i quit my job recently. I handed in my two weeks notice. Truthfully, i did it early in the morning, before i could change my mind. It was a strange experience for me because i enjoyed my boss and my team. I enjoyed my patients. I will say this: in every profession or career field there are things that don’t go as you think they should; as they would if life were a hallmark christmas special. However, there are instances in which out-of-the-ordinary stressors get piled on top of those regular stressors and they can end up being the straw that broke the camel’s back. For me, an ever-present shortage of ppe despite the government’s millions given to facilities to purchase ppe for first responders who had no choice but to work in harms way coupled with more proposed industry wide pay-cuts for our “heroes” and mandated weekly nasopharyngeal swabs were the three straws that broke my camel’s back. I could detail the migraines, nose bleeds, scarring, and excruciating pain healthcare workers were suffering at the hands of mandated weekly nasopharyngeal exams. I could talk about the pervasive feeling of helplessness in the field as many realized they had lost all rights to decide what physically was or was not going to happen to their body. But, i feel getting into great detail on that is maybe counter-productive for those who are still trying to make a go of holding onto the careers they built brick by brick in the healthcare field. What i do want to talk about is the stages i went through in coming to this decision.
When i first began toying with the idea of quitting i was consumed by fear. Fear of losing my land, of not making the mortgage, of ending up homeless and penniless, of losing my chickens and probably my australian shepherd who would never be a good apartment dog. It ate at me until i wasn’t hungry and my insides felt like a wild animal had shredded them and then filled the gutted cavity with sickly scented artificial grape jelly. When i realized i had to quit my job and it began to feel real, i was overcome with shame. I was ashamed that i was quitting on my career. I was ashamed that i was 32 and facing being a student, yet again. I was ashamed that even when i managed to finish one of the degree programs i started…i didn’t seem to be able to make a go of it in the long run. I felt like a quitter and that didn’t sit right with me at first. I felt it was my duty to go down with the ship, until my mother said something to me that jolted me awake. She said, “You were not put here on this earth to be tortured.” And i suddenly realized that at least for now, that is the fate of all healthcare personnel. In the name of safety for the overall population, those working closely with the sick, are and will be tortured for the next few years. My mother helped me realize that i want a different physical and mental experience for myself. I love my career. I love what i do, but i don’t want to do it anymore during this. I stayed as long as i could. I endured as long as i could, and now i have to go and find a new direction for my professional life. I hope sincerely that covid becomes extinct or mutates into something less severe in a couple years and that i am able to rejoin the field that i am leaving. However, i have to entertain the possibility that it might not. My mother gave me an opportunity that she did not have to extend, that at 32 i am very lucky to have; an opportunity to go back to school. So, i intend to hold a minimum wage day job while attending online night classes to get a two-year degree in a different field that really interests me and would pay a similar wage to my healthcare job. It is the best long-term plan i can come up with at this time. I handed in my resignation letter and i intend to go for it. It was at this point that i began to feel relief. I hadn’t realized how much i lived in dread of the swabs and how often i woke up wondering if i was going to have the ppe i needed or be fashioning it out of tape and trash bags today. Once i made the decision and handed in the envelope it was as if a thousand pounds was lifted from my shoulders. I began to enjoy the dogs and the chickens again. I wasn’t so short-tempered and angry all the time. I began singing again during the evening chores. I enjoyed food and music again. It was as if i was watching a movie on a black and white setting with the volume on mute and then all of a sudden the picture was in color and i could hear the characters speaking. I wasn’t plagued by nightmares of death or combat. I could sleep more than 2 to 3 hours a day. My stomach stopped hurting and rejecting everything i put in it. I enjoyed life again, even without everything all figured out.
It was at this point that i realized how much my mother valued my life. She did not have to help me. I was over thirty. I was grown. I had a career and a job. My mortgage was my responsibility and no one else’s. My mother offered me an opportunity not many have the privilege of accessing twice. She already put me through school. She did not by any means have to help me again. I knew in an instant exactly how much my mother loved me and i wanted to hold onto that feeling forever. It was a good feeling; a warm and fuzzy one. I made a decision to work hard at whatever minimum wage job i held during the next two years and i mentally prepared myself to be a student again. I made a decision that i was going to get that two-year degree in the field i was looking at going into and i wasn’t going to pay attention to the years passing in getting it or my age upon graduation. It would be a good thing and a privilege to hold two completely separate degrees in two completely separate fields, and if my mother was offering me the opportunity to reach for that, i had to try. I wanted to be the pencils in the third picture; 3 sharpened writing utensils and an eraser rather than the second picture; a once whole utensil broken by circumstance. I found myself overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude and a feeling of hope as i finished up my last days at my healthcare job and began laying the track for my next chapter.