a Cautionary Tale, Career, Health, Instinct, Marriage, McMaster University, Ryerson University, St. FX University
Before our wedding and our idyllic honeymoon at Wickanninish Inn, my future husband and I had to attend a rehearsal for the wedding ceremony. We loved one another, but to a certain extent, I married to please my mother. She would have been very disappointed, had I lived with a man without first marrying him.
As we were driving to a rehearsal of the wedding ceremony, my future husband told me, out of the blue, that there was a condition attached to his marrying me. He said he would leave me if I ever put on weight. I realised that the wedding ceremony would be a comedy and that the marriage would not be valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church. I therefore contemplated cancelling the wedding, but it was late and I was very confused.
- downtown Toronto
- a secure position
- a secure marriage
- Canada’s best research environment
A year later, David started to work in Toronto, where I also found a position. I taught French at Ryerson Polytechnical University, in downtown Toronto. I had to teach eighteen hours a week, but I was teaching French as a second language, nothing more, and I could devote the four Spring/Summer months to research. As well, I was in Canada’s best research environment. I worked near the University of Toronto and its research library.
In other words, I was secure and nothing threatened my marriage and health, except being too thin. However, my husband wanted me to resign. He so insisted that I did resign. I changed my mind during the night, but when I phoned Ryerson, I was told I had already been replaced. I started teaching French as a second language to government of Ontario civil servants.
- a fragile career
- a fragile marriage
A year later, after he read Open Marriage, my husband asked me to apply for a position at McMaster University, in Hamilton. He would stay in our house and I would rent an apartment in Hamilton. In my eyes, this wasn’t a marriage, but a mere arrangement.
One day, I was asked to see the Chair of my department who told me that the following year, I would teach courses in linguistics: theoretical and foreign-language didactics. I told the Chair that I had never studied linguistics and that preparing the courses might preclude my publishing papers on Molière and related topics. He, the Chair, made it very clear that if I refused to teach linguistics, I would have to leave the university. That is intimidation. I therefore learned and taught linguistics, but, as I feared, my contract was not renewed. I had written a fine article on Molière, but that did not suffice.
My marriage had ended, I no longer had a position, and my health had deteriorated. For the following months, I worked as public relations and admissions’ officer in a college affiliated with the University of Regina. I had to travel throughout the province, which I could not do for long.
St Francis Xavier University
- good years
- too heavy a workload
A friend suggested that I apply for a position at St Francis Xavier University, in Nova Scotia. He thought my chances were very good. I applied and moved to a small university town. I was no longer in a good research environment and had to use the interlibrary loan service. But I wrote articles on Molière and linguistics. In the mid 1980’s, I was elected President of the Canadian Association of University and College Teachers of French (APFUCC) and a member of the Board of Governors of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, and served on its Executive.
But I had caught a virus and had lost a great deal of energy, so I was fragile. When a departmental war erupted (they are a common affliction), I fell ill (crippling fatigue) and decided to seek a diagnostic and treatment. A SPECT scan revealed myalgic encephalomyelitis. My neurologist told me that the damage was extensive and that he doubted I could return to work. There was no cure.
I had to earn a living, so I returned to work on a part-time basis. However, a new Chair decided to avenge a colleague whose contract was not renewed and would not allow me to work on a full-time basis. I re-entered the classroom on a full-time basis, when this Chair left the University to accept a position elsewhere. For four years, I was the victim of obstructionism.
The moral of this story is complex, but quite obvious. All I will say is, first, that, although it was very late, I should have cancelled the wedding. Second, I will say that when I worked at Ryerson, I could combine a career and a marriage. That never happened again. While studying linguistics, I caught an invisible, but chronic and incurable illness. I managed to keep my position at StFX for several years because my workload was normal. I bought a house across the street from campus to simplify my life. But if my workload grew too heavy and my working environment was vitiated, I was at risk. My workload grew to include the creation of language lab components, and the preparation of courses one of which was a course in an area of knowledge I knew little about: Animals in Literature. These courses were prepared during a sabbatical leave. I could not refuse because I was afraid. I fell ill and extremely vulnerable.
At that point in its history, my university’s policy was to eliminate from its Faculty persons who might fall ill. This is what a vice-president told me, which raises bigger questions that I will not address.
But it would be my opinion that there are times when one should listen to one’s instinct and stay where one is safe and happy. I resigned from a good position without making sure there was a way back to safety. I lost my marriage, harmed my health, and put my career in jeopardy. But I’m a survivor and I’m happy where I am.
PS, I have never put on weight.
- The Miller, his Son, and the Donkey: quite a Tale (16 May 2013)
- You can’t please everyone: Æsop retold (21 March 2012)
- Le Chien qui lâche sa proie pour l’ombre (La Fontaine)
 Ryerson Polytechnical University was Canada’s MIT. It is now called Ryerson University.
Love to everyone 💕
© Micheline Walker
17 January 2020
I appreciate your sharing the story of your life and your challenges, dear Micheline.
There were more challenges than life. Fortunately, there were several good years and dear friends. Women still need a lot of protection.
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I have never felt I needed protection, when I was married the first time, when I was alone for many years, and now, when I am married again. Somehow I have always managed, thank G-d.
Have a wonderful weekend, dear Micheline.
I have always needed a degree of protection. I lost fourteen brothers and sisters to a congenital blood disease, which can leave emotional scars. These events were traumatic. I’m a carrier of the disease, but I have never developed it. The disease can now be cured by removing the spleen. Our doctor, he was an Armenian surgeon, told us never to marry French-Canadians. The remote cause is in-breeding.
Rumour has it that Prince Harry could be named Governor-General of Canada. I don’t trust rumours, but I’m praying. This appointment could lead to a fine career in diplomacy. He would also remain close to other Royals and the Queen would be proud of him. This entire mess has drained me a little.
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I am glad to hear that you are holding up, dear Micheline.
Have a great weekend,
Yes, I’m holding up.
Have a fine week.
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Thank you, dear friend.
The weekend was busy. Monsieur de Pourceaugnac was quite the battle. I had memory and concentration problems.
I do hope you have an excellent week.
Much love to you,
Toute ma sympathie Micheline
Merci Clodoweg, Je suis désormais plus ou moins tirée d’affaire, mais on m’a piétinée au point d’en tomber malade. J’ai beaucoup aimé l’enseignement et la recherche, mais il nous faut à tous une vie personnelle. Vous êtes gentil.
After all that I am pleased you are happy where you are. It may interest you to know that I several times stood in for a friend who suffered from M.E. She managed well when in remission but needed help during relapses. Because I was freelance I was able to cover to some extent.
Derrick, I’m happy with my little life. It’s a humble life, but humility is a virtue. It turns out that my one-bedroom apartment suits the needs of an older person and a person in a wheel chair. The building has elevators and a swimming pool. I would prefer living on a more substantial income, I also have an exceptional doctor. ME is a terrible affliction and disabling. As for blogging, it has truly benefited me. I should add that my marriage was annulled. The Catholic Church does not recognise trial marriages. Moreover, my husband died twenty years ago. I loved him, but I would have lost him.
I’m happy Derrick.:-)
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