A New Job, A Fresh Start

This post was included in the Patients for a Moment: Starting Fresh blog carnival hosted at chronicbabe.com.

A couple of months ago I started a new job. My Twitter friends were probably sick to death of hearing me talk about job applications – it took an entire year and a half to get one. I did find a good job finally and I’m happy about that, but it’s also hard to let go of the career I was SUPPOSED to have. Since high school, I worked towards a medical career. I took the advanced science classes – and  sacrificed sleep to pass them. I put in the hours of lab research and community service. I shadowed doctors at ridiculously early hours of the morning. I even got in to a great medical school program and started attending classes. Then the lupus reared its ugly head and all of a sudden that dream was just gone. There was no way the crazy hours and high stress levels were going to get along with my lupus, so I was forced to leave the medical program. I think I’m still mourning that loss.  I see my new job as a poor substitute for the life I wanted, and that just isn’t a great way to face the world. It certainly doesn’t help that my new job is in clinical research – a field that I was trying to run far away from because I knew it wasn’t where I wanted to be. It’s definitely not something I want to do full time for the rest of my life.

It’s so frustrating when people say things like “Oh well, that’s ok, you can just find another career.” Well, sure, I can find another career, but it won’t be the career I wanted. The one that I dreamed about and spent 10 years working towards. That one was taken away from me by factors beyond my control. I know people mean well, but those comments just aren’t helpful. And then there are comments that I get from other members of the chronic disease community. Things like “Why can’t you just be grateful that you can even manage to work fulltime. I’m never going to be able to do that again. I wish I could work somewhere – anywhere.” I get where they’re coming from. The loss of life goals and feeling like we’re stuck on the fringes of society outside the circles of “respectable” citizens that do their part is a very difficult part of the chronic disease reality. I certainly don’t mean to undermine their feelings when I complain about my job situation, but I also shouldn’t have to hide my feelings from my friends. Everyone’s life is affected differently by these diseases, even if the overarching themes are the same.

It probably isn’t great for my mental health to see my life in this pessimistic light all the time. So I think my new goal is going to be to remember that just because this is where I’m working now doesn’t mean that this is where I need to end up. I’m not stuck here and it’s time to stop being so  bitter about what I’ve lost and start thinking about what I can still achieve DESPITE the lupus. It sounds so simple in theory, but I think it’s going to be even harder than I can possibly imagine. But all I can do is to try to keep steering myself towards the attitude that I want not the one that comes so easily right now. I may have started my job a couple of months ago, but I think the true fresh start is happening now.



Filed under blog carnivals/grand rounds, coping, insensitivity/ignorance, introspection, rant, work series

10 responses to “A New Job, A Fresh Start

  1. Congrats on the new job, aka the end of a job search!!!

    I know exactly what you mean. All through high school I dreamed of becoming one of those professionals who performs as a musician on the side. I talked to friends about playing at weddings and fell in love with chamber music. I got involved in church as a pianist, working in children’s ministry. I started volunteering as an accompanist for a local violin studio.

    Then, last year of high school, illness struck. It was subtle at first, but the first thing to go was piano practice. No more three hour a day practices. No more one hour in the morning, one hour in the afternoon practices. At one point, it was down to fifteen minutes once a day (if I was willing to put up with a lot of pain.) How I made it through that last year of instruction, I really don’t know. I remember pacing backstage at the end of year recital; I knew I wasn’t prepared and all I wanted to do was be finished.

    I tried really hard to continue to be involved in classical music in college, but it was too hard. The two music history classes I took tore my heart apart. I got to the point where I stopped listening to CDs of pianists and I cried every time I went to a piano recital. Even orchestra concerts were hard (and one of my two sisters was in orchestra every one of those years.) Even playing at home on my piano to myself was hard. It was just easier to run in the opposite direction.

    It took about five years before I was ready to face the issue. I got back in touch with my best friend the musician who’s now touring the international stage. I reached out to the violin teacher I worked with in high school, and we’re actually really close friends now. I live vicariously through her adventures of playing wedding gigs. I’m starting to find new ways to integrate music back into my life. It’s still really hard, and it’s always going to be different. But the point of this never-ending comment is that it takes a lot of time to even accept losing something that is such a big part of your life and of what you’ve been working toward.

    On another note, I’m at a similar crossroads with my graduate program. I’m not sure that it’s actually feasible to continue (and the program assures me that it’s not,) but there are so many other reasons to stay, including the fact that I love it. The burden of being sick is SO much more than being sick; it includes having the rug pulled out from under you and then figuring out how to survive.

    Take time & rest assured that you’re not alone,

    P.S. I don’t always write comments this long.

    • Wow. That is quite the inspirational story. Thank you so much for sharing something so personal with me and my readers. I can only hope that I find something that helps me keep a connection with the dreams that I lost.

      I hope you can find an equally satisfying compromise with your graduate program. and I have definitely been there – they said no way, doctors said no way, and i said wait but i don’t want to leave… it was the hardest decisions I have ever made.

      The fact that you can live through someone else is amazing in its own right. I guess I’m still in the “I sort of resent you for being able to finish what I had to quit through no fault of my own.” phase right now.

