Bittersweet Irony

“I don’t think I’ll ever get over the irony that the day I got my first ‘real’ job was also the day my grandmother passed away.”

I think, one day, after I’ve actually had a few novels published and have accomplished a few meaningful things in my life, I could start a memoir with that line–or something like it.  But for now, I have some thoughts I want to get out of my head.

So let me tell you a story.


That date is undoubtedly one that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I remember one day my grandmother called from her care facility and said she wanted to speak with me.  I wasn’t sure about what (I didn’t see her especially often, aside from family get-togethers), though I went expecting it to be important.

She was worried about me.

The past half a year or so up to that point had been difficult for me.  (Times are still difficult for me, actually.)  During that time I had no luck in finding a job in my prospective field of interior design–or at least something related to it.  Part of this could have been my stubborn narrow-mindedness in what I was willing to accept; I really wanted to work at an established interior design firm and was holding out on taking anything else.  Months spent unemployed, however, can make a person see the value of any employment whatsoever, so I at least found something part-time.  (It was the least I could do, considering my parents were letting me live at home.)

In any case, when I went to see my grandmother she shared a little about her past–how she started on the lowest end of the totem pole in a place she least expected to work (a hotel) then eventually worked her way up to management, how she took commissions as an artist…though also how she kept her faith in God.  (Most of my (extended) family is Christian.)  She offered words of encouragement and reminded me that even if things seem hopeless to me, I must still do my part to make sure I’m doing all I can to seek out employment opportunities.  Don’t give up hope; trust in the Lord.  These were her primary points of advice.

Being that I’m pretty much in limbo on the matter of faith and religion, I walked away from this meeting with mixed feelings though generally was able to find inspiration in her words.

Eventually I found the part-time job, though still no luck with something in the design field.  I considered striking it alone, starting up my own business, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that my resolve to set out on such an endeavor had nothing on the sheer terror this idea alone gave me.

So, I kept looking for something.

February 2 soon rolled around and I got the news that my grandmother had passed away.  (She’d been suffering from bladder cancer.)

Okay.  Well, then.

Not really sure how to process this at the time, I’d already planned on inquiring about a job ad I’d found online the day before, so I took a deep breath and went out to run some errands.  Only now there was this dark cloud hovering over my head.

Still, I tried to remain hopeful.

I finally get to this place to ask about the job ad.  “Sorry, but the position has already been filled.”

You are fracking kidding me.  (I’m about at my rope’s end now, people.)

“…But would you still like to fill out an application, in case something else pops up?”

“Okay…sure!” *trying not to sound utterly crestfallen*

So I fill the thing out and then I leave–ten times more depressed than I was when I first came in.

Now, the previous week my mom and I had stopped at a furniture store at the mall by chance; she’d happened to see a guy holding an advertisement sign on the street.  I went in grudgingly, as we’d already spent hours traipsing about the city and I was deadbeat tired.  We get inside and my mom, being the gregarious social bug that she is, starts telling people how I’m an “interior designer” and have my interior design degree and all.

Surprisingly, the guy we’re talking to–who just so happens to be the store manager–is impressed.  Apparently they could really use someone with an interior design degree!

And what do you know: they’re hiring.

Are you kidding me?

Thing is it’s furniture sales, so to be honest I’m a little wary, since I’ve never done anything like this before.  Still, I take an application and keep it in mind.  (I end up turning it in a day or so later.)

Fast forward to February 2, after all the depressing stuff has happened.  I’m really in no mood to go anywhere by this point, though something tells me to go back to this furniture store and follow up on my application.

And before I know it I’m being offered a job.


It doesn’t make any sense.  I can’t even comprehend what the guy has just asked me: “So, when’s a good time to start?”


Needless to say, I walk out in a daze.  It’s settled; I start the following Monday.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, the first place I’d applied to calls me two days later saying, “A new position has just become available.  Would  you be interested in setting up an interview?”


Congratulations On Your New Job!!!

I get home, plop down on the couch with some dinner and start watching To Kill A King ’cause it’s on demand and I don’t have to pay for it and hey, why not kill the king?  Parents soon get home and they’ve got one of my aunts with them.  (I think she was just helping out with all the post-death stuff.)  They’re in a mind-bogglingly good mood, considering the news we’d just received that morning, all bubbly and laughing…

I am not, and they soon realize this.

