Today was the day I realized that the passion I had for what I believed was my purpose is…gone. Today I realized that deep within my soul, where there was once a raging fire, there is naught an ember to be found. The sparks of joy I once had, ignited by dutifully fulfilling my calling, have died.
The fire wasn’t snuffed out in a day, or a month of them, it wasn’t suffocated in a single moment. In fact, I can not pinpoint the date or time that the flames died out. In all truthfulness, I was not even aware the inferno was in danger. I thought, until today, that warmth still filled my veins.
In a hundred little moments, only seen in retrospect, the fuel was pulled from my fever. In a hundred little moments the fire died inside. If I had felt the sparks fighting to stay alight, just maybe I could have salvaged something. But I didn’t.
A dozen angry messages, a handful of snide remarks, a few weeks (or has it been months?) of staff shortages, a couple missed veins… innumerable complaints over masking and screening and protocol… all of these moments! Contributions to the oxygen being pulled from the chambers of my soul. But still, I noticed not.
A favorite patient in my waiting room and no enthusiasm to be found. Perhaps I even groaned at the concept of conversation. At the thought of creating a connection. The sheer repulsion I felt at attempting to deviate from my carefully crafted script; the one I use to propel me through my days… I didn’t notice the smoldering, didn’t realize the smoke was suffocating.
A hundred little moments, but none more telling to me than a simple, silly realization…
Today, my pen did not match my scrubs.
And I didn’t care. When I realized I was cloaked in layers of purple yet the ink from my pen flowed green I didn’t stop to exchange the hue. I instead continued my day with a neon green pen peeking from my pocket and regarded it with indifference.
Yes, yes, laugh. How foolishly absurd of me! To hinge this realization on something so frivolous as the shade of ink from a pen! Laugh though you know not that every day since my introduction to the world as a registered member of my chosen profession I have matched my pen to the uniform of my day.
Daily I pull from my wardrobe a perfectly matched set of scrubs, more often than not even pairing my socks and underthings to blend with the palette of the day, choosing the perfect pair of sneakers to offset my design. Even my ponytail is secured with a tie to match my pants! And those are the things I do before ever leaving my home!
The entirety of my career my pen has matched my scrubs! So obsessively so that if my purple pen were to have been used today and had run dry I would have been compelled to borrow one until I were able to replace my own!
When I was young, through trials and traumas I learned that my place, my purpose, was to heal and harbor those around me. The driving force behind every choice in my adult life has been to bring me where I am, to who I am, to what I do!
The realization that green ink had leaked through the pocket of my purple top spurred a string of other realizations… I have left several of my daily rites by the wayside. My daily recital of ‘Mernin’ to my colleagues, I cannot recall the last utterance.
The intentional complement I pay to each and every patient… ‘I like your shirt’, ‘Those glasses really suit you!’, ‘That is a great color on you’, ‘What a pretty necklace’… every day for nearly a decade I have strived to brighten the day of each and every person who is perched upon my exam table. This is something my fellow nurses and even the doctor I work so closely with do not know. Even the crankiest and habitually rude patients are paid a single, simple compliment in the hope that in spite of whatever reason they are there they leave with just a sliver of joy in their day. Today I realized I hadn’t paid a single complement…
Just like the ink leaking from my pen tip I have lost my desire serve, to heal, to spark joy in others. I have let my passion for my purpose perish. And I may have not realized I had grown cold if it weren’t for the realization that today, my pen was green, and my scrubs were purple.
The disregard of this tradition carries such a heavy weight for me; because to me it symbolizes the death of my desire. The perishing of my purpose.
(I do not know if the flames can be rekindled, or if I should seek out a new purpose. I do know I feel lost. Though I know I am not alone in this. Millions of healthcare workers are losing themselves, losing their desire to serve, to heal, to help. The last 2 years have been brutalizing to those in this field; so please, even when you are frustrated or scared, be kind to your healthcare workers. We were once heroes…. now we feel like punching bags.)