January 28, 2019

Hard time letting go...

This Willow Tree statue was so lovingly given to me by my child life co-workers. They said it represents all those I've touched. The relaxed posture and the folded arms are just how I love to settle in to a conversation. This is how I can best know my patients and co-workers. There is one friend that I know sees me exactly like this because we sit across the office from each other. I'd turn around in my chair with my arms folded on the back to engage in our conversations. I will truly miss this with my co-workers and most of all with my ER patients. 

I'm on my way out of a career that made me some of the best friends I'll ever have and saw me through the best and hardest times of my life. Engagement, marriage, buying 2 houses, and having 6 babies can't begin to describe the growing up I've done in the ER as a Certified Child Life Specialist. My co-workers and my patients have molded me into the parent and wife that I am today. In some ways the impact is good, and in others it isn't. Working in a pediatric ER leaves you with stories (scars) that change you in ways you never thought possible. For this I am grateful and a bit less joyful than I was 15 years ago. I have much work to do in my spiritual journey and it needs to be done away from the ER.

This new era in my life does not feel like a new beginning. It just feels like how my life is supposed to be. I sort of had my last day at work this week. I've had close to a 15 year career in a job that left me feeling like I made a true impact. Not every one can say, "I made a difference," each day. I can. Every family changed me, and I know that I changed many.

I left very quietly when my "last" shift was over and didn't tell anyone goodbye. I think many didn't even know it was my "last" shift. It was easier that way. I felt a lot of emotions, but most of them were pretty subdued. I've been preparing mentally for this since May. I went into work thinking it was my last day, only to be offered to stay on PRN; for now. Someone was hired for my position, but a full-time coworker put in her resignation this week. So the new hire was offered the full-time position and she accepted. So my position is still open. I think the plan is to attempt to fill the position, but in the meantime I will stay on and help when I can. So it was my last day...but it wasn't. That made it all very strange for me when leaving. I'm grateful for the opportunity to work a few more shifts. If I can stay on PRN indefinitely I think that's what I'd like to do. The thought of handing over my badge and keys was making me sick to my stomach.

A little backstory here: I haven't always felt like I wanted to stay in Child Life. Two years into my career I remember crying my eyes out to my husband because I was so stuck. I was intellectually bored at work and couldn't believe the career I chose had already run its course. I teared up to my boss as well. It was in a bit of a different fashion than to my husband. I didn't let on about how miserable I was, but I made it clear that I needed more. She brainstormed with me and gave me a few projects. It was summertime and census is always slow in the summer. She chalked my funk up to slow census and got me through the summer with busy work. It helped, but I knew it wasn't enough. My husband was comforting, but didn't have much sympathy. We had a baby on the way and needed the income. Thankfully I was able to go part time after the baby was born, and the change is exactly what I needed. Having a baby changed my view on life and my view on being in a career of service. My job was suddenly taking brain power again! It isn't always easy to know how to help a family in their most vulnerable moments. It appears to others that helping children understand simple medical procedures, complex medical procedures, trauma, and death are very natural to me. I know this because I am told by families and co-workers on a regular basis. They don't see what is going on in my brain in the process though. There is a never ending list of factors and theories to consider. 

OLOL has taken care of me for years......not only in my career, but also in my personal endeavors. Robin, the manager of the gift shop, has sold and sold and sold my coloring books for years. She made sure to send me off with a little extra love in the form of her signature balloons and stuffed animal. I just love her!

The day I interviewed for this job there was a press conference in the playroom to announce that we were officially a Children's Hospital even though we were within an adult hospital. We were no longer just a pediatric floor! The changes were subtle and slow after that announcement. The goal was always to build a free standing hospital. Now the opening of the freestanding hospital is imminent! The changes to move to a new location are drastic and most of them are still very unclear. This is really exciting, yet unnerving. It has all been so hard for me and I couldn't figure out why. After all, I like change. When I was in college I thrived at Louisiana Tech University on the quarter system. Classes were short in weeks, but intense in content. As soon as I got in a good rhythm the quarter was over. Yet I was always happy to start new classes and a new daily routine. I never felt stuck and I always had to stay on my toes. I thrive at home in our family ecosystem. I believe that is very much for the same reason. As soon as we get in a good rhythm as a family a child grows and changes and the entire dynamic changes. I like it that way! It keeps my life interesting and challenging.

So why can't I accept the changes that are looming ahead with the hospital? After much reflection I believe the difficulty I've had accepting the new hospital is for a few reasons. One is that I'm not involved in the change. I've only worked two days a week for years. I'm not there enough to be involved or give the input I want. My department has been asked, but I'm not there to participate in any of the processes. That makes it harder for me to accept the change. When our department hours were cut this summer I had to start working every other weekend on the inpatient units. I haven't worked weekends on the inpatient units in at least 10 years! Maybe longer. I don't know the staff and I am the only one there for my department. I felt isolated and half the time didn't know where things were and what was going on. Not to mention being the only one responsible for the whole hospital's child life needs for 20 hours is daunting. So daunting that I found it easier to just wait for requests rather than seek out the needs. This left me unfulfilled. I just couldn't seem to shake that or fix it. The changes that came in my career after being so set in my ways were not up-lifting. I was sad my hours got cut. I was angry. I was hurt. Then I was excited because I was going to work less days in a month. I had high hopes for the new schedule to really work for the department, for me, and for my family. As much as I wanted it to work, it just didn't. I can do all the wanting in the world, but wanting isn't going to meet our needs. I am needed at home to care for our family. The job of "mother" is no joke people. I felt like I was playing house for years, but the last five have been much more challenging on all fronts.

Another reason I don't want to accept the changes is because I AM TIRED. I am burned out. I am not who I want to be when at work. My dear friend, and full-time co-worker, put her notice in this week and wrote a beautiful blog about her decision to pursue a new career. Still with children, but different. I loved reading her words about what led her to resign from one career and have "new beginnings" in another. I encourage you to read her words here: https://jesusandjello.wordpress.com and to continue reading her post because she is amazing! I am not a writer, hence the choppiness of my post, but she is a real storyteller! For years I have viewed my job as a means to assist in providing for my family. I love what I do when I am in the thick of it with a patient, but my heart is 100% at home. When they go to bed I can work on my photography business, rileyroo photography, LLC and my child life private practice, Rachael C.A.R.E.S., LLC. To be honest though most days I'm too exhausted. So for now we are pinching a lot of pennies and when the baby goes to school I can hit the businesses full force. 

To finish this choppy spilling of my brain, I cannot even express the gratitude I have for my parents and my in-laws for loving my children and keeping them safe, for FREE, for many of my shifts for the last 13 years of our parenting journey. If it wasn't for free childcare I never would have been able to work and have so many children. The support they have given us over the years has made our life wonderful. I am excited that I don't need to use my family for such long hours for childcare anymore. God created us to be social and to help others. However, it is quite humbling to ask again and again without being able to give back. I have taken more than my share of help, and know that I will be able to give it back to others now. The cycle is beautiful and infinite. 

To all those I will no longer see, or rarely see...

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