I have learned that what I have always wanted in life wasn’t to be educated, to travel, to be rich, or have authority, but to do work that matters to me.
I have found that I have the least amount of interest in working with sick people.
I have realized that I am finished with stifling my interests to work in a system that doesn’t fit me and most of the people it serves.
And I have started to wonder whether we all experience a similar journey in life before doing meaningful work.
A journey of learning, experiencing and seeing things we cannot unsee. A journey of sacrifices, failures and suffering, that teaches us important lessons, and shapes us to do the work we’re supposed to do.
You know, the kind of journey where you hit rock bottom.
From age 30 to 32, my family and friends will tell you that I was miserable. During that time I hustled as a nurse practitioner in a small rural town, working 50 hours a week, hiding from every problem I saw. I was constantly stressed, unable to sleep, and too afraid of what might happen if I spoke the truth. I spent every day trying to catch up from the day before, only to fall further and further behind. At one point I was hypertensive and handed a prescription for Amplodipine… and yet I couldn’t stop. No one could stop me.
I was powerless to quit until one day, it ended.
I recall the exact moment when I couldn’t fathom living another day distracting myself from problems and doing work that didn’t matter, just to make a pay check.
The moment when I was done with saying “my boss won’t let me”.
The moment when I suddenly understood who I was, who I wasn’t, and what I was meant to do with my life.
I survived the ordeal of burning out from the realities of working in a broken health care system. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Hitting bottom changed me forever.
When we know that the pain and suffering we’ve experienced was worth it, and when we believe everything that’s happened to us was only getting us ready to be our true selves, and do what scares us – that is when a nurse’s journey begins.
A nurse’s real journey is about doing the work that chooses us. The time before is a rehearsal preparing us to thrive when our plans fail, and plans almost always do.