A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn....

It's gonna get harder before it gets easier. But it will get better, you just gotta make it through the hard stuff first.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

"Aha" moment of the past.

I am reading this book, Quitter, by Jon Acuff, "Closing the gap between your day job and your dream job". This is the first book that talks not about jumping in feet first, closed eyes and mouth open, into new career, and yet not taking extensive steps identifying what exactly is that you may potentially want to do. The books is talking sense. The book resonates with me, why, while I am not the happiest in the world doing what I do for the last 20 years, I am not the saddest in the world about not doing what I trained for and got education for. And the book just handled me "aha" moment I actually speak often about...

When I was 14 and in 9th grade, Soviet education system had you, as part of high school curriculum, do one day a week of "professional training" type of class. I wanted to be a truck driver - I was a tom-boy and doing such things felt like a good option. But the teacher of that class refused to take girls - there was a lot of swearing happening, and he wasn't about to be fired or hold his tongue back. So, as a girl, I had to pick a seamstress class - but I was already sawing all my clothes and didn't foresee this as a career move - or take a nurse assistant class. My sister's husband was a doctor, so I decided on that, just in case.

And while we did some theory, and some practice, as a practical and realistic teenager I was, I decided to get a job to utilize my new developing skill set - as a night shift "nurse assistant" for a ICU unit at the hospital, what in normal terms for that age and grade level meant simply a janitor. A person who cleans the floor with big mop and a huge water bucket, changes sheets, wipes puke, handle urine dishes and cleans kitchen stuff after dinner. And yes, cleans the toilets. All the good stuff.

I actually liked to clean. And liked to feel useful. And I never felt disgusted with puke, urine, poop and blood, nor with helpless patients while turning them from side to side trying to change the sheets. My "office" was a closet with mops, water facet and a toilet. 

I will never forget the first morning, after a shift, when I found a sack of oranges on top of the toilet. You see, Soviet times (and Russia in general) are known for "gifting" as a way to pay your appreciation. May be tipping is what is here, and money were given as well, but anything goes. It shows that you do a good job, and it sort of asks for continuing doing that in a way, I guess.

My first "gifting" was a sack of oranges, that probably was brought to the recovering patient by their relative, nameless, and not quite cheap. I almost cried. There was a note. "You are very good at helping".

I went on to apply for Medical school 2 years later, even though in 10th grade (last high school year for that time of Soviet education) was attending preparatory classes in 2 other Universities: Aviation Engineering and Moscow State University's Jurisdiction department (I wanted to be a Detective). Medical Doctor was more of a "girl's" job, and the society strongly opposed to both female Aviation Engineers and Detectives (my parents kept belittling my choices and explaining how I'll be poked at and put down). But I also by then realize that I do love the helping aspect of Medical Profession, and I do like to wonder the cause behind the symptom.

As I worked though the years of Medical School as a Nurse Assistant, Nurse, and then Physician Assistant (that's another perk of Soviet system, as you progress in education of eventually higher degree, the "lower" steps degrees get earned and allow you to work using them), I found my calling for sure. Spending time with patients was what I loved the most. Not even brain-storming what and why and how to treat, but trying to "save the world, one person at a time", often by simply talking or holding hand.

So, while the biggest reason I never took that National Board Examination to re-certify as an MD in the US because at first I didn't speak English, and then I got a job and had to make a living for the sake of the family and not sit home and study, as I was learning about local medical system, I wasn't sure Doctor is where I'd like to be. And so I stuck it out as a Research Scientist, doing bench work, DNA, RNA, Protein Purification, Kinetics, Bacteria, Mammalian Cells, and Radioisotopes. It's not a bad job, not at all. It has challenges for the mind, it has breaks in time, it is pretty stable and has a pay that makes live livable. But it doesn't feed my soul.

But back to the book. The reason I began talking about it was because many folks who are unhappy at their current situation often simply drop it and wonder what they can do next. Or, the take tests to see "what their calling is". Or start one project after another. Go to school to get another degree. Read books.

What the author said was simply "Think of what made you fulfilled at some point of your life and see if it can also make an earning".

Helping others can be done in so many ways. It doesn't have to be one. Not all have to make an earning - although some certainly should, because without that one simply can't live sustainable life and be willing to keep offering help. And this is where I am. Making slow steps towards the direction I wanted to go for 30 years...

...Funny, I was simply blabbering away, as Larry called and told me to check out the initial webpage he just launched! Come visit!

www.olgav100.com


3 comments:

  1. Love hearing your story, Olga! I started my career as a computer programmer. I loved math and my advisor told me there was not much I could do with it besides teach. He told me that computers were the "hot new thing" and I should do computer science. I did, I was one of two girls in the program in 1982. I spent seven years working in the field - and I liked the challenges of the mind, but kept telling Eric I wanted to do something that would help people. After my boys were born, I got pulled into Parent Education, then Early Childhood Education. I found my home! I love it and find it both fascinating and fulfilling.

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  2. In trying to figure out career choices, I found the book Working Identity helpful, and it made a lot of sense to me. Here's an article excerpt: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/3312.html

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  3. So glad you are finding a way back to your true passion!

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