent center was consistently one of the top branches in the country, but even stellar numbers couldn’t save us.
I was okay with it because I never sold extraordinarily well and I was still planning on moving down to Bangor, so my future was somewhat secure; but what about those who had made MBNA their career? What would happen to them?
My application to UMaine had been accepted, and my credits would thankfully transfer over (due to the two colleges sharing a system). My student loans were secure [read: inked my name in my own blood], and I began signing up for classes.
But I still felt empty. Tonya wasn’t happy, and nothing I did could cheer her up. So as Valentine’s Day approached, I planned on making this one count. It was my first Valentine’s Day as part of a couple. No longer would Valentine’s Day be just swapped paper cards with licensed characters and heart lollipops; now, the gifts would bear substance and represent the love I had for my girlfriend.
I devised an idea for a cute Valentine’s Day card, one based on a candy motif to imply the “sweetness” of my significant other. I wrapped a cardboard card completely in silver Wrigley’s wrappers and added other candy treats to adorn the inside. The front read: “Even with all of the candy I ate to make this card…” The inside finished the sentiment: “I still can’t get as sweet as you.” A Dove chocolate wrapper was affixed to the inside (near a picture of us) that read: “When two hearts race, both win.”
This card brought me pride, and I was eager to share that pride, with Tonya. I called her on the day before I was set to drive down (on our five month anniversary). As I teased my gifts, she told me not to come down. She had put a lot of thought into it, and she decided that we should break up.
I was devastated. I asked for a reason, and Tonya had mentioned that she was worried that I was going to move down for her and not for myself. I told her – again – that this was part of the plan. Then, she mentioned the moment on her Aunt’s couch where I marveled at how she could be single while touching her leg. I didn’t understand how that could be misconstrued. I meant it in earnest and did not intend for that particular inference.
We hung up, and I was left unable to process the reasons. I tried to take my mind off of the pain, but after a life of love notes and crushes and wanting a relationship since age five, I was finally happy being in this relationship. What was I going to do now? It’s funny how one can wander aimlessly through life after a break-up.
I deleted all digital traces of our relationship; every picture we shared together. I didn’t want to see any of it. I had figured that if I wanted to eventually heal, then these images had to go. I had made collages of my friends and family, and I tried to cut out the physical pictures of Tonya in there, but I couldn’t without ruining the whole piece. I would soon cover them with new photographs. Until then, I took them off of the walls and put them in my closet. I had never experienced such an emotional breakdown like this before (I know, but cancer was different). It was going to take a while to recover from this.
Luckily, my occupation was eager to stick another pin in my side too. The closure date for MBNA had been finalized. Our last day was March 10th, two days after my two-year treatment anniversary. All of the heavy hitters figuratively phoned it in (okay, smart aleck, we all literally did, every day) and the ones who usually topped the monthly bonus list were just conversing with their customers, mostly about the imminent closure that plastered the business news.
I continued to do my honorable minimum, never changing my practices. I didn’t try to cheat the customer or put them in a precarious situation, but I just kept selling the benefits of the cards. Somehow, at the end of the ten-day month, I came out on top in the entire branch. Yes, I received a massive payout on my last check with the company. I felt like the tortoise in the classic children’s tale The Tortoise and the Hare, except inexplicably, more portly.
Now, I was out of a relationship and a job. Since I was laid off and not fired, I was eligible for unemployment. I signed up for it and actively searched for employment in the Fort Kent area. Utilizing such a service was amazing. Unemployment indeed allowed me the time to find work and not have to stress about bills.
As for actually finding a job, I didn’t know my prospects, I mean, who would hire me for two and a half months? I still planned on leaving in mid-June.
Finally, I reapplied to Subway in Fort Kent. I had applied to the store before they opened when they were still acquiring their starting roster, and they didn’t hire me then. And the manager was a family friend!
This time, I nailed the interview and the new manager, Armand and I hit it off. I felt guilty for not disclosing that I was going to move soon, but I happily used this branch to learn the job inside and out so I could easily transfer to another location in the Bangor area. I had previously met a manager in Bangor who had worked with my friend Tony before he, in turn, moved to Portland, so I had an “in” there.
I was surprised how hard it was for me to get over this relationship (especially then as my relationship-obsessed younger self), but I knew it would be all right. Soon, I would move into a new area and find someone that better suited me.
I could still hear Tonya utter those words to me from months ago:
“I hope that you’re not moving down here for me. Are you?” As if that was a bad thing. When she asked me, I instantly denied it. I mean, the thought had crossed my mind, but I was planning on moving for my education. But the catalyst was undoubtedly she.
So, yes, in the end, Tonya, I did partially move down for you. But if it weren’t for you being my girlfriend at that moment and subsequently calling it off, then maybe I would have never moved out of Fort Kent, and I’d still be there, utterly miserable.
Thank you. It was the right thing to do for both of us. It may have been our first relationship, period, but it was time for us to grow.
“Out with the old…”
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.