DC Widow Marjorie Brimley speaking at CNAS event for Shawn

Just Because Your Husband Dies, You Don’t Necessarily Get the Job

I’ve mentioned it in other posts, but just in case you haven’t been following along closely: I applied for a new job at my school last month.  

I found out last Friday that I didn’t get it.

To her credit, the principal told me herself.  She didn’t beat around the bush, and she was thoughtful in the way that she told me.

But those words, “we don’t have a position for you at this time,” almost crushed me in that moment.  I understood that there were a dozen people applying for the same job, but I thought I had a good shot.  And somewhere in the back of my mind I thought, “This has to go right for me.  Everything else has been so terrible lately that at least I should get this.  The world owes me, right?”

Of course, the world owes me nothing.

Right after I got the news, I had to go and pick up Claire.  She knew I had applied for this job and we had already discussed what it might mean for our family – mom would have to work a bit more, but I’d also make more money and have more responsibility at work, which I told her I wanted.

“How was your day, mom?” she asked as we walked away from the school.

“Well, I have some bad news about my job,” I told her.

“Oh no!  Did you get fired?” she asked.  She looked genuinely concerned.

I laughed.  “No, baby,” I said, “don’t worry about that.  I’ll always have a job.  But I didn’t get the new job that I wanted.”

“Oh, that’s sad,” she said.   “But you still have your other job!  Remember when I didn’t make the basketball team this year and I was so sad?  Well, now I’m doing the musical, and if I had been on the basketball team, I wouldn’t be able to do the musical.  So it will be okay with your job.”

My daughter is 9, by the way.  Talk about having a good perspective on life.

She’s right, of course.  Other things will come my way.  Maybe even something new, like taking my writing more seriously.  But last Friday I couldn’t quite think that far ahead – I was just sad I didn’t get the job.

I went home and saw Austin and told him.  “Does this mean we can’t get a minivan?” he asked.  I told him probably not, but he replied, “well, our car is fine anyway.”

Which it is, of course.

Later on, I was talking to my Dad, and feeling pretty down about it all.  “I just feel like nothing can go right for me,” I said with a bit of despair in my voice.  I looked at him for some sort of response.

“Well,” he said, “maybe not.  That’s life.”

I actually laughed out loud.  “I love you, Dad,” I said.  I meant it.  It was exactly what I needed.

That’s life. 

Just because my mom dies when I’m a teenager doesn’t mean I’ll never see death again.  And then just because my husband dies when we have three young kids doesn’t mean the rest of my life is going to be perfect.  “Life is unfair,” has always been my Dad’s favorite saying.  I’m sure it’s his favorite saying because it’s true.

Monday morning I came back to school feeling down about being in a place that I loved but that had so recently said to me, “no, we don’t think you are cut out to be an administrator.”  I felt a pit in my stomach heading to my government class that morning.

But then I saw some students in the hallway talking about college.  One of them was visibly upset and I knew why – early decision letters came out at the end of last week.  Those letters were not good news for everyone.  I entered my classroom thinking about the frustration some of them were feeling.

Sometimes, I do this thing where I share some piece of my life with the students, and for some reason I decided I’d do it that morning.  “So,” I said to the class of seniors, “I know that some of you are more relaxed this week and some of you are still very stressed.” 

A few heads nodded.

“I want to tell you something that happened to me last week,” I said.  “I applied for a job here at school.  It was for a promotion that I really wanted.  I found out late last Friday that I didn’t get it.”

There was silence.  Every single kid was listening.  Yes, here was their teacher, admitting defeat.  

I told them about what my dad had said to me, and about how I felt really sad on Friday.  I told them that I was lucky that I had a friend who took me out and helped me feel a lot better over the weekend.  “But I am still sad about it,” I said.  “But I also realize that I am going to be okay.  There will be something else, and the big stuff – my kids, my dad, my friends – those things are still here.”

“So,” I said, “the key takeaway from this ‘life lesson from your teacher’ is that you will be okay.  Your college plans might not work out how you planned, but that’s life, and the future can still be okay.  In fact, it will probably be really great.”

