Really, every birthday is a milestone. But today, I’m 65. When you are a child, that seems VERY OLD. When you are a young adult, in your 20’s, it seems like forever away. When you reach your 40’s, and feel very wise, 65 starts becoming more real, but still, a long way off. In your 50’s, you start looking forward to when you can retire and get Medicare.
This year, my 65th year, has been a gift to myself. I quit my full time job and did a lot of traveling, including two 2 month travel nurse stints , the first in Chattanooga, and the second in Carson City. I loved Chattanooga, and basically hated Carson City. I learned that I missed being home with my husband, and I missed seeing my grandchildren. I learned that staying in an airbnb room in someone else’s house is not something I ever want to do again!
So, I came home, started working part time, took a road trip to see all my kids and went on a retreat in Costa Rica (and wrote about these trips on this blog, if you’re interested). I’m enjoying the holiday season, being with family, pondering all that I’ve experienced.
And, although I did sign up for Medicare, I’m not retiring and getting social security just yet. I’ve also learned that, although I do enjoy staycation for a while, I also like the structure that work offers, plus I can find meaning in my work. And yeah, the paycheck is a bit bigger than what SS offers.
So, in January, it’s back to being a full time acute care RN Case Manager in the hospital 10 minutes from home. For how long, I don’t know. I do know that I’m strong and healthy, and still have much to offer the world.
When I was looking for happiness and fulfillment outside of myself, I was unhappy. I couldn’t find real, deep, lasting joy in other people (husbands), my children, friends, or religion. This all began to change about a decade ago, when I started going to Alanon, in an attempt to save my marriage. A couple of years later I began discovering a different spiritual path which included meditation. Learning to explore the inner world rather than focusing on outer people, circumstances, and events changed everything.
The question came to me via the writing course I’m taking; what is missing from my life right now? Hmm. Most of the time I don’t think anything is missing except for having an infinite passive source of money so I could quit working a job entirely. I’d like to just explore my own interests and help people be well. I don’t want stuff. Stuff requires too much attention. I have enough to live a good life.
A connected question: Do you feel like you are simply destined not to have some of the things you may want out of life? ABSOLUTELY NOT! We create our reality — but if you don’t realize or believe this is true, you won’t actively create. I can look back on my life, and now see that I was a participant in making it the way it was – and some of it wasn’t so great, but I learned from it.
Only other thing, and it’s not really missing because I’m working on it, is more friendships When you move to a new area, it takes time to find your tribe. I joined the UU church here, but hadn’t been a member that long when the pandemic showed up. We’ve just opened up again, I’m working on being more involved in some of the smaller groups. I’ve signed up for a couple of meetups, and, I have returned to work. I need people in my life.
I haven’t always felt connected to people and life, but of late I am more aware that sometimes my energy is open, and other times I seem to close myself off. And that it is ok.
I may have felt more connected to people, particularly other mothers, when I was having babies, was a La Leche League Leader, involved in the old church. But those are old interests. I was busy with children and trying to figure out life.
Another question: Do I hold the same values I was taught as a child? Another hmmm. Some of the values I was taught as I child are the same – although when I think about it, I don’t really feel that I was “taught” values. My parents’ life was the example to me of what I thought life looked like, or should look like – Husband went to work, provided a good living. Wife stayed home, took care of kids, shopped and cooked, sewed and pursued her own interests. Great camping vacations. Basically, be honest, work hard, take time off, retire early with lots of money. I started out my adult life with all that in mind, but found that my husband was not like my father at all. Turns out, I’m not like my mother in many ways either. So yeah – be honest, work hard — but I eventually divorced twice, went to work, and definitely will not “retire young with lots of money”!
I used to believe that each person has a path they have to find – a “right” path. Now I know that is hogwash!
We can be unhappy with our life and want something different, especially when we don’t feel fulfilled in any way. It doesn’t mean it is “wrong”, but it probably means it is time for a change.
All of my jobs have been in healthcare. When I was 17, a senior in high school, I got my first job working in Central Supply at the local hospital. While I was in nursing school, I worked weekends as a nurse’s aide. After I graduated, my first nursing job was at the county hospital in the sick baby nursery. I was 20 when I became a Registered Nurse (back in the late 70’s) and I had way too much responsibility for someone that young!
My next job was in the operating room. I have always like studying the human body, so this was fascinating. I was on the evening shift, and if we didn’t have a case, we would sit around smoking in the small lounge. I was a circulating nurse, and was responsible for sending anything removed from the patient to the lab. The most memorable specimen was an entire leg.
