Thursday, October 8, 2009

Clearing My Mind: A Realization

One of the hardest parts about working my evening shift schedule is the fact that I can’t call and talk to my mom whenever I want.  Yes, I’m twenty-five years old and want to talk to my mom on a daily basis.  It was nice when I first move here because my first month was spent on day shift (evening chats!) and by the time I switched to evenings, my mom (the elementary school art teacher) was on summer break…I could call whenever I wanted!  I try to catch her during her lunch break now, but any longer chats are reserved for weekends or days off.  Therefore, when I do have a random day off work, I’ve been known to call my mom two-three times throughout the day.  I had already called my mom three times yesterday when I had a realization on my way to Princeton…so I called her one more time.

It’s no secret that I’m not really happy right now.  I don’t like my job (and being my first and only job in nursing, it makes me question my career choice), I don’t really like where I live (middle of nowhere…I really wanted to be in a big city), I don’t know many people around here (I’m shy + work odd hours…it’s probably just excuses), and I can’t even run right now (biking just isn’t the same).  All of these are a bit difficult to contend with, but the main thing I realized on my drive to visit the Rocket Scientist was this:

For the first time in my life, I am not actively working towards a goal.

In high school, I was busy studying, running, playing in the band…to get into college.  Once in college, I wanted to go to medical school, so I was working hard at that and I had classes.  Once I realized I didn’t want to be a doctor, I put my effort into figuring out what else I wanted to do with my life…and I still had classes with immediate goals in front of me.  After graduating from Maryland, I had some time off but knew I was headed back to nursing school.  I spent all of 2008 in nursing school with little breathing room (that’s what you get for cramming two years into one!), and then post-nursing school was spent job hunting.  Like crazy.  My goal was getting a job.  Now I have that job, and I don’t have any immediate goals made for me.

If I stayed where I am for the rest of my life (as some of the nurses at my hospital have!), it wouldn’t be totally crazy.  After all, I went to college (twice!), got a well-paying, supposedly rewarding (some days…not so much) job, and I could get married, have kids, and live the American dream.  (Okay, that was a bit over the top.)  Anyway, the point is that I no longer have those straightforward goals of midterms, projects, and applying for the next step in life.  For me, this is very disorienting because I feel like I have no direction.  I’m obviously not going to stay at this job forever,  but I don’t really know where to go from here.  I keep looking at graduate programs (in a wide variety of topics) because it seems like the next step.  The Rocket Scientist and all his grad school friends are still living the academic life (go PhD programs!), and my college roommate just went back to grad school for a PhD as well.  Not saying that’s what I need/want to do, but the academic life is definitely different than the “real world.”  Schedules are ruled by semesters and exams, while I don’t even know if I’ll be working on Christmas or not.

But that’s not the point.  The point is that I feel lost because I don’t feel like I have goals right now, which is such a foreign feeling.  It’s never really been up to me to dictate my goals (outside of the larger “I’m going to nursing school” plan, etc), and this feeling of being stagnant and lost may contribute to my current unhappiness.  I called my mom to explain this to her, and she definitely agreed.  The working world is full of different goals than the school world.  For now, my goal may be to plan a vacation, make a new cupcake recipe every week, or learn a new hobby.  These are definitely different goals than learning the steps of the Krebs Cycle or creating a care plan for my patient at the hospital.  (Although I’m immensely glad that I no longer have to make care plans!)  My mom reminded me that I have a well paying job, and although I tend to get stuck upon the fact that I have loans to pay back, I have money to do things I want to do, like travel or take cooking classes or learn to paint or whatever my little heart desires.

In the end, work is work.  Although it’s a big part of my life, at the end of the day, I go to work and get a paycheck.  That sounds terrible because I feel as though nurses are expected to say that they were called to nursing and care and would help people despite the paycheck…but let’s be serious.  Nursing is way too stressful for me to say anything like that.  The point is that I need to find something else to make me happy.  Whether that’s planning a trip to Europe for next summer, working part time at a bakery, or learning to teach group exercise classes (all things I’ve thought about doing!), I need to pick something and do it instead of dwelling on how much I don’t like my job or how I think other people are happier than me.

Easier said than done.


That was a bit long winded, but thanks to those who stuck through it.  Here are some questions for my readers!

For those who have graduated and are working, did you feel anything like this?  I can’t possibly be the only one who is (has) experience(d) this.

What goals do you have for yourself?  Are you planning a wedding?  Taking a dance class?  Joining a flag football team?  Let me hear them!


  1. Ha! I am currently having a crisis, too! I am MUCH older than you (hee), and have been out in the working world for 10 years (I just checked & rechecked that number because it didn't seem right, I AM old....). I started off a lot more idealistic - working for non-profits, etc., but honestly, for me; work is a paycheck. I am paying off my debts so that I can use that paycheck to do things I enjoy. I don't hate my job, but I certainly don't love it.

