This morning Mario left for a few days of business travel. Which leaves me to hold down the fort, make sure Kiddo practices good hygiene and does his homework, and to catch up on all those things that have been neglected over the past month.
Because of Husband's impending travel, I tailored my work schedule so that I would be home Tuesday-Friday this week. Best. Decision. Ever. Boy did I need a few days to get my head on straight. To step back and reflect on my work life, to putz around the house, to perch at a coffee shop and write in this space. To get over the GRE test prep hurdle. And while I always miss my husband when he's gone—we haven't seen each other as much as I'd like over the last few weeks—the best thing for me was to be alone so I could devote the school day hours to personal reflection and the evenings to reading and extra sleep without feeling guilty for neglecting our we time.
After having a bit of a job meltdown over the past 6-8 weeks, I've been trying really hard to separate my work and home lives. It took some time to reconcile the crushing disappointment I was feeling over my job; disappointment so fierce I wondered if I was even still committed to a career in medicine. (Cue existential crisis.) I liken my experience to going through the five stages of grief: for the first while I thought those awful shifts were just temporary (and surely not the norm), and things would settle into a routine (denial); then I was furious and spent my waking hours rehearsing conversations I'd never have with my boss and coworkers (anger); after that I proclaimed to myself (and Mario) that I was giving this job until January then I was saying peace out if things didn't get better, because I can do anything for 6 months, and, and, and (bargaining). The other day I was floated to another unit for the majority of my shift, which wasn't bad in and of itself, but I had a quiet moment where it occurred to me that my career goals may no longer be my heart's desire and I was super crushed at the thought that this was all for nothing (depression). The sad phase was over before I knew it and I had accepted my choices, my fate and my journey. I can do this. I will do this. And I will draw a line in the sand in terms of letting my job woes bleed into other areas of my life. I was tired of spending my days off despairing. Life is too damn short.
Although this job is crucial to reaching my goals, my entire existence needn't revolve around it. And it has for the past 4+ months. I've been ruminating more than I'm comfortable with, an innate tendency I have to work diligently to control. I must be vigilant in order to fight my anxious nature, to squelch repetitive thinking before it has the chance to dominate my world.
Yesterday, after dropping Kiddo off at school, I sat down and watched the first 45 minutes of the Today Show so I could catch up on current events and feel like a proper citizen of this world. It had been a while since I've done that. One day last week I didn't shower until 2p, instead opting to perch at the kitchen counter with my laptop while reading the past two weeks' of my blogroll (which had been woefully neglected). I finally researched and ordered that new mattress we've been needing; I bought the book Lean In on the suggestion of a dear friend (in response to my recent post where I briefly discussed the issue of mean girls in the workplace); I potted a couple new plants I picked up during my San Diego trip (I've become the champion of transporting foliage in my checked luggage) and repotted some old friends. One day I wore slippers all day long, even to pick up Kiddo from his after school group.
This change in mindset has been the best thing that's happened to me in a long while: I have given myself permission to just exist—without expectation or aim.
I have a habit of applying too much value to things that don't deserve them and this job has been a prime example of that. It's important, these clinical hours, but they aren't everything. There will always be other jobs and other paths to take, but most of all, it is perfectly okay to put in a hard day's work and walk away. I don't owe my boss or my coworkers any more than that. When I'm there I give 110%, but once I am off the clock my life and time is my own. And while I'm in the midst of it? I have absolute control over my reaction to adversity. It's time to stop being a victim of my circumstances and start creating some boundaries. (And stop trying to be everything to everyone. I'm only one person and no one thinks less of me because I can't help two people at once.) Also, I should be using this job to expand my knowledge by signing up for training classes and attending seminars. The hospital also has a person who coordinates student shadowing so I can experience a day in the life of medical professionals in different specialties. It would be crazy to waste these opportunities because things aren't turning out the way I thought they would.
I like to think I'm a person who can overcome adversity. A person who endures and thrives and survives. But there is always a fairly lengthy emotional process to get there and that bugs the hell out of me. My determination is steadfast, though I wish there were fewer hurdles to jump before I come out the other side. There are some fundamental truths I don't want to forget: This job is teaching me so much about medicine and myself. I will be a better, more compassionate provider as a result of this work. Spending some time at the bottom will instill such an appreciation for my accomplishments when I reach the top. Boundaries are necessary as are diplomacy and assertiveness. I can't control everything, as much as I'd like to, and sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.
Let's do this.