When I finished, no one said anything.  “Don’t worry,” I said with a laugh, “the pep talk is over.  Let’s move on to this Supreme Court case we were looking at last week.”

And we did.  Because that’s life.  Bad stuff happens, we feel sad, and then we just keep doing life because that is the only option

Maybe it’s not fair that I didn’t get the job.  But the world isn’t going to give me anything special because my husband died.  Not a job, not a future husband, not a sudden inheritance.  I don’t just get to have an easy and predictable life now that I’ve lived through terrible pain.  What I do get is another day on this imperfect planet.

As my dad would say, “that’s life.”


  • Jess

    This was an important reminder about perspective. Growing up with my family of origin, I too have longed for things to be easy for me. I also found myself thinking other people have it easy, but now I know more about life. It is unfair, it laughs at your plans, and it still can be amazing. I also have learned that the people who I thought didn’t struggle also do too. Thanks for sharing how you really feel and for the perspective.

    • Marjorie

      I think that’s really important to remember – that people who we THINK don’t struggle often do. We can’t know everyone’s stories. I’m going to keep that in my head this Christmas. Thanks for sharing.

    • Marjorie

      Thanks for the support – but it’s actually a great school to work at….and maybe a blessing in disguise! 🙂

  • Melissa

    Good things will come your way, Marjorie. I just know it. I think if you had gotten that job you wouldn’t be writing as much and I think that is where you truly shine. You’ll see. 🙂

    • Marjorie

      I know. I’m going to try and think about it that way. I’ve started to reconceptualize what next year might hold….more on that to come soon!

  • Henry

    Claire is amazing; she is so perceptive. Raising her is something that is going really well in your life.
    You are pretty amazing too, the way you turn your personal losses into life lessons for your students.
    When is the musical?

    • Marjorie

      She is a great kid. And I’ll send you the musical info – it’s not until February, but it should be lots of fun!

  • Kay Donnelly

    I love the way Claire thinks! She has pretty amazing insight for a nine year old. I’m on her side, I think there’s something else in store… or maybe an opportunity like this will come up again, and the experience of this interview help you in the future.
    That was a great lesson you shared with your students. They, too, are lucky to have you in their lives. Maybe you even saved a life with that lesson… one never knows… but I know this, THAT was powerful!

    • Marjorie

      Oh, thank you for saying that. I do hope the speech at least showed the kids that life is full of these minor ups and downs. They all seemed much more receptive to the lesson after my talk that morning, so at least it made that specific class better!

  • Michael

    Suffering does not redeem — it’s something to take the next step through. Your students can’t realize how lucky they are.

  • Carmelita

    I totally agree with Melissa here. I think there are some big things ahead for you, Marjorie, but in the meantime you have got a lot on your plate. Your Dad has such wisdom.
    I would also remind you of the analogy of the lotus blossom growing out the mud. Sometimes really beautiful things can come out of the muck of life, like how this great blog and sharing emerged from a big loss for you.
    In the meantime; keep dancing. I flashed on this oldie song: “Beechwood 4-5789 “, the Marvelettes (1962). Go put it on YouTube. Shawn wants you to remember the fun he brought into your life. Dance with the kids!

    • Marjorie

      Nieves v. Bartlett (pending) – I always do a current case in front of the Supreme Court. This one led to a great discussion about policing and first amendment rights.

  • Gabe

    I’m sorry to hear this, hopefully this is one of those things that turns out to be a blessing in disguise. I can picture your dad saying that and I love that you were able to make a lesson out of this for your students. How lucky they are to have you to help them gain footing as they grow.

  • Caroline B Poser

    Everything happens for a reason. Your kids are very wise! I liked how you used this experience to help your students. Even if that is the only reason you didn’t get the new job, it’s still a good reason. Your students will remember your “pep talk” for a long time. Imagine — it could be even more important than whatever graduation speech they hear. You just never know! 🙂