      You’re right, the burden of being sick is so much more than being sick, and it’s hard to find the line of how much we can bear to have taken away before we just can’t take anymore. I know leaving my grad program definitely put me a little over that line. That being said, 2 years later I can see that it was (unfortunately) the correct decision for me. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over being bitter about that, but one day at a time right?

      Good luck to you! Do let me know what you decide (if you’re comfortable doing so.) I added your awesome blog to my “Blogs I Read” list. 🙂

      • Awesome!!! And thanks for the kind, encouraging words. 🙂 I’m still praying and considering (and fighting and negotiating) regarding graduate school and life in general…. We’ll be in touch. 🙂

  2. Oh, honey, I understand. I discovered about seven years ago that teaching – specifically, teaching junior high – is my passion. It’s the only job I’ve ever found to be fulfilling. And yet, I live with a progressive disease that causes muscle wasting in my throat and is claiming my ability to speak. I have lots of people tell me, “Oh, you can transition to teaching courses online,” or “That’s okay, you also have the skills to do ________,” but none of it is the same. To make matters worse, I am finding that because I am an outspoken member of a rare disease community, potential employers who Google me will pre-judge my abilities. (I’ve written a whole blog post about that – http://rollerskatingwithrickets.com/2012/05/29/paradox-post-my-identity-isnt-me/)

    For now, I am remaining in my current job for what I hope is at least one more year, but it is so hard – especially when I have never let my condition dictate what I can and cannot do – to know that the end is coming.

    A super big congratulations on the new job. And as impossible as it seems, I hope that the new job becomes the job you wanted. I love your attitude. Always looking forward. We have today!

    • thanks 🙂

      i’m sorry to hear about the teaching. (excellent post by the way!) it’s so terrible how people judge us before they even meet us. i hate that by speaking up about our illnesses and trying to raise awareness we open ourselves up to judgement. more power to you for keeping up the advocacy. we definitely need people like you! i truly hope you find something that you still find fulfilling. it’s a difficult road to maneuver, but i’m confident you’ll find your way to another something great.

  3. Hey hun! I totally know what you mean, actually, and I think it’s healthy to take the time to mourn the life that can no longer be, and to meditate on what life you’d like to create. Because that is the only good thing about “destroyed dreams”–building new ones!

    My plans post-college were all journalism-based. The thing about journalism, whether print or digital, newspaper or magazine, is that it’s stress-laden and fast-paced. You start out getting paid not enough to live on, and you work your way up by working 18-hour days, and you do it all for your “art.” Frankly, I was willing–I figured a dream meant more if I had to kill myself to get there, but obviously chronic Lyme disease was just not going to work with that. So I stayed in northern VA rather than move to NYC, and at first, I was a little bitter. I wanted to live in the city and “never sleep” and never be bored.

    I’m about two years out from finally graduating, and I’m happy again. I found an excellent job writing in the advertising field, I’ve built a social life back up, and I feel like I’ve made choices to make this my home instead of my “holding zone.” I think that’s really key–make sure to make choices that make your life, if not Plan A, then maybe Plan A-Alternate, if that makes sense.

    Good luck, Shruti! Can’t wait to hear more about the new job and your new freedom!

    • It’s always nice to hear from people who have reached a happy place that I’m still hoping to get to someday. I’m so glad you found a career path that you find fulfilling and makes you happy. I love your attitude – I think I need to start making a more active effort to see, as you put it, home not holding zone. I definitely need to give each action more thought.

      PS: I miss you on twitter, lady!

  4. After working for over 10 yrs on getting my B.A. I finally finished. I was ready to start my life, my career. I started doing a lot of things that I had put off due to school, like dance lessons, swimming lessons, tennis.

    Then I got sick. In the beginning I tried to remind myself how lucky I was to have a job and medical insurance, lucky to be in a position that I knew how to do well and could handle given my condition.

    But I also morned the loss of doing what I really wanted to do. What I had studied to do. After applying for a couple of jobs and getting rejected I thought I would have to stay in my entry level position for ever.

    But I didnt give up I kept looking. I started a new job about a year ago. It’s not what I would ideally look for, but it allows me some flexibility in my schedule to take care of all those drs appointments. Also, since it with the same division as my other job the people already knew me. They practically gave me the job on the first interview. They wouldnt have to train me on the basics.

    I still have a lot of uncertainty as to how long I will be able to keep working. Sometimes I really wish I could work from home. But for now I give it my all and still keep my eye out for what may be next.

    I wanted a more exciting career, but ended up in Accouting. I do have some strengths in this field, but it can be boring. But God works in mysterious ways. This low profile job, allows me to work at my own pace, so long as I meet my deadlines.

    You never know what might be around the bend. Keep your chin up. If youre a good worker people will see that. And dont forget to take your breaks and well earned vacation days : )

    • How wonderful that you found a job with so much flexibility! I wish my job gave me that option. Even if the job is boring sometimes, you have found something that you can do despite your illness. That is incredibly important – and very difficult to find. I hope your job evolves into something more along the lines of what you hoped for. Thank you for the support. I promise I’m taking days off from time to time! 🙂

  5. Pingback: The Kindness of Strangers | Lifestyles of the Ill and (mostly) Blameless

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