Monday, September 08, 2008

Nine Months' Gestation

It is now nine months since I eschewed full-time work (after twelve years of having my nose on the nursing grindstone), and I am examining both where I was and where I am now. Questions abound, but answers seem resolutely elusive.

There is something to say for the regularity of a full-time job. A steady pay-check is a type of financial stability that most people see as a gateway to economic ease (or at least some semblance of economic ease if the pay is moderately good). That reliable deposit into the checking account is a means to an end, allowing one the ability to put food on the table and gas in the ever-hungry tank. That said, when one decides to piece together a livelihood, there is certainly room for shakier ground and relative uncertainty.

Whether working per diem, full-time, or part-time as a nurse, one always has the feeling that one's skills are in demand. Still, finding work of interest, coordinating multiple scheduling needs of various employers, and allowing some open time for that unexpected call----it is all a juggling act extraordinaire.

After nine months of putting together a per diem lifestyle, I am entering the Autumn feeling somewhat tired from the uncertainty but simultaneously hesitant to make any solid commitment on a weekly basis to any one employer. Sure, some steadier income would be nice, but the flexibility that my new work- and lifestyle have bestowed upon me is truly difficult to consider giving up. Beyond being a juggling act, it is a conundrum, a paradox, a riddle for the earnest nurse to solve.

When visiting my former workplace as a per diem consultant, I see how my former colleagues are still slogging away in the trenches of front-line urban healthcare. As attractive as that mission is (both personally and politically), serving the poor, disenfranchised and chronically ill is no picnic, and I left that world nine months ago for a very good reason: stress was causing me to become ill, and that constellation of illness was thoroughly depleting my life force and joi de vivre.

Now, working from home part time and piecing together a different sort of work life, I wonder how long I will carry on doing what I'm doing. Nursing always allows one great breadth of choice in terms of what one does at work, and I have even had thoughts that there may be---one day---a time when "Nurse" is no longer part of my identity. Still, for now, nursing is part and parcel of my being and identity, and I continue to put together a personal life that makes sense and brings at least some money to the table.

After all, when it comes to work and stress, if I compromise my health in the interest of work, there will be nothing of me left to enjoy the fruits of my labor. So instead of working more in order to have more, the key is most likely in wanting less, consuming less, and thus working only enough to meet my modified needs. But then again, that is so fundamentally un-American. What is the earnestly thoughtful nurse to do?

Nine months' gestation finds me in a thoughtful place. What will another nine months bring? I am as curious as you, dear Reader, and I only hope that any further vocational labor pains are gentle as I ride the waves of this ongoing challenge.

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