So here’s to a beginning. I have been wanting to write for a while but haven’t been able to pull together the words as to all that I have been feeling and learning. It has been on my heart to share some of my experiences that have truly shaped me to be the person I am. It has pressed on me to share about some of my darkest times and how I was carried through. This blog is dedicated to the Lord, the very one who carries my world.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Through My Grey

Over the next few days I scoured the internet for nursing positions. I was eager to learn of all possible job opportunities, imagining all sorts of exciting positions. Would I work in oncology? Maybe the operating room. What about the emergency room?
But my fantasies were short lived and met with the abrupt reality of a limited job market, discovered in only a few disappointing clicks of my mouse. More, the postings that were listed were for full-time work, some for night shift only. It seemed the only floors hiring were medical-surgical units, the one area of medicine I didn’t particularly care for.
I wasn’t particularly fond of tracheostomy care and suctioning secretions, and wound dressing changes were not a favorite task. Even still, I knew I needed a fresh start more than I needed a perfect fit.
I needed to prove to myself that I could do this.
That one woman’s perception of me wasn’t going to dictate the success or failure of my entire career.
More, I couldn’t deny the fire that still burned within me. Ignited all those years ago. With a passion for others. To help in some way.
Any way.
Two weeks later I made my way across the campus of a different hospital. The building sat tall, and people were rushing all around it. As I neared the entrance I quickly glanced down, noting my snow covered black heels. I bent over briefly to wipe off the white crystals and was instantly struck by the sight of a glorious purple crocus poking its way through the wintry terrain. I was immediately captivated by its beauty, contrasting the grey all around.
It was the first sign of spring. And a gentle reminder of the promise of new life.
And perhaps, a new start.
Moments later I entered the busy corridor, struck by the large number and variety of people going this way and that. I nervously made my way toward the elevators, adjusting my blazer just so, praying my interview would go well. Praying there wouldn’t be too many prodding questions.
Why did you leave your last job?
What didn’t you like about your prior place of employment?
These weren’t questions I was ready to answer. Not on any real level. I knew talk of prior discrimination and chronic illness would not bode well, particularly on a first encounter. Nonetheless, I knew I had to come up with a satisfactory response. One that was truthful but perhaps a bit vague. I swallowed hard, silently assuring myself it would be okay.
As I made my way to the unit I was struck by how unimpressive it appeared. The walls were worn, and the floors were outdated. More, there were paper charts and a host of nurses of varying ages. I quickly entered the office of the floor manager, surprised to learn he was in fact male. I hadn’t expected that, given his gender-neutral name in a predominantly female profession.
Perhaps it was a good sign, I told myself.
Perhaps different was good. Different would mean not like my old job.
And I needed for things to be different.
Within only a few moments of talking I was put at ease. He shared at length about the unit and the type of staff on the unit. There was only brief mention of my prior employment, to which I replied I was “simply looking for a change”. I was relieved to note my reply was satisfactory.
As he continued on, our discussion began to feel less like that of an interview and more like that of a sales pitch or even an orientation to a job I had already acquired. Relieved, I in inquired about the types of diagnoses I would encounter on the unit.
It was a general medicine floor.
Or so I had been told.
He paused for a moment and went on to share that while it was a medicine floor, there was a particular focus. I leaned in, curiously wondering what the focus would be.
I hoped it was something exciting.
He went on to say it was infectious disease.
More specifically, the floor was known as the “HIV unit” of the hospital.
While they did take the overflow general medicine patients, it was generally known for infectious disease which in addition to HIV/AIDS included things such as tuberculosis, PCP pneumonia (pneumonia commonly seen in AIDS patients) and clostridium difficile. There were also a good number of psychiatric patients and the occasional patient from prison.
I was stunned, not expecting to hear those words. I tried my best to steady my face. I needed to not have a reaction to this information.
I swallowed hard, wondering if this was something I wanted. Wondering if this was something I could handle.
Was I willing to put my health on the line for this?
Moments later I left the interview. He told me to take a few days to think things over, as this was not the typical hospital unit. As I made my way onto the elevator, I recalled my time in Kenya and working in the HIV/AIDS prevention clinic. Exposure to infectious disease was not a new thing for me. I recalled being mocked by those I knew, some my own family members, for taking such risks. I heard those same voices again in my head as I pondered this new opportunity.
But the more I thought about things, the more I realized there was something about the unit that intrigued me. Something about taking care of the people that others wanted nothing to do with was attractive to me.
Maybe it was because I knew what it felt like to be alone. Really alone.
Or maybe it was because I found I could most identify with those whose lives have been wrecked by the sweeping chaos of debilitating disease.
Two days later I called the hospital to speak with the floor manager. My heart nervously beat in my chest as I attempted to quickly gather my thoughts.
There was one final piece that needed to come together in order for me to accept the position.
And it was a big one.
I needed to tell him about my lupus. More, I needed to tell him I would not be able to work a full-time forty-hour schedule, despite the original job posting for such. I did not elaborate regarding my lupus, nor did I share of my prior job experience. I went on to say I would need to work part-time and would be unable to work night shifts, and if that were a requirement then I would need to pass on the opportunity.
I knew I was asking a lot. I knew I was essentially asking him to create a position for me.
I knew it was gutsy to have even gone to the interview in the first place knowing full well I couldn’t work forty hour weeks.
I nervously paced the hallway of my parents’ home, marching back and forth over the outdated blue carpet as I awaited his reply. While I knew it was only for a few seconds, the silence on the other end of the phone haunted me. I involuntarily began walking faster over the matted rug. I had always hated that rug, with its loud red and gold outdated pattern.
I quietly exhaled, pretending the manager’s response wasn’t about to dictate my future. I silently assured myself that I would make it somehow with or without this particular job. And while deep down I knew that to be true, there was a part of me having recently endured such deep rejection at my prior job that just really needed for this to work. And needed for this to be okay.
A few moments passed, and to my surprise the manager was happy to accommodate my requests, assuring part-time would be fine and that I wouldn’t have to work a single night shift.
How was that possible?
I knew there was only one explanation.
He was making all things new again.
Orchestrating behind the scenes.
Setting out the path for my future which would lead me down roads I could have never imagined.
A wave of thankful relief swept over me as I hung up the phone.
I knew I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
But something told me it would be big. And probably a little scary.
A purple crocus had begun poking its way through my grey.