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The hardest thing to be is what other people want you to be.

September 13, 2014


For months, I’d been scouring Monster, Careerbuilder and Craigslist ads trying to figure a way out of my current field. Nothing really spoke to me so I thought maybe a different flavor of healthcare would do the trick.

I researched Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner schools thinking that’s what I was supposed to be doing with my life. I envied Mrs. Robinson (my analyst) for her self-paced schedule, and have always been fascinated by the subconscious mind. After all, didn’t most of my favorite people possess some flavor of mental illness? So why not, right?

However, it didn’t take long to remember that the reason I’d decided to stop being a Family Nurse Practitioner was BECAUSE I didn’t want to prescribe, and BECAUSE I didn’t want to work around sick people, and BECAUSE I didn’t want to work in a facility where I’d be called to pacify someone’s family member who was threatening one of our nurses with phrases like “I have a gun and I know how to use it.” Didn’t I want to find a way out of healthcare altogether?

–  –  –

How did I become a nurse?

The simple fact that I had absolutely no direction in High School. I knew I liked Physiology, I knew I liked the Sciences, but was so unfocused and unmotivated that I wasn’t even able to actively make the choice to go to college, so my mother made it for me. She literally brought the application home, put it in the typewriter, told me to write an essay that would get me accepted, and closed the door. I appreciate what she did. Unemployment has never been an issue for me — however, the color white has always been a problem.

Now don’t get me wrong, Nursing is an excellent profession (for other people), and filled with people who love their work and are committed to their patients. I’ve done a lot of good work, and I’ve been committed (in many different ways); it’s just time for a change.

Over the past fifteen years, I’ve made various attempts to reinvent myself (a Freelance Web Designer, a Computer/Network Technical Support ‘Specialist’, a Product Manager for an Internet startup, and a Producer for a fancy digital design agency). But when the tech bubble burst in 2001 and it was time to go back to a career that was a steady shot (there’s no shortage of sick people) , all roads led back to being a nurse (just like my mother).

–  –  –

And I’m grateful for my job in the Corporate medical department, right?  I know that I’m supposed to be grateful.  My current position would be a dream for nurses accustomed to bustling emergency rooms full of gunshot victims or understaffed and working on medical surgical floors with high acuity patients. I am reminded of this blessing any time we have temps working with us who have recently done time on the prison ward at Bellevue. “This place is so serene,” they say.

Eight years ago, I too found this environment idyllic. I’d come from working as a Nurse Practitioner in nursing homes from Bushwick to the Bronx; places that inspired me to write Mercy Machine, places where the scents in the air were not those of expensive designer perfumes and colognes; on a good day you smelled peppermint, but that was only because you’d applied it to your nostrils in an attempt to keep out some vile stench.

In comparison, working in Tribeca, a gorgeous, tulip-filled, perfectly manicured neighborhood, where it isn’t out of the ordinary to run into Edie Falco, Robert DeNiro, or Harvey Keitel. On my lunch break, I can take walks along the Battery Park City promenade to drool over the sailboats (my office’s proximity to the Sailing Club makes after work summertime jaunts on the Hudson possible).

Still, it’s a career I no longer find satisfying. Yep. I’ll be the first to say that this is a luxurious First World problem. I mean, wouldn’t my grandfathers (a coal-miner and a steelworker) have thought this job to be a dream?

How could I be such a spoiled brat?

“What about Nursing Informatics?” my sister offers with helpful intent. “You’re great with computers!”

“Um, no. That’s not for me,” I tell her repeatedly. More than anything, I don’t want to go 100K in debt to end up in another arm of a field that leaves me lukewarm.

My manager tells me I should go into education because I’m a great teacher.

–  –  –

A recent fortune cookie from Wo Hop gave me some clarity: “The hardest thing to be is what other people want you to be.”

Deciding it was finally time to take this impulse seriously, I settled on ‘biting the bullet’ and turning to someone who was an expert in the area of helping people figure out which path to choose next.

More will be revealed…


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