This is the Turning Point Series where I recall events in my life that changed the course of my journey in some significant, impactful way. I almost entitled it the TP Series but then thought better of it. Given the state of our world with covid and everything, I didn’t want people to wrongly assume this was the central spot to find the best toilet paper sales in the north (it’s not, btw).
“I want to help people.” This was the resounding answer heard all around the room. It was my first day of college. I decided I wanted to study in the field of social work. Like most of the students in the class that day, my response to the professor’s question (why did you choose this specific field) was the same. I want to help people. For as long as I could remember, I loved the feeling of being validated, being needed, and helping others (perhaps in ways I felt I could have been helped). I didn’t know exactly what this translated to, but I knew this is what I wanted to do as a career.
Fast forward to being fresh out of post-secondary school, I was looking for my first real job. I was eager to pay back my mounting student loans and desperate for financial stability. The sooner I paid off my debt, the sooner I could start saving up as much as I could to move out on my own. All I cared about at that time in my life was making money because money represented freedom, independence, a way out, and a new beginning. I had applied to every job that seemed remotely related to my field of study. Then I stumbled upon a job ad online that would, unbeknownst to me, change the course of my working life.
The company was a small, family-owned (yet up-and-coming) business in the growing home health care industry. The owner saw a gap in the health care system and filled that niche using his savvy business acumen, alongside his personal experience with the barriers he encountered while caring for his ailing grandparents. This is who I ended up working for. Because the company was still in its infancy stage of development, there was infinite room to grow. I didn’t know it then, but the sky was my limit; the pudding for my taking.
The only issue at the time was the pay- it was just below my expectations. But a job was a job, and I accepted it anyway. I took the job for all the reasons a mid-twenty-something-year-old-who-still-lives-at-home takes any job, I was young, naïve, and desperate for real-world experience. Sure enough, I got it and then some!
The job was an entry-level position managing the recruitment/human resources department. I say “department” but that is small-business-talk for ‘one-man show.’ I was that one man; the whole department was me. But that also meant I got to lead and stamp out new trails. I was scouting, interviewing, training, hiring, firing and everything in between. I was driven, creative, effective, and very efficient at my job. I met new challenges with a high rate of success. My boss started consulting me on pivotal business ventures for my valued input. I was thrilled to be a part of this company’s rich history, from the ground up. As the company grew beyond all our wildest dreams, I felt immense pride as I chased each milestone promotion from Human Resources Coordinator to Case Manager, then finally to Operations Manager of the home health care division.
That job was a major part of my life, of my identity. Sure, it scarred me at times and brought me to hell and back, but I was happy too. And for a while there, I loved it. At least I thought I did, but the higher up I moved, the more dissatisfied I became. The higher up I moved, the more I found my self-worth being directly tied to the success of my job and, of course, my perceived failures. Somewhere along the way, I stopped believing that I was making as much of a difference as I originally thought. To say that I was confused is a huge understatement. I felt entangled in a web of interlocking yet contradicting emotions. I began questioning my purpose and my level of happiness because the truth is, I honestly didn’t know.
You see, I can be a chameleon in so many ways. If I don’t love something but know I’m obligated to stick with it, I generally won’t have any issues reconciling my emotions and eventually growing fondness for said unpleasant thing. Or perhaps that is the true definition of Stockholm syndrome?
A part of me was ecstatic that after nearly seven years of a grueling uphill climb, I was finally seeing the title and pay that I deserved. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder what else was out there waiting for me. In my final year at the company, I could no longer see myself thriving on a professional or personal level. I knew I had to leave in order to find that passion again. It sounds completely unrelated, but it was like leaving a perfectly fine relationship. There was nothing really wrong with it; I probably could have trudged on for another few years. There was never a huge, glaring red flag, but I just wasn’t happy anymore. In fact, I realized I was scared. I was scared to start over again. I feared what others would say about my next move– where I would end up after all the work I had put into this place. What if the next job isn’t bigger or better than this? And what I learned is that fear should never be the reason to stay stuck in anything.
So, I unstuck myself. I came to a point where I decided if I wasn’t completely happy, it was reason enough to move on. And the thing is, once I decided this, it still wasn’t easy. It wasn’t like feeling that eventual relief of realigning a dislocated elbow, it was actually the opposite. I felt tortured from the day I handed in my resignation to about a year after I had already left. I was still constantly questioning whether I made the right move or not.
It also didn’t help that I hadn’t exactly struck gold right after either. I struggled to stay focused with finding that new passion, a new purpose, and something I could be proud to be a part of. A couple turbulent years followed but I finally got there. I know now that the decision to take that job so many years ago was the starting point on the path that would lead me to my current job in health care now. I will forever be grateful for that journey.
Do you have a similar story about wanting to start over? Did you end up doing it? Any regrets?
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