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Healthy Living

I Left The Career I Chose For Myself At 18. What Now? And Why It’s Okay.

Last month, I made the hardest decision of my adult life thus far. I quit my job. Well, it wasn’t even as simple as that. I’ve quit other jobs in the past, ready to try something different and new.

No. I quit being a nurse. I quit the career I chose for myself a decade ago. A scared and excited 18-year-old ready to set out, get a degree in nursing, and help people.

But that’s all over. For now, possibly forever.

This wasn’t a decision made easily or quickly. It started out as a quiet voice whispering in the recesses of my mind. It got louder over the years, always with the same irritating, pounding question: “Kelly, what are you doing?” I ignored the question because, quite frankly, I was too cowardly to answer it. Usually I thought, “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! I have no idea!”

Healthy, I know.

The problem was, I truly did not know what I was doing. I was going through the motions of my life with no real enjoyment or understanding. I was standing on the outside completely incapable of finding a way in. I got a degree, then I got a job. But how can an 18-year-old be expected to choose a career that will keep them satisfied for the next four to five decades?

Because I had no real answer for the voice in my head (asinine screaming matches guaranteed to make me look like a raging lunatic didn’t count), I shoved it away. I ignored it. I marked it down as “don’t answer,” like the voice was a creep ex-boyfriend I was desperate to avoid.

I first heard the voice my junior year of college. I was well into my first semester of nursing school, and I was miserable. I chalked it up to the bad breakup I was going through, and the intense longing to be back in Waco with my best friends. (The nursing program I attended was two years in Waco, two years in Dallas.) Looking back, while all those feelings were very real and present, I often wonder if my despair came from a place of not pursuing and ultimately ignoring my passion. Instead, I was working towards a degree I didn’t give two shits about.

Yes, I was excited about hospital life, the hustle and bustle of patient care, getting to know patients and families, helping people. But besides that, I didn’t feel much of anything. Sort of a “meh” to what I was going to be doing with the rest of my life. I despised nursing school. It was hard and intense, but I figured hatred was the general consensus.

What I have realized over this past year of soul searching is just how detrimental forcing yourself to do something you don’t want can be. But what was I to do? What are any of us to do? Start over? Choose a different major? It is so ingrained in us from an early age not to quit. Never give up! Get a job! Stop wasting money! Be a functioning part of society!

Does part of me wish I had said “screw all that noise” and gone to my parents to discuss how I was feeling? Told them how unhappy I was? Well, yeah. Of course I do. But, I also cannot regret the path I chose. The field of nursing taught me lessons I will carry with me always, brought me life-long friends, and introduced me to some of the bravest, strongest, most beautiful patients and families I have ever met. It was truly an honor, and I can never regret that.

So, where does that leave me? Unfortunately, the voice in my head this past year became a real nagging biotch. Just wouldn’t shut up, louder and louder. It was insistent. “KELLY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” So many days I wanted to scream at it, telling it to “EFF off already, can’t you see how miserable you’re making me?” But still it stayed, my constant companion. There with my morning coffee, there tucking me in at night. Always loudest at work.

This past year, the stress has eaten at me. I’ve become a shell of the person I once knew. At one point, I thought I was a goner due to constant heart palpitations. Turns out it was stress and anxiety manifesting in physical ways. I could cry at the drop of a hat. I was quite the miserable hag to be around. I got chubby (chubbier) because I couldn’t muster the energy to take care of myself.

All because I was forcing a life upon myself that I didn’t want.

I decided I could no longer watch my life go by while I sit on the sidelines. I just can’t do it. I have too much to offer and we only get one life. So, I’m doing it. I’m taking a giant ass leap of faith. I know my decisions may have disappointed some. But I’m jumping in people.

My advice to others struggling with them same problem? Jump in with me. It is okay to announce to the world that you are not the same person you were when you were eighteen. That your wants and needs have changed. There are endless possibilities in this world, you only need to possess the guts to go after them. Is there a chance we will fall flat on our faces? Of course, but I’d rather get bruised trying than stay injury free and miserable.

Because, do you know what this decision has brought me?

Beautiful, forgiving freedom.

So, goodbye nursing! You’ve been a beautiful adventure. And also, a wretched bitch.