Then I had my second baby, and stayed home for 16 years, giving birth a total of seven times. Became an earth mother, so to speak – homeschooling, gardening, breadmaking. That, of course, was a more than full time job! I got into religion. But that’s another story.
When my youngest was about four, around 2000, I got a job in day surgery with some time spent in nursery and postpartum, after a short correspondence course to reactivate my nursing license. I thought this was what I wanted to do after all my personal experience, but found that it really wasn’t a good fit after all.
After about a year of that, I had an opportunity to work in hospice, which at first scared me, because I hadn’t really been around death. But I went for it, and in the course of time became very passionate about it, and it helped me with my own PDA (personal death awareness). I worked for three companies in the eight years I was in hospice, at one point in management. But the last year of working in hospice, I was driving 100 miles a day to see patients, working hours that were too long, and got burned out.
At this point, I decided I wanted a job where I just went to work someplace, but I didn’t want to go back to bedside nursing, because really, I didn’t want to have to deal with all the involvement with personal body fluids and life and death situations. I applied for and was hired as an acute care case manager in the same hospital where I had my first job, and have continued in this field for the last 11 years.
The most fulfillment from a job was in hospice, caring for people in the last stage of life, as well as their families. It could also be emotionally draining. When I started in hospital case management, I really didn’t know what I was getting into. It’s important to me to be able to make a difference in someone’s life, and usually that happens in a day’s work, although there are days when I’ve wondered what the hell I’m doing. I’ve quit twice, but returned. After this past year with two travel assignments, I feel that I’ve come to a place of being happy in this line of work. Not sure if fulfilled is the right word. I do help people, but I’m also glad to have the camaraderie in my department, and the feeling of satisfaction that comes with being good at what I do. Fulfillment in my life happens in my relationships with my children, grandchildren, and friends.
I’d really like to work part-time, and have done so periodically. Financially, that doesn’t work out in the long run.
I have to help people in some way. If that’s not happening, it is just a grind. I also need work/life balance. I tried working 4/10’s and 3/12’s, and even though having the extra days off was nice, I was exhausted at the end of the work day. I prefer 8 hours – I get up early enough to have time in the morning and I leave work early enough to have time in the evening. It is important to take vacations, and I use all my PTO, only saving it up when I want to take a longer vacation. It’s also important to be valued and appreciated by the boss, as much as that is possible.
EXPLORATION and CIRCLING BACK:
A few years ago I studied Ayurveda with a plan to get away from traditional healthcare and have a wellness practice. That would be an amazing job – to help people really be well, instead of being in the revolving door of traditional western medicine. But when I finished my studies and took an additional course to learn what it takes to set up a practice, I realized that I would absolutely hate the aspect of having to market myself, do all the internet and social media, and that I couldn’t make as much money as I do in Case Management. So I went back to full time work for three years. In 2020, in the middle of the covid pandemic, I felt stuck and burned out. I looked for other opportunities, and this last year, I fulfilled my desire to travel by doing a couple of travel contracts, and taking time off in between.
I got what I needed from that – different work cultures, unappreciative bosses, and perspective on what is really important to me. So, at almost 65, I am returning to work full time at the hospital I left when I decided to travel. I do have opportunity to help people navigate the healthcare system and have the care they need. It’s not a dream job, or a calling, but I am good at it and have a good work environment. All the circumstances and benefits give me peace about financial security, and I have plenty of time outside of work to do what I want to do.
I discovered while on my road trip that if I really wanted to make time to write, I could. I drove all day, then, because I had made a commitment to myself, wrote a little and posted a mostly pictorial blog every evening. And still had time to chill.
I started a writing course on OM called A Year of Writing to Uncover the Authentic Self. The first assignment is to identify obstacles in your life. This is what I wrote:
Obstacles to writing –the answer would be making time, and I discovered on my trip that I can make time if I want to. Obstacles to….. Actually, I feel like I am in a place of doing what I want to do, for the most part. In the past, obstacle was fear – Fear of the unknown, of what people think. That was probably my longest running fear. Fear of change. I’ve come a long way, baby.
So, I put a date on my calendar to do each lesson. And we will see how it goes. One thing I have learned in life is not to fret if things don’t work out exactly as planned. Or, if I’m not enjoying something I’ve decided to do, it’s ok to change direction. But I hope this works out, and my plan is to write in my journal every day and do at least one blog post a week.
I’ve enjoyed the five days off since I got home. I was totally exhausted, and napped several times a day for the first two. Then I caught up with the grandkids, and rested some more after that!
Tomorrow (Monday) I will go back to work. I signed up to work a full week for someone who is on vacation, so my week will have a different focus. I’m still committed to write.