It was such a surreal feeling, driving into the parking lot of my old facility. Like being a visitor in my old home. It was Christmas day and I had promised the residents that I’d spend the afternoon with them. Truth be told, it was as much for me as it was for them. I missed them. These past few weeks have sent me adrift and I needed the reminder of what started me on this caregiving path in the first place.
“ALICE! You’re BACK!” Shouts and greetings that warmed my heart and healed my spirits from residents and co-workers bounced from the walls. I felt at home, as if I never left.
In that moment, I remembered how much I once loved working in that facility. The challenge of having to solve problems in a moment’s notice, the constant testing of my every limit, the ability to look at someone I’m training in the eye and tell them that this is a tough gig if you do it correctly but if you’re open to it, this will be the one of the most worthwhile experiences in your life. I loved all of that. I found it endlessly challenging.
My greatest joy are the people. These interesting, difficult, demanding, funny, people who became my friends over the years; who have more wisdom in one pinkie than the rest of us have combined. How I’ve missed the stories. It’s safe here.
Suddenly my reasons for leaving seemed so remote; the pain and financial struggle and inability to blindly accept the status quo seemed a dim memory compared to the joy I took in my work. My etch-a-sketch mind quickly erased the rough edges of the actual working conditions and replaced it with a smooth and calm mental image of a reality that never existed.
In this time of upheaval, the familiarity of my old job is appealing. I know my residents, their preferences and routines. It would be so easy for me to just turn back. As tempting as that thought may be, I know it’s the wrong answer. It broke my heart to walk away the first time. It would just be harder to do it again in a year. Or two. Or three.
No. There is no going back. I don’t know where this new experience is going to lead me, but I have to believe that it’s not back to the starting gate. I have to believe that it’s leading me forward. Besides, my residents are what bring my life a deeper depth; a wealth of experience. That connection can happen just as easily over a cup of coffee as it can by punching the clock.