by August Leaf
A single statement changes my life
The Value of Nigel
When I started working at Carillion, I never could have imagined the profound difference it would make to me on such a personal level; or that a single statement from a Senior Vice President would change my life.
When I think back to that time in 2012 when I started as a temp, my heart still palpitates and my stomach drops to its assumed position at my feet. I had been struggling for so long, I didn't even realize there was any other way to live. I was married, divorced, common law and a single mother of two boys before my 20's were over. I was now in my early 30's living in complete chaos and owning that I had made my choices and now had to live with them. This was going to be my life and I would just have to manage. I was juggling school, daycare, overdue bills, two kids and living in a low income apartment in a shady neighborhood with an abusive lover. I was in terrible health, mentally and physically. I was depressed and suffering from anxiety and panic attacks and had been since my early 20's...probably longer if I allow myself to go back that far.
I will never forget the day I called in sick after being with Carillion just under 3 months. I was trying so hard to secure a position and knew I was close to getting a full time offer. But I'd had an altercation with my partner that morning - he just returning home from a two-day bender and I trying to get myself and the kids ready for school & work. I was not happy enough to see him I guess and was certainly not dressed appropriately (I think I was wearing a skirt to my knees and a full sleeve blouse which is apparently how whores dress at 6:30 in the morning). Who exactly was I trying to impress and what kind of work was I doing for these people anyway?
My kids witnessed things that morning that I struggle to forgive myself for to this day. It is a terrible guilt for a mother to carry; this was not even their father and I was subjecting them to watch this violent episode. Eventually (but about 20 minutes' too late) I got out of the apartment with my boys. I took them to school and remember trying to act as if everything was normal. My oldest has never been the same.
Afterwards, I sat at a bus stop for what felt like hours crying and shaking and trying to will myself to get on the next bus and go to work. But I knew my colleagues would notice my fat lip, blotchy red cheeks and shaking hands. I called a co-worker and basically said, I think I quit because I just can't get there and I have to find a way out of this for me and my boys.
I called my lifelong friend who came and found me at the bus stop. We went to my apartment with the plan to pack up some things; I would go stay with her for a few days. My apartment was an assortment of broken dishes and decorations, fist holes in the wall and a broken chair lying on the floor in front of the now dented balcony door. She locked the front door and we began packing. He came back...and there was a struggle at the door - she had put the deadbolt on and he was still trying to force his way in. He had broken down that door before and I knew he would do it again. I froze. She was screaming for me to call the police and all I could do was sit there and think "I promised I'd never do that to him" I did eventually call and they came and took him away for 5 months. And I took him back in 6. It is impossible to understand I know.
In the meantime, that co-worker I had called, took it upon herself to tell my boss about my situation. And not just my immediate boss, but the Senior Vice President of the department, Nigel Franklin. I was horrified and embarrassed and felt like a childish nuisance. He was a busy businessman running a department and I was bringing my problems to work as a junior temp. Nigel proceeded to call me and visit me. He would go on to make sure I had transportation, someone to talk to, a decent paycheck and somewhere safe to live. I had never experienced such kindness and trust. And I vowed to make him proud someday.
A little less than a year later, in May 2013, I was exhausted and felt like I was living two lives. The successful career girl and the abused housewife. I finally kicked that abusive lover out for good. I believe it was in large part the unconditional affection and support I got from Nigel and his team, that made me realize I could do better. I was better and I could do this on my own. But it wasn't over yet - within two weeks of him being gone, I had a complete breakdown.
Looking back, I think this is when the numbness I'd been living in for years wore off and the trauma set in. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep and I couldn't stop crying. I remember lying in bed on a Friday morning thinking of ways to kill myself. Then I remember clearly thinking I'd have to wait until that night when the boys went to their dad's. And I got up and went to work to pass the time. I didn't make it through the first hour before walking out, getting on a bus and going straight to the local Mental Health Centre (CAMH). I had enough sense to know I was not okay - that these thoughts were not normal. I was immediately admitted for treatment. It would be the hardest 10 days of my life. But do you know who my one visitor was? Nigel. And do you know what was waiting for me on the other side? My job with Carillion.
I will always remember introducing him as my boss to the others in the Centre. He said "I'm not your boss Natalie; I'm your friend" and hugged me for a long time. He was also the one who picked me up when my treatment was over and had me stay with him and his partner for a few days before going back to face the reality of my apartment and my responsibilities as a mother. He was also the one who said "We're not giving up on you so don't you give up on you" That statement is what got me through the next few months and ultimately changed my life.
From that day forward I believed in myself. And I had also learned to trust someone.
Now, almost 6 years later, I'm earning more than I ever have, living in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, I have a passport and have even used it several times, and I have become a manager myself. I know I have made him proud.
I am inspired by his humanity and compassion and his ability to lead us all to be our best selves. I only hope I am paying it forward in my interactions and that I can be there for others the way he is there for me.
No matter what the future holds for Carillion and what our fate might be, I know that I am a better person and am living the life I deserve because of the values shown to me by one Senior Vice President.
We Care, We Achieve Together, We Deliver, and most important to me....We Improve
I am forever indebted. And forever improved.