The last step

Anyone who has ascended or descended a staircase in the dark knows that stomach-lurching feeling when a stair you thought was there wasn’t or when an extra stair seems to have inserted itself into the staircase somehow. I’m the sort of person who doesn’t like to be caught unawares, so I count the number of steps in the staircases I frequent, just in case I have to take them in the dark someday. That way I can count steps as I make my way in the darkness. Inevitably—and I swear the staircases do it to spite me—I miscount and end up either tripping on the last step that shouldn’t have been there or hovering over the ground in expectation for a step that should have existed. Someone should do a study on this phenomenon. Not me—I hate the feeling too much to willingly subject myself to it for the sake of science.

Sometimes I wonder if one of the things we’re supposed to learn from life is how to get used to this feeling. You know, when you spend your whole life thinking you’ll go on a mission, and then you meet Mr. Right three months before you turn 21 (no, this one didn’t happen to me). Or when you spend 4.5 years of university preparing to become an English teacher, only to find out during your last semester that you hate teaching (this one did). In fact, “Get used to vertigo” seems to be the moral of the story of the last three years of my life. I’m still not used to it.

Last spring, I remember complaining a lot about how Jon Boy and I would graduate in a few months but I had no idea what would happen after that. Where would we live? Would we find jobs right away? Would we spend six months looking for them? What would we do if Jon Boy found a job in California and I found one in New York? Would we go wherever his job led, or would we follow the better-paying job whether it was his or mine? What if Jon Boy found a job somewhere where I couldn’t find a job? Would I take an any-old-job just to keep myself busy, or would I stay at home? And where did children fit into all of this?

A month before graduation, maybe less, Jon Boy and I both got jobs at the same company. It seemed too good to be true. What we couldn’t have planned for, though, was that the job would be a near-perfect fit for me and a terrible fit for Jon Boy. After just a few weeks at the job, Jon Boy took another job (this one salaried instead of project-based).

He started the new job in June. At the end of June, we moved to the Salt Lake Valley, to a place fairly central to both our jobs. In July I got pregnant, just after we became insured. The plan was to stay on my insurance until Jon Boy’s 90-day trial period was over and he had insurance through work as well. We would switch to his insurance then so that I could quit work before the baby was born and we’d still have insurance to cover the birth.

Jon Boy was scheduled to begin on insurance on October 1. He came to work on the first Monday in October to find out that he and the two other editors had been laid off—supposedly to be replaced by outsourcers in India. Once again our plans changed. I had already told my company to cancel my insurance for October, but I was able to email them and get back on insurance right away, and I even managed to maintain continuous coverage.

Now it’s the end of January, Jon Boy’s still looking hard for a job, and I feel just like I did last spring. Where will we be living in a month or two or three? Will Jon Boy find a job? How will we move with me pregnant or nursing a new baby?

This time, though, I know that no matter how many plans I try to make, life has other ones. I’m beginning to realize that whatever step is lurking (or not) at the bottom of the stairs, it’s going to be there (or not) regardless of how much I plan for the opposite. I guess the best thing to do is to take things slow, hold tight to Jon Boy, and adapt to whatever life throws at us this time.

I just wish I had a flashlight.


  1. This is the point where I’d love to have something inspirational to say. Instead, all I can think to say is that I’m sure it will work out. It has to. You and Jon Boy are great people. For what it’s worth, though it makes me worried about my own situation when an editor like Jon Boy can’t find a job, your (pl.) situation has helped me realize what you said in this post–one can’t always control one’s life, no matter how relentlessly one plans. So a lot of things are less important than I thought they were. Hmmm. I’m not articulating this well. Suffice it to say that I was thinking about you guys the other day. Both that your situation and how you’re handling it inspires me and that I hope your situation changes for the better soon. : )

  2. Underqualified people who don’t deserve them, who are willing to accept lower pay, and whose underqualified bosses don’t realize that their hirees have no editing skills.

    Ummm. Or completely brilliant people who absolutely should be employed. Yes. Them.

  3. I want an editing job. A real (not 2 articles a week freelance) editing job.

    I feel that way a lot lately, too, Brinestone. We’ve both graduated and who finds the job first? Where are we gonna live? Do I want to get in some more schooling soon or wait a few years (3-5?)? When do kids come into the picture? And then there are the religiously-related questions I can’t even be bothered to ask right now…

  4. I’m sure that you’ll find something out there that’s right for you. I know how you feel (not exactly, only somewhat, as I’m neither married nor am I pregnant–but I did major in teaching), but you can get through this and find the next step and then the next. Good luck. And I should probably add best wishes. (Although, in this case, I think it really does have to do with luck, as I can’t think of more qualified people to have a job.) You guys are in my thoughts.

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