Wire, Down to the

This is my last full week of work at my current job. This morning was the last morning for the foreseeable future when I could complain “Mondays, amirite?!” and get away with it. Yesterday was the last Sunday evening I needed to get myself organized for the work week: outfit planned, lunch planned, etc.

And it’s weird.

With the exception of a few layoffs, some time off to have babies, and a couple of work opportunity dry spells, I have held down at least one job since I was about 12. My first job provided me with the auspicious title “Assistant Dance Teacher”, which basically meant that I wrangled little kids into paying attention to what the actual teacher was trying to teach them, and maybe once in awhile demonstrated something for those kids. For this I was paid the grandiose salary of $1.00 per class. Every Friday night I would come home with between 2 and 3 dollars that I would proceed to blow on candy and/or Bonne Bell lipgloss on Saturday afternoon at Woolworth’s. Those were heady times, my friend.

Other, slightly more lucrative jobs followed, of course: retail work, a stint in the Naval Reserves (ask me about my knot-tying and my ability to knock back shots of rum before 9am!) a couple of holiday seasons as a historical interpreter at a downtown museum (I was an Edwardian maid before it was cool, y’all) and finally a wide variety of jobs in a wide variety of libraries, my chosen career and profession.

My current job was equal parts rewarding and emotionally draining; triumphant and painful. It was often frustrating and yet it was still such a privilege to be a part of a patient’s journey.

Friends have said to me over the years “I don’t know how you can do it”, and to be perfectly honest, for the first year or so I didn’t think I could do it. It was hard. Sometimes it was really hard.

People told me things. Test results, things their doctors told them, that they hadn’t even told their family members. They would come in to let me know their good news and their bad. They would cry, alone or with friends. They would ask me to find them a hospice, because their family was in denial. They would excitedly tell me treatment was working! And then a few months later, they would tell me treatment was no longer working, that there were no more options.

Sometimes patients would die. I have spent the past nine years scanning the obituaries, looking for familiar names. Sometimes they would come back, after a few years to tell me that life was good, they were enjoying being back at work, enjoying retirement, living life to the fullest. Sometimes I would get thank you cards from grateful patients. Some patients would just disappear. I would always wonder what happened to them.

When I started working here, I made a promise to myself that if I ever felt I could no longer be compassionate, I would leave. There is no room for indifference or a lack of empathy in this role. I am happy to say that my compassion, empathy and eagerness to help remain intact. But, given the way things are moving and changing in this position, and the other frustrations (unrelated to helping patients) that I have been enduring for the past year or so, it is definitely time for me to go.

Will I miss it, this job of nine years? Much of it, yes. When I was making this plan to move on, I said to my husband that I will miss being the “expert” in this area, I’ll miss people coming to me for information, for assistance, for guidance and for reassurance. His response? “You will always have those things. You have that knowledge, you know where to find that information, you’re that same person. You’ll just be somewhere else now.” He is so smart.

And it’s true. In Leap: Leaving a Job With No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want, Tess Vigeland writes

“Yes you may have put in a lot of years doing one thing and getting really good at that one thing. Lots of people asked me how I could leave radio journalism when I was so good at it and had devoted my entire career to it. Well, you know what? It was hard! But history shouldn’t be the thing that keeps you from trying something new or from finding a better place to practice those mad skills you do have. The things you’ve learned and become expert at don’t just go away – you always have them. Maybe you’re figuring out new and different ways to utilize them, or maybe you find that you really are done with them and you are ready to move on to the next challenge. But whatever happens, all that time learning how to be good at something made you who you are and taught you how to learn – a skill that will serve you no matter what you’re doing.”

Solid advice, friends.

It’s time for me to take my mad skills and find a better place for them.

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