    My goals have recently been training related (half mary, triathlon, full marathon), but are now more grad school related (I finish in Feb. 2012).

    I, too, do best when I'm working towards something, even if it's not as big as finishing school or looking for a new job.

    I know that things will smooth out for you & you'll start feeling better about stuff - even if that 'smoothing' means making a major change!

  2. I'm having this exact same crisis right now. I'm in my second job out of college and while I don't hate it, I don't know if it's truly what I want to do for the rest of my life. I like it for now and love the people I work with, but I started taking a class at community college just to expand my knowledge base in case I eventually want to try something different. My class is all online so it's easy to work around a crazy schedule. Maybe something like that would be fun for you too.

  3. Hey, yeah, I think I used to have those feelings right after med school/residency and such, but now that I'm working in the real world not so much. I guess what worked for me, is that one day, when I was 29 and staring at the 30s with no plan and nothing to do besides my job, I decided that I needed to develop new hobbies and new passions...not just have interests in them, but actually try it out for sometime and with a little passion. So I made a deal to myself that for every year, I would go/do something that I've always wanted to do but have never done before and stick it out for one whole year.
    So the first year, it was to run a marathon (b/c I've never been a runner ever before). The next year it was to learn skiing/snowboarding. The following year it was to take ballroom dancing. After that, it was blogging. This year, it is to learn swimming (which reminds me, I have to sign up for classes). Each of those things have in a small way opened new doors that I never knew existed. I don't know if that will work for you but it did give me new goals and something to shoot for every year. As a matter of fact, especially with the marathoning and blogging, they have become a bit addictive and taken off on a life of its own.

    Good luck on finding your way, Susan.

  4. I did feel that way about my first job out of college. I graduated in 2004 and worked where I had interned for four years. Most people at that place work there forever. It's a state job so they stay for the retirement perks. I didn't like it. I had no direction and hated it. I worked on my MBA for a year while I worked. I hated that too. Then I decided on nursing school. I quit my MBA program and took science classes for a year. I quit my job at the end of July and started nursing school last month. I'm doing the 3 year BSN/MSN program with the end result being me with a RN/NP. After that I have no clue!

    One thing I will say is that you seem like you're probably a really good nurse. It's just the workplace that sucks. My clinical instructor has said several times how important it is to work somewhere that feels like a team. She said if that's not how our first job is then we should just do our year and get out of there. I don't know if that helps but just be assured that not all places must be so bad. Is there a way you could get a job closer to home or closer to the Rocket Scientist? Maybe you could do some of the hobbies you want to do or maybe go back and get your MSN so you can be a Nurse Practitioner. No matter what you do, I hope you can find what makes you happy. :)

  5. what stopping you from packing up your stuff and moving to a big city!? Yeah the rocket scientist but if you don't want to feel stuck and unhappy at your job you have to do something about it. Possibly try a different unit of nursing. I have zero experience in this area but this is what I think i would do. Plus I'm planning on becoming a nurse and I hate to see that you are unhappy! Cheer up buttercup =)

  6. You are definitely NOT the first to feel this way. I have my moments (started my first job in August - after a year of "grad school"/Dietetic Internship life post-college graduation). Although, I'm studying for the Registration Exam, so that's my "goal" for now I guess. Either way, there are always other options for nursing - hospitals are Definitely not meant for everyone to enjoy! Even as an RD I get stressed out by the thought of hospital jobs - and I don't even have to think about the night shifts.

    Maybe you should look into graduate school programs to focus your nursing skills on something more specific that you're interested in? Or, since you have the biking thing down, maybe sign up for a Triathlon as a new physical challenge? :) just some thoughts...

    you'll find something that works for *you*!

  7. I bet a lot of people feel the same way as you! Especially with the stressful job you have. I think finding a new activity is a great idea. Something to give you small goals, or maybe a big project with a long term goal.

    My experience is a bit different because I was in a long distance relationship throughout college and was so happy to graduate and be with Steven. Also, architecture school was so draining - I find working a lot better.

    I have a lot of small goals, mostly related to fitness and building good relationships. A lot of people expect me to do certain things because of my degree... and that is a bit stressful. I like being able to relax a bit for once.

    I am not sure if this was a helpful comment at all. Sorry.

