This isn't the way my life was supposed to go in the first place. My undergrad years had a Pre-Med focus; everything I did and every choice I made for 4 years of college was laced wth a hint of future plans. I was extremely focused and dare I say stubborn, refusing to give up on the academic curriculum that did a number on my spirit. Not surprisingly, though I graduated successfully with my 4-year degree, I was not accepted into medical school, and began working where I could find a job and feel any hint of interest or passion for my work: helping kids living in a psychiatric residential treatment facility.
I spent a year there before moving on to the job that challenged me and gave me security for nearly 5 years: being a case manager at a Community Mental Health Center. Though trying to avoid cliches, I will say that I learned an immense amount about myself and gained experience across settings which I never foresaw. Some would say I found "my niche". First, a bit of background. Essentially, my job was to carry a caseload of 20-25 kids and teens, and to hold sessions with these kids and/or their families on a weekly basis, with the goal of practicing skills the kids could use to improve different areas of their life, as outlined by their clinical therapist. Community Psychiatrict Support & Treatment is the technical term for it. The job entailed me traveling around my city, visiting elementary, middle, and high schools on a daily basis during the school year, and picking up my clients at home/daycare/etc during the summer months. The Center I worked for serves 5 different counties, so for over 2 years, I also carried an outreach assignment and had a caseload in a neighboring county, to which I would travel one day out of the work week.
I am grateful for the exposure to the public education system I experienced while doing this work. It was eye-opening and stretching to see how schools function on a daily basis, and my respect for educators and schools is extremely high as a result of this gain in perspective. I've even been toying with the idea of becoming a middle school science teacher myself (down the road) because of the connections I've made in the education world. I've also learned that middle schoolers are my favorite people on the planet, as my caseload was, on average throughout my 5 years, heavily middle school-aged kids. I've grown in my ability to help families in crisis, be it emotional, educational, or financial, by connecting them with resources in the community that can help. I've led and facilitated psychosocial rehabilitation groups for kids and teens who need work on social and emotional regulation skills.
So, why did I leave?
In addition to my professional work, I've spent the last 6 years since graduating from college growing my soul and my person. I am not married or have children [ a story for a different time ;) ], and choose rather to spend my time and energy developing my broad interest of investing in people from different walks of life. I also like to keep up with my passion for the arts, including music, theatre, and writing. I've carried around this feeling of "do more with your life" for as long as I can remember.
Sometime last fall (2015), something shifted inside of me that told me it was time to move on. Throughout the next several months, I gained confidence in this conviction and began searching for answers as I tried to outline what this change would look like. I decided that my February mission trip to Nicaragua would be a mile marker, along with the upcoming end of the school year, since my job was so closely linked to the school district schedule.
I wish it were as simple as saying that I just felt like I needed a change, but then everything everything in my external world started shifting too, including things with my family who is out-of-state. It turned out that I needed to take an extended trip to Arizona to help my mom with some legal business, as well as try to get more information on her chronic health conditions. My youngest sister had her elementary school graduation and 12th birthday coming up, my middle sister was moving into a new house, and my high school best friend was getting married. I took these things as requests for my presence in my family's life. Again, this is a story for another time, and I'm barely scratching the surface here, but there is a great amount of healing that needs to be done within my family and I have grown in my sense of responsibility in that area.
In all, I felt a general sense of release. At least, a sense of permission to start letting go and moving on. I live pretty strategically and do my best to listen to the divine plan and direction for my life, rather than make impulsive decisions.
I turned in my letter of resignation on the last Monday in April.
Any frustration I had felt with my job in the previous years wasn't the driving motivation for this change, but I can't say the frustration never existed. Some of my close friends will tell you that they feel like I was ready to leave my job 2 years ago. I think I always knew that when I accepted this job, it wasn't as a permanent fixture in my life, but rather a stepping stone. I've learned through trial and error that my personality is not one which will let me define myself by my career or job. I've learned that I'm okay with not working the same job for 40 years, in fact, that I could never be happy doing that. I've learned that my soul yearns for constant renewal and challenges, and that sometimes a big, scary leap of faith is necessary in order to put myself in the position where I can accept the next best thing that comes my way.
The day I walked away from my job was emotional and scary. I experienced my first mini-panic attack in almost a year, but I fought back. I felt the pain of the change and the nervousness of standing on the edge, but I also felt the peace and sense of hope that came with boldly staring down the abyss in front of me that held my future.