A HIPPIE, A HOBO, OR A MIDLIFE CRISIS?!
This morning I awoke unemployed. By choice. This is the first time in five and a half years I haven’t gone in to work at Sterling House and Clare Bridge of Jacksonville, two assisted living facilities housing adults with dementia and/or failing health where I worked as an Occupational Therapist and Coordinator for Physical, Occupational, & Speech Therapies. I worked with with special needs children in schools for five and a half years prior to that, so this is the first time in eleven years I’ve awoken without a job as a therapist. And it’s the first time I’ve been unemployed without the excuse of grad school since 1998 (and that was not by choice.)
This plan has been percolating for nearly a year but it feels surreal now that the seed of what was once just a crazy idea (for I ALWAYS have crazy ideas percolating) has grown to fruition. The rush of emotions I’m experiencing is as diverse as the interests that spurred me to cut bait and chase my muse. I’m excited, scared, sad at the relationships I’m leaving behind, eager to make new connections, optimistic, hesitant, confused, overwhelmed, focused, confident and, strangely, a bit guilty. In a time when so many people are desperately unemployed, I feel a twinge of guilt walking away from a secure, well-paying job, even if it was driving me nuts. My burnout has been smoldering for years and deep down I knew I wasn’t as effective as I once was, but that’s just a poppycock excuse to the depression-era generation whom I served.
Or so I say, for as my former patients offered teary, sincere farewells, they all wished me luck and applauded me for chasing my dreams. I guess moxie is old fashioned too! Perhaps more apropos, I had to confess my plan to close friend, Jen Dew, whom I supported over the past year as she struggled with unemployment after her long-time family business folded under the weight of this economy. After over seven months of joblessness, she was thrilled to secure an awesome opportunity to market for Wounded Warriors Project. Needless to say, it was a little awkward telling her, just as she was preparing to return to work, that I was quitting a steady job and moving away; nevertheless, she too was supportive. In fact, most everyone has been. I’ve been shocked by how overwhelmingly people have stated their admiration for picking up and following my dream. A nurse friend from work gave her nod of approval with a “NO FEAR ZONE” sign to hang in my room. Other friends and coworkers teased in lighthearted envy, with one fellow therapy coordinator continually joking: “I wanna go be a hippie too!” while another made me a hobo pack filled with poetic well-wishes (a penny so I’d never be broke, a rubber band to help me stretch, an eraser to fix my small mistakes, etc.) Although the overwhelming majority has cheered me on, a few have had momentary freak-outs on my behalf such as my lawyer friend and surrogate sister who, in her traditional caution, frantically asked if I had business plan and had researched average rents and had COBRA insurance, etc. etc. More to the point, a few friends and family inquired with varying degrees of seriousness if I’m having a midlife crisis!?!
The answer is NO.
Although the mortality-grappling that comes with approaching forty helped mobilize my pursuit of this dream, this is a journey my life has always been building towards rather than a sudden change of plans. I’ve always wanted to write professionally, but never before had the financial cushion, clearly-realized plan, or courage to jump in, let alone enough life experience to actually feel like I had something to say. (How annoying is it when early twenty-somethings sound so world-weary writing and singing about life and love?!) No, this isn’t a crisis. My head is up, my eyes are clear, my heart is hopeful, and I’ve rarely been as certain about any decision in my life. This isn’t a rash reaction to a moment of blind panic, but the long, careful deliberation of an adventurous and open soul.
SWEATSHIRTS & UNDERSHORTS
So, after two decades of showing up to work in frumpy khakis and dumpy button-ups, I’m sitting here in “All You Need Is Love” boxers and a burnt orange hoodie trying to reinvent myself. A new profession. A new dress code. As of Wednesday, a new city. And a very old dream.
As I document this unfolding adventure, I hope you’ll tune in from time to time and hitch a ride. A lot of work has gone into getting this blog up and running (I feel like I’m studying for my third Master’s Degree!) and I’m still just scratching the surface. The appearance, content, and interconnectivity will mature and expand over time as I slowly master the online language of html. I’m looking forward to the journey and hope you enjoy riding shotgun. We’re speeding towards the NO FEAR ZONE. No rest stop. No U-turns. No holding back. Well, maybe a little holding back. I’m still not brave or crazy enough to post a picture of me in Beatles boxers & ugly orange hoodie….