  8. I went through some of the same thoughts during my time at OSU. I loved developing critical thinking skills and learning how to be a good researcher, but I really missed interacting with people. I also got really discouraged because I felt like I had lost sight of what I really wanted to do...and I wasn't (and still sometimes am not) sure of what I wanted to do. I think finding something you're passionate about is important. I want to have a job I enjoy and want to wake up to every morning. After I'm done with the DI, I get the wonderful challenge of figuring out what that is. :-)

    I need creative outlets in my life. As much as I love nutrition, it kills me to do only that 24 x 7. That's why I was so hardcore about being in the music dept in undergrad and at OSU. It made me happier, and it made the not so bearable parts of my research more bearable. I'm struggling to find that same balance at SLU, where I work long hours and go to class at night and barely have time for myself. I miss music terribly, and as a music person yourself, I'm sure you understand.

    Anyway, this is getting waaay too long, but you are in my thoughts and prayers, Susan!

  9. The great thing about nursing is that RNs are employed EVERYWHERE. You have a multitude of options to try - a different floor, critical care, cath lab, ER, surgicenter, doctor's office, home care, hospice, insurance companies, etc.

    I actually left the bedside for a while, & had to rediscover my love for the profession.

  10. My parents used to live 7 timezones away, so we could only talk on weekends. Even with them back in the U.S. I'm having the same issues while working evenings.

  11. I actually never got to this point after graduation because I knew I was applying to CRNA school after working for 2 years. So I am back on that school schedule now and I do like it! Working just isn't what it's cut out to be! Haha, just kidding. Maybe bedside nursing just isn't what you are called to do in the nursing profession. I know I definitely didn't want to do bedside my whole life and is why I am back in school to do something that I will enjoy MUCH more! Keep looking into "other" nursing jobs and you may just find something you are really passionate about! Don't give up on it quite yet:)

  12. OMG, yes. Yes, yes, yes. I had an entire blog post about it:

    Being a grown up is hard, but you'll figure it out and do great.

  13. I hope you find a goal that makes you happy! At least you were honest with yourself about how you feel right now and are looking to change that--that's the first and most important step, I think!

    I complain about grad school basically all the time because it stresses me out and makes me feel tired and inadequate nearly every day. On the flip side, I do get a winter vacation, and one day, I will (apparently) have a book to my name. Hm...

    That said, not all grad school = PhD. You don't have to commit all of your 20's to a very small stipend to go back to school. Definitely something to think about.

  14. Totally!! I think it is vital for our survival to always be working towards something, which will ultimately form us into a better and bright people, in my humble opinion. When I graduated, the goal was to become a competent nurse...then I felt like I had accomplished that goal, so I kind of felt pointless. Life was just work, come home, hang out, sleep, work. How un-fulfilling!! I think right now I am working towards goals, big and small. Wanting to become now a competent ICU nurse, my 31-day yoga challenge, and eventual teacher training program! You gotta find something. So weird because my bf and I just had a similar convo last night

  15. COMPLETELY agree with your realization. And then realized that I think that may be my problem now as well. So I am dedicating the rest of this month to try to determine, "what I want to do when I grow up"--not necessarily in changing my job, but in developing new outlets that make my day to day life happy instead of hum-drum (work, sleep, eat, repeat). I think you are very wise for having this realization while you are so young. Life sure is difficult but we are the only ones that can change what is happening. You're on the right track! And you have a great support team with your family and blog readers. Good luck.

  16. Hey Susan!

    First off I'd like to tell you that I really enjoy reading every one of your posts. I think a big part of that is you tend to write about issues that are relevant to my life/worries. I definitely felt goal-less and totally lost when I had my 2 internships (which does NOT make the working world exciting in the least bit). It made coming back to school each year so much easier because I was like 'I need to learn' 'I need to read books' 'I need to be stimulated!' So although I'm still in school, I understand your blah-ness right now.

    Although I am so excited to get my bootay out of here, at the same time I wish I could be a student forever because it sets my goals for me-- or at least sets some of them. I think you have so much more to offer the world than being unhappy at your current job. I say write a bucket list for yourself. Perhaps, work part time as a nurse (if that's possible) and do something else. I told my mom this past summer that I wanted to be a baker. Not bake at 3 am for a bakery, but just bake for myself out of my own home. Hence I loved your part-time baker idea!

    I think you should do something crazy, spontaneous and risky. If I've learned one thing this semester from guest speakers in my Getting Rich class, it is: follow your heart when you're young because you have absolutely nothing to lose. What would be the worst thing to happen if you pursued baking and it didn't work out? Or you started coaching high school track/marching band or you backpacked through Europe for a month or you took a photography class or you...

    Choose something that sparks your interest and do that! And don't look back!

  17. i think you should make it a goal of yours to be happy! find things that make you happy and make them an important part of your daily or weekly routine :) think about looking for jobs in big cities like you want! like new york.. haha no for real though I think its so important to be happy because if we're not happy then what's the point right!

    keep your head up girl :)