“… it does not cheapen your professional achievements if you realize down the line that you want your life to revolve around something or someone else.”
It was the day of my son’s four-month immunizations that I realized that no, I don’t love my job. I know that my career is important. I know it makes a difference. I know that I feel passion for it. It’s just that now, after being back at work as a mom, I feel okay with giving myself space not to love it.
This discovery was simultaneously relieving and world-shattering. All throughout nursing school, and all through my career thus far, I had professed with such fervor that I loved what I did for a living. But that Monday morning after my son had gotten his shots, cried for close to ten minutes, and later spiked his first fever, I realized explicitly and fully that what I felt for the work left undone while I took time off to comfort him was absolutely nothing compared the feeling I had looking at my son while he slept, knowing he didn’t understand what had happened and just felt bad.
Growing up, I think the feminist in me loved the idea of being in love with one’s career, and I navigated much of my young life with a romanticized notion of what that looked and felt like. How empowering it must feel, I thought, to have your career be so real and validating that you could love it in the same way you could love a person. I came into this way of thinking as a teenager, and maybe that was what made it so difficult for me to understand how, when I was 15, my mom went from working to wanting to stay at home and be a mother to my siblings and me.
I’m not proud of how angry it made me. I’m not proud of how difficult it was for me to understand until after my son was born.
Your career is an important thing. You spend so much of your life at work, your work should make you feel fulfilled and there should be at least those fleeting moments where you feel like it completes you. Something that occupies such a large space in your life should not leave you feeling empty. But it does not cheapen your professional achievements if you realize down the line that you want your life to revolve around something or someone else.
The ideal of “having it all” often feels unattainable, but maybe that’s not the ideal we should be aspiring to anyway. Maybe the ideal is giving enough – and having enough left over to keep giving.
I will not stay up all night with my job, and I will not pretend to have hiccups for forty-five minutes just because my job has hiccups. What I will do is wholeheartedly and passionately do what I can in the space I have carved out in my life for the work I do, without allowing it to seep in the space I have carved out for the people I truly can say that I love.