I resigned. I am no longer working as a nurse.
I have waited years to utter those words. And it was a long time coming.
I had to sort out hard held beliefs that were holding me back. The belief that you didn’t have to like your job. That it was just something you did if you were responsible. The belief that I needed the approval of everyone. My friends. My parents. My brother. My workplace. The stranger in the coffee shop. You, the readers. That it was not responsible to quit the perceived security of my job now that we had a child. That you worked at a job that you didn’t like so that you could afford to do things you actually enjoyed. That a “good partner” didn’t potentially jeopardize the (illusion of) financial security by following her dreams. That I didn’t deserve to have a turn. That I wasn’t an entrepreneur. That I didn’t have anything to offer. That I would fail. Fail, fail, fail. The stagnating and utterly futile fear of failure. And even more paralyzing, being perceived as a failure.
In most of my life I am someone who just makes shit happen. If I want to do something, I make it work. Figure it out. Jump right in. Come out as queer? Sure, no problem. Do an Ironman? Well, of course I can. No questions about whether I should or should not. Can or can not. So, it has befuddled me that I felt unable to get into that space about work. Stuck. I was stuck, stuck, stuck. Fear of failure kept me stuck.
I have been a nurse for going on 17 years. And for almost 17 years I have done a job that increasingly didn’t feel like me. Sure, there were things I liked about it. The flexible schedule. The paycheck. The security. Some of the patients. My most recent co-workers (the most amazing set of people I have ever worked with). However, I’m a pathological caretaker at my core. And working in a care-taking role is just not healthy for me. It drains my soul and leaves me nothing left to care for myself and my loved ones. Important work, yes. Good for me, no.
To do my job I needed to shut myself down, silence my real self and put up walls of self-protection. Those walls, that silencing, that shutting down…it all starts to solidify. The work place becomes performative and you end up spending a lot of your life not being you. And that, quite honestly, sucks. When you shutdown, silence and build walls you also cut yourself off from the emotions of work.
Eleven years in oncology nursing and I have no effing idea how to grieve! Why? Because I didn’t let myself feel at work. I was very busy shutting myself down to get through the day. I was numb to work. Want to know a crappy little thing about all that grief? All that stuffing of feelings? of yourself? of your needs? It is all still there. It is still inside you, damaging you in some way. You think you found a way through and are doing all great being split like that. Until you realize you aren’t. And that you have been hiding, shrinking, playing small and slowly dying inside. That realization is panic inducing until you change something. For me it felt like suffocation. A trap. A hardening. It screamed for klonopin.
Lucky for me the Ladyfriend is a dreamer. She dreams big. She believes in possibility. In generative ideas. In creating what you want. She has long encouraged me to jump ship, spread my wings, take the plunge, follow my bliss or whatever other clichéd phrase you want to use.
I want to interrupt myself here and acknowledge my privilege. The Ladyfriend and I were both raised in white, middle class families where higher education was an expectation. I am extremely grateful to have unbelievable support and love from both sides of our family, as well as a great support system of friends and community. I don’t think I’ll say too much more about this now except to point out that a lot of my confidence in quitting stems from unearned privilege. Such as knowledge the that my education grants me a solid Plan B to fall back on if needed. Or that I could even consider quitting in the first place “just knowing” it will all work out.
I’ve been slowly working to start a business that will incorporate my passion for edible gardening. I thought I would wait until my upcoming business was running to make the leap. Through a lot of tears and conversations with the Ladyfriend I realized I needed to flat-out quit my job and the line of the work all together to make room for expansiveness and creative possibility.
In doing so I had to leave the illusion of safety offered by my job. For whatever reason (or therapy. whatever.) just before quitting it became very clear to me that it wasn’t actual safety. I don’t know why I didn’t reframe it like that before. In the present day job market, economy and world situations working for a big company isn’t true security. Job layoffs. Company mergers. Shrinking or evaporating benefits. Increasing instability. Not safety.
It used to be that people worked for one company their entire careers. That shifted to workers having multiple employers and likely multiple career paths. I believe there is a shift starting that people will actually have less security working for corporations and companies than they do working for themselves or their communiti(es). Real security will involve the participation in and creation of communities.
So, yes, I am scared. Yes, I am anxious. Yes, all my fears of judgement are wildly intact. No, I don’t know what this new adventure will look like in 3 months, 9 months or 5 years. But I’m excited, passionate and open to the road.