I stopped in 2007 for a number of reasons, but mostly because there was so much I felt like I couldn't say. I was doubting my choice of graduate degree -- feeling deeply unhappy in my linguistics program and not seeing a clear way out. Not only that, but I was inching toward the decision to become, not only NOT a linguist, but a physician assistant (PA) -- realizing with trepidation that such a move would involve practically starting my academic career over again. And, of course, I fell in love with my partner, L, and figured out that I'd been lying to myself about my feelings for other women ever since that first camp-counselor crush when I was 14. All of that made for a lot of stress, and I've never been one to discuss something out in the open until I'm fairly sure of my own thoughts and opinions on it. So, rather than spill all those messy emotions all over the Internet, I clammed up.
Unfortunately for all of you -- now that I'm comfortable with this new life, and secure, and happy -- I'm back. :) I'd like to think I'm better for having made the journey, though.
I figured out that choosing to stop something that isn't working for you doesn't necessarily qualify as quitting. (Though the $20k in loans will never stop sucking.) And I learned, cliche though it may sound, that it's never too late to figure out who you want to be and how you're going to get there. Walking away from UNC was, pride-wise, one of the hardest things I've ever done. But I did it. I still almost can't believe it. In the past two years, I have completed ten community college science courses -- all the necessary prerequisites for PA school -- while working full-time. In 2007, after a nerve-wracking summer of unemployment, I found a job as an EMT, hauling (mostly) elderly folk from hospitals to nursing homes and back again. I hated almost every minute of it, but it was the only job I could find in the medical field. I missed my camp counselor days, the days of working with kids and actually enjoying what I was doing, but I was trying to make the best with the cards I'd been dealt.
Then, one day in January 2008, when I'd sadly resigned myself to just "sticking it out" for two and a half more years until I could start PA school, I was waiting for a patient at the wound clinic and happened to glance down at the newspaper on the couch beside me. It was folded open to the job section. Under the 'Medical' heading was a single listing: for a medical assistant in a pediatric practice.
I literally felt a shiver down my spine.
I e-mailed the practice manager that night, trying to strike the right notes of honesty and work ethic. This is who I am; this is what I want to be. This (short list) is what I know; this (much longer list) is what I don't know, but very much want to learn. I have tons of experience with kids, I'm a hard worker, and I'll try my best to learn anything you ask me to. Could I have a shot?
She called me in for an interview, talked to me for a while, called the president of the practice in to talk to me for a minute... then raised her eyebrows and asked, "So when could you start?"
I practically swallowed my teeth.
Now, a year and a half later, I still consider myself incredibly fortunate to have the job I have. That's not to say I'm tap-dancing when I drag my tired self out the door at 7:00 every morning, or that I have a secret passion for sticking needles into shrieking kindergarteners' thighs... but in terms of combining one of my main lifelong interests (working with children) with the medical experience I need for school, you can't get much more perfect. Aside from my long list of duties (and there are a lot of them... I work alongside R.N.s, doing the same duties for less pay), I'm working in a huge, successful, well-known practice with a dozen different doctors and thousands of patients. Even better -- I've spent the last year of my time there assigned to one doctor in particular, a fantastic, easygoing guy whom I very much admire and who makes me feel like a valued member of the team, despite my comparative lack of knowledge. He trusts me, respects my opinion, and -- even better -- teaches me. He knows I'm trying to become a PA, so if a kid comes in with, for example, the hallmark crackly lungs of pneumonia, he'll tell me to take a stethoscope and go listen to his chest so I can hear what it sounds like. It's been a year and a half, and I'm still learning new things every single day.
(Sometimes they're sad things, though. Without breaking any confidentiality laws, suffice it to say that one of the kids we saw today, who presented with a stupid, seemingly benign complaint, is most likely going to end up spending time in the oncology ward. Not good. Not good at all. But a powerful lesson for someone like me.)
Anyway, so that part of my life has fallen into place. And after nearly three years together, L and I are stronger than ever. (She's asked me to identify her only as 'L' when I talk about her on this site, but I think pretty much everybody is going to know who I'm talking about!) She has taught me so much, about everything from spiritual views to how to use Microsoft Excel. I find myself wanting to be a better person because of her -- often thinking, "What would L say in this situation?" -- and I'm still so excited to come home to her every night. I knew from our first couple of weeks together that this was forever, and although I know there will be countless bumps in the road still to come (heck, we've already weathered a veritable tsunami, why should the rest of our lives be any different?!), I know that we'll face the obstacles together and that it really will all be okay. I can't wait to see where life takes us.
Also, I'm most of the way through my PA application process -- I've submitted my CASPA application (which goes to four of the five schools I'm applying to) as well as two supplemental applications. There is one 'base' application and one supplemental application still to go, and after that it really will be just a waiting game. I won't know any decisions until Christmas at the earliest, but I'll have interviews (if I'm lucky!) scattered throughout the fall and winter. I'll keep you posted.
Oh, and I've had some pretty great adventures in the interim, too. Let's see... I stopped blogging in April of 2007. In May, L graduated from her first master's program; in June, we took the Maid of the Mist tour at Niagara Falls. In August, we visited the Netherlands and England, and I swam a successful relay of the English Channel on 8/7/07 with five teammates from UNC. In September, I completed my first (and last!) half Ironman triathlon. In 2008, I ran my first (and probably not last) marathon. And so far in 2009, I have gone to Disney World, swum with dolphins, and posted my fastest time yet for the River Run (1:46)... although it just about killed me, so I think I'll knock it back to 'just running for fun' next year! :)
I think that's long enough for my first time back. :) And rest assured, it will not be another two years before you hear from me again! :)