“I’m just tired,” I say.  “Had a long day.”  An emotional roller coaster ride of extreme Gs, more like.

Fair enough.  Life goes on.

So I’m half-listening to them talk about stuff…and eventually I realize I can’t even hear the movie anymore.  I turn the dang TV off and mope into the kitchen to put my dishes away.  I’m about to retreat into my cave-room upstairs when it occurs to me that I haven’t told them my bit of news yet.

So I tell ’em.

“Well, congratulations!” everyone says, beaming.

Thanks, I say, but I don’t really sound that enthused about it.  In fact, I sound pretty darn sad.  Pathetic, even.

And they cannot, for the life of ’em, understand why .

Is it okay to feel joy about anything when a family member has just passed away?

I didn’t think so.  (Still don’t.)  In fact, I actually felt guilty about it.  Why should I be rejoicing about anything when the family has just lost one of its eldest members?

It just doesn’t feel right.

Anyway, I’ve never really let myself feel unadulterated joy about getting this job, and to be honest I’m still conflicted about it.  I don’t even know if I’m capable of doing it well, really, though my manager seems to have faith in me.  So far, sometimes there are moments I think I could do well, and others I’m up to my eyeballs in self-doubt as I’m trying to soak up as much information as I possibly can in as little time as I possibly can.


Because the idea of being new at something–aka “not good”–absolutely irks me.  I simply cannot stand it.  (If you are a perfectionist, then you probably understand.)

As such, it’s been an especially tough place for me to be in right now.  Suddenly, not only do I have a full-time job, but I’ve also got options.  Though, I really do think I’m at a crossroads for a reason.  My mind is not made up, folks.  Still, no matter how I decide to play my cards, I plan to give it my all–if not because I unequivocally believe in myself then because I know, for some strange reason I’ve yet to decipher, that everyone else who matters does.

I think, just maybe, that the grandma would feel a bit of joy for me if she were still around.  And maybe, one day, I will, too.

…If I can get past the bittersweet irony (and, of course, the crippling self-doubt).

No, this has nothing to do with writing fantasy.

It’s just me, writing.  Reflecting on life.  On myself.  Me attempting to process things my helpless little brain has so far not managed to process in all that has happened in the past week and a half.  Part of me thinks I probably should not be openly blogging about half of this, and part of me is glad I did–because for the first time in the last two weeks, this stuff is actually starting to make some semblance of sense.

So yeah, folks.  That’s been my month so far.

How about yours?

Less dramatic, I hope? 😀


17 thoughts on “Bittersweet Irony

  1. I replied in your comment on my own recent blog expressing my condolences at the loss of your grandmother. Losing a cherished family member is an emotionally difficult thing, and I think people’s outward expressions of that will be different based on their own life experiences. For some, a deep sorrow is the only meaningful response. For others, an expression of joy based on the resurfacing of happy memories associated with the dearly departed is mixed with that sorrow. Basically, there’s not much I can say that’s of any real value at a time like that. We just each have to deal with and express our emotions in our own way.

    Regarding the job: first, Congratulations. Second, I had a good friend who graduated with an Interior Design degree. She followed a similar career path: going to work in a furniture sales company. In light of your post, I realize now that it makes sense. Someone’s got to arrange all that furniture and other elements on the showroom floor to make it attractive to customers, and it sounds like an Interior Designer might be someone with the right know-how for creating inviting and attractive designs. Less sense, I think, would be to leap from there to actual direct customer sales… Some people are cut out for direct selling, but a lot of people aren’t.


    • Thanks, Stephen. 🙂

      I’m not sure whether or not I’ll stick with sales, to be honest, though I figured it was at least worth giving it a shot. Can’t know unless you try!


  2. Well, please accept both my condolences and my congratulations. You’re right, your grandmother would probably feel some joy at you getting a job, and I think it would be fine if you did, too, either now or when you feel more confident at it.

    And, as I said in email, I do think it’s fine for there to be some smiles and even laughter when somebody dies. My mother and I had a few laughs the day my father died, and it certainly didn’t mean we didn’t love him. He was a humorist (semi-pro) and he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.


