This week marks a new milestone for me as I leave my first qualified job. It also marks a year since I completed my training (additionally it’s also a full 10 years since I started at university as an undergraduate, where does the time go?). Training, with its 6 month placements, had its share of endings. As I began therapy with clients I explained that I was a student, giving them my leaving date. The ending was out of my hands, it had been already decreed, and it wasn’t personal. The teams gave me cards, cake and flowers and wished me well for my next stage. To date my endings have tended to relate to pre-imposed deadlines or expected career progression. No one begrudged me leaving my graduate post to take up a position on a doctoral course, if anything it reflected well on the team and they wished me luck for the future.
Now, in a permanent post, I have a entirely new experience. I am forced to choose my own ending. My leaving has been met with mixed responses by the team. As a young (ish) newly qualified professional, it doesn’t surprise some that I want to try my hand in other areas. My leaving unfortunately increases burden on other staff, who will inevitably have to should some of my workload. Inevitably I feel some guilt about this. As with many teams, there are some organisational issues and stressors, and my leaving perhaps brings up some mixed feelings in those left behind to hold the fort. I felt disloyal, using my leave to go to interviews, staying quiet in team meetings whilst future plans were discussed. I don’t have the excuse of a deadline or a geographical move to fall back on, I need to own this ending. Responses to my leaving have felt quite muted and I’ve been surprised by how upset this has left me feeling. I don’t know what I expected, some kind of pat on the back, for others to celebrate my departure. Whilst it’s been a very important year for me, other staff have been there far longer and seen many people come and go. It has the flavour of an amicable break-up where we decide to forgo discussion of difficult feelings to keep the peace.
Given I’ve been working with clients with cognitive impairments; there have been some additional complexities to my leaving. It’s felt like a sore topic – many of my clients aren’t free to go and some see me as holder a “jailer” position. I am often working “behind the scenes” so much of caseload don’t have regular therapeutic contact with me. Many are very disoriented and forgetful so it’s been difficult for them to understand when I’ve explained my leaving. It is a strange dynamic, many of clients don’t really understand who I am or what I do, and I doubt they’ll experience much a loss when I’m not there! But at the same time we have informal contact daily and I’ll miss seeing them and hearing their unique perspective on life.
When I left the building for the last time I found myself just sitting in my car just watching the building, a strange heavy feeling in my stomach. I feel the frustration of missed opportunities – projects and initiatives I was never able to complete, ideas that never took hold, plans that never materialised. Sadness too, for the connections I’ve had with staff and service-users, that I’m giving up to step into something completely new and unknown. That night I dreamt of reports still to do, work left undone. But it’s over now.
The experience of leaving reminds me of my ongoing process of separating myself out from my job. Working in healthcare will never be “just a job”, but similarly it’s not the entirety of who I am and a job needs to serve my needs as well as my clients’.
FYI – My new posts are a split between a service for Medically Unexplained Symptoms and an HIV Clinic – I’m sure I’ll have a lot to write about this soon!