Hello, world! I’m back with updates from my six-month hiatus from travel assignments and the healthcare field. I’ve been spending the majority of this time off getting to know the unhealed, suppressed pieces of myself in order to free my heart and be able to contribute better to humanity.
This break from traveling meant lots of time for self-reflection and self-expression, confronting deep-rooted fears and worries, and experiencing improved awareness and perspective while interacting with my loved ones and the world around me.
During this break, I also had the opportunity to get more involved in human rights activism and participated in my first protest. Through this experience, I was reminded to give myself some recognition for the meaningful career path I have chosen to pursue, or rather, the path that chose me.
I’m reminded that as a speech and language pathologist (SLP), my inherent role is to help facilitate and improve communication — and communication ultimately makes connecting with people possible. And that is powerful; that is enough. Connection with others is one of the most authentic joys of life. At our core, we all simply want to be loved and accepted for who we are, wounds and struggles and vulnerabilities and all — and communication is a powerful tool that can allow this to happen.
One of the main reasons I left healthcare last winter was, I had witnessed so much pain and suffering beyond the help I could offer people through my job title or scope of practice. I became really sad after one of those mass shootings had occurred in my community where I was finishing up my travel assignment.
Suddenly the horror from merely reading about such awful events became very real, and suddenly the way I spent my days working at the hospital became insignificant, and (because of my tendency to link my self-worth to my career) I became insignificant.
What was I doing, teaching people fancy-sounding swallow exercises and prescribing diets that only some 30 percent of them would follow anyway when innocent people were being intentionally murdered and young children were out there fearing for their lives?
What was I doing, visiting patients with these “silly” assessments and test questions to determine how well they could think or express their needs when I was witnessing how the healthcare industry has become primarily interested in reinforcing this lousy notion that medications or surgical procedures can “cure” all health conditions, checking off as many patients per day as possible, and getting maximum dollars from health insurance companies?
As you can probably imagine, it was a frustrating and confusing time for me; however, I’m reminded I am so much more than just my knowledge and training as a SLP or healthcare professional. And in order to make this world a better place for all of us, I have to get back in there and keep fighting the good fight for those who need my support — and mostly, just someone who is willing to listen sincerely, to empathize, and to be present.
It may not be forever, but this is what I can do now. It’s heartbreaking when so many patients have told me I was the first person in their entire hospital course who “actually took the time to listen” and “the only person” who gave them hope. Since it was possible to do that for them, I can for thousands more. So why not contribute what I can?
There are ridiculous amounts of imperfections in all these systems that we as a civilization have created — no doubt about that. But these systems aren’t going anywhere anytime soon and they aren’t going to improve drastically overnight. I realize I may not even see sustainable alternatives take over during my particular lifetime, whether it’s in terms of our legal system or education system or healthcare system, or really, the overall American social/cultural conditioning. I’m realizing that removing myself completely from the system while there are still so, so many people trapped in it is not the choice that resonates.
I may just be one person, but that means one less person available to others if I turn my back and focus completely on massive reform, which really isn’t going to happen instantly. And SLPs are already tough enough to come by in most places.
I’ve accepted that we can be change agents within these systems while still working toward reform. We can make the conscious effort to prioritize human connection over system agendas. We can make the conscious effort to show compassion to others and serve as the lighthouse during their storm. If more of us start to believe and live that, then change from within these systems can absolutely happen.
Half a year ago when I decided to take a break and step back from healthcare, I knew in my heart I would regain hope and encouragement, but I didn’t know when or where or how. And now, in light of returning to travel therapy and healthcare with a fresh perspective, I have been inspired to start putting together a series of interviews for curious minds regarding the ins and outs of travel therapy. Stay tuned!
I will continue to do my part and also have faith the universe will slowly but surely orchestrate constant change and progress. If I can make a positive difference in just one other person’s life every day, that is one less hurting soul in the world. Every. Day. Even if only for a moment.
Until next time, I would like to send a virtual bear hug to everyone who has come along on my journey.