    • Thanks, Anthony. I’m sure the negative feelings will pass sooner or later. It’s just hard to feel good when such a sad thing has happened. 😦

      Though there were many tears at the memorial service, there was also some moments of laughter. (Our grandma was a subject of many good-natured jokes in our family, lol.) I guess my own personal “grieving style”, more often than not, is just to regard the matter in silent somberness. *shrugs* Not that I wasn’t laughing when a joke was made, heh.


      • There isn’t a right or wrong way to grieve. I remmber the most helpful thing I read after 9/11 was an article which listed some symptoms (nervousness, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, etc.) and said, “If you’re feeling this way, this is not Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In fact, this is not a disorder at all. This is a normal, healthy reaction to what you’ve been through. If you feel the same in six months, or if it gets worse, then that might be something else.” That was very good to read.


  3. I know you’ve had a tough beginning of the year…

    My company wanted me to move to Pittsburgh, and I told them no. So I know what it’s like to face such uncertainty. But you add the loss of your grandmother, it’s easy to see what a difficult place you’re in right now.

    It sounds stupid right now, but think of this: when you step into uncertainty, you are freeing yourself of the chains of yesterday. You are escaping the limitations of the past. In the moment, right now, is all of this wonderful potential.

    Hang in there, T. I’m rooting for you.


    • Thanks, Jay. 🙂

      What you say makes sense; I just think I’m too blinded by the shock of my situation for me to really see that way at the moment, lol.

      *sighs* Hopefully things settle down soon…


  4. I have to say first, I’m sorry for your loss of your grandmother. It’s cliché, I know, but it gets to the point—losing a loved one is not fun, and I offer my condolences.

    But, I think you’re right—your Grandma would probably be happy for you.

    I think that grief really does have its place. You have to go through what you have to go through. If this means drawing pictures of your Grandmother, if this means reading journal entries about her, if it means looking at photos, reading old letters, locking yourself into your room and crying—I say you should do it.

    I’ve been told that you can’t stifle grief or you won’t be able to heal. So, do what you need to do, and don’t stop until you’re done. Then, move on.

    I hope I was able to be some help. This blog post, though sad, was a very encouraging read.


    • Thank you, JP. I hate sounding cliché, too, but what else can you say, right? 😀

      I hadn’t really known how to react when I first got the news about my grandma. It wasn’t until I watched her ashes being stored behind stone that it really “hit” me that she was gone. I don’t cry in front of others very often–tend to just keep things to myself–so it’s usually a surprise to me (and everyone else, for that matter) when I do start crying, lol. Like I did at the memorial service.

      Anyhow, I’m glad you were able to find some encouragement in my ramble, heh.


  5. *fumbles for clumsy understatments that will more-or-less convey what they ought*

    I’m sorry about your grandmother, and I wish you peace.

    Congratulations on your job opportunities, and I wish you strength.

    As you face this period of confusion, doubt, and second-guesses, I wish you clarity of truth.

    I’m glad you felt you could share this part of your life with us; I wish you to know that your friends are always ready to listen.


  6. Condolences and congratulations, both.

    We all grieve in our own way, and sometimes it takes a while for emotions to process. When my little cousin died, (she was only 14) I couldn’t cry. My cousins asked me how I could be so strong. I wasn’t. I wished that tears would come, but I just couldn’t. It took months until I was able to. And I have my own bittersweet anecdote of my grandmother passing… I was married in Greece and none of my family could come to the wedding. I had to come back to Canada while immigration paperwork filed, and a year later my husband E finally arrived. Two days later, still jetl agged and disoriented, on my best friend’s birthday, we all ended up in the hospital, because my grandmother was dying and he saw her die. He met all my extended family in the hospital for the first time. Those were crazy days, and I get it. How could I be happy that my love was there, when we were surrounded by death. For a while I didn’t think we’d make it through our first year.

    But again, time heals. *sending warm wishes your way*


    • How sad! 😦 Very similar in its bittersweet-ness.

      Thanks for sharing your story, Theresa–and for the condolences, congrats and warm wishes, hehe.


  7. I think this is absolutely about writing fiction, by the way, because sometimes fiction is just about figuring out what life means in a way that’s easier to talk about.


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