I first realised I was an adult when I was 22 years old. It's a very distinct memory, in amongst the general slide into aging that occurs as a transition from adolescence. I was lying in bed, alone, and the Elfling was crying. I had been up to settle her probably 4 or 5 times already and I was beyond tired. Bingley was overseas working and I was completely alone and no one else was there besides the squalling baby. I was laying in bed shaking from tiredness and that irrational anger that the baby just won't sleep when I realised no one else was going to get up and settle her. No one else was going to pick her up. No one else was going to swoop in and take over from the (at the time) horrible situation. I just had to plod through. And it would be morning soon, and a new day, and we'd just take it from there.
I have thought of that night a few times lately. As I have woken in the grey stillness of morning with the golden sunrise sparkling on the windows and fought with myself to get out of bed, go to work and just get on with it. Part of me just doesn't think it is fair. Part of me just wants to roll over and ignore the screech of my alarm clock and any responsibility and just do what *I* want to do for a change. But there is somehow freedom in realising that you have to just get up and do it. On the very few occasions I have been sick as well as exhausted, all I've done is lie in bed all day. And while that felt good for the first few hours, it also felt unproductive and misery inducing as well. I enjoy grey a lot, but only when I'm dancing with it, not when I'm buried in it.
I have a job interview next Friday. It's an interview for a training position as a registrar, another rung on the ladder instead of this roundabout that is currently giving me a little bit of motion sickness. I haven't talked about it much, to anyone, because I am desperately wanting it so much. And because I am so tired I am afraid that instead of the interview being my chance to shine, it will be my chance to babble incoherently and stumble and blush a lot. When I put in my resume for this position, there was this tiny stone that sunk in my gut, as I realised that if they didn't offer me an interview that it would confirm that I'm just Not Good Enough and there was an instinct to not hit "send" on the application form. The same way I felt he first time I submitted a piece of writing for criticism. That feeling of at least if I don't try I can't be rejected.
Which is an odd feeling for me, as usually I have such a steadfast faith in my ability to just do things, that that unsurety and its nasty offspring have not been welcome. Part of it I blame on my job and the insane hours I have been working lately that leave me in a little bit of a fog, not entirely sure which way is up. I don't do my job for validation, and it's lucky because there's often little to be found, but I keep plodding along with it, even if sometimes the hysterical tiredness twists my mind into a subconscious wasteland.
In spite of that, and in spite of the crazy hours in my crazy job, I love it. I really do. It is sometimes so awfully hard that my heart twists in my chest and I want to smash a punching bag to just vent all of the emotion that it causes. Sometimes families are lovely and sometimes they are so horrible and entitled and rude that I want to scream. And sometimes I have to do things that I feel so very strongly are just not right. But I do them because I believe even more strongly that patients and their families have their own right to make decisions about their own bodies and their own healthcare even if I think that their choices are causing harm.
But a lot of the time I get to do good things too. I get to make people smile on the days when they feel their worst. I get to calm that look of terror out of their eyes and see it replaced with faith that someone is looking out for them. Part of the reason I work such long hours is because I feel the responsibility of making sure that my patients are OK. That it's not OK to just run out the door because the clock says it's time to go. That sometimes someone needs me to sit and talk to them and explain again what we're doing and why. And to allow them to make a decision that they actually understand.
I am not saving the world. I am not inventing the cure for cancer. I am not painting the world's next masterpiece or penning the piece of literature that I've always wanted to write. I am not ever going to be listed on the most impressive people under 30 list. I am never going to be listed on the Aussie Blogger Blogs to watch list. I am not someone that others look up to and not someone that is extraordinary.
But I am that person who if you are on my ward and you are in pain that will come and speak to you and explain to you what is happening and who will stay long after home time until it's ok. I am that person who will weather being yelled at by grumpy registrars interrupted from their weekend plans if you need a consult and I am that person who will go and fetch a jug of iced water if your nurse is busy and you are thirsty. I want to hear about your grandchildren and I will cry if you die, even if (or perhaps more if) no one else is by your bedside.
It sometimes feels that my friends and family wonder why I stay in this job, when I could do anything I wanted with my life. Why this? Why these stupid hours and crappy pay and terrible conditions? And maybe it sounds like I have a God complex, but mostly it's because I want to make a difference in people's lives. I have stood at the bedside and felt impotent and keened in pain as someone I loved beyond words suffered. It means so very much to me to be able to prevent that from happening to others. Or at least to be doing my best to try. And that's why I do the job that I do. Plus it keeps me in funds to buy books and paints and fodder to write incoherent blog posts...
Wish me luck for next week.