I went to nursing school with grand dreams of becoming a profound and wise healer, aiding people back to vibrant health, and giving them their lives and energy back.
I imagined listening to their stories, holding their hands, and supporting them through difficult times.
From my own experience with illness and chronic disease, I felt it was my mission to give back to others and support them on their journey to health. Being a nurse was how I was going to carry this out.
When I got into my first real hospital rotation, however, I realized quickly that I would be doing a lot less transformational healing and a lot more butt wiping. No one prepares you for the amount of adult butts you will wipe as a nursing student. No one.
During my first year as a nurse, I got thrown up on regularly, had my shoes peed on too many times to count, slipped and fell into a pool of feces when trying to help an elderly patient up from a fall, got yelled at by doctors and patients when I was just trying to get through my work day without killing anyone (clean record by the way), and washed bodies after they died with weeping family members standing by.
During a shift, I didn’t have enough time to go to the bathroom by myself, let alone provide a beautiful space for transformational healing for each of my patients. I followed orders, injected the right drugs, bandaged their wounds, and kept my head above water enough to safely care for everyone, but I didn’t feel like I was living my true mission.
This is not what I signed up for (I thought on a regular basis). This is not my “thing.” It is not possible that this is what I’m meant to do with my life (as I emptied my sixth bedpan of the day). Maybe I’m too idealistic, I thought. Maybe I just need to suck it up and put those dreams and yearning for more aside.
As the years spent working in the hospital went on, I did get more confident, efficient, and skilled, so that I could spend more time making connections with my patients and doing my part to help them heal. I worked in Intensive Care, Cardiology, Rehabilitation, Palliative Care, and Neurology—and I learned so much about medicine, people, the illness experience, and how our healthcare system operates. But deep down, I knew that there was more I wanted to do.
I wanted to intervene in the preventative side of healthcare—to get to the root cause of disease rather than masking symptoms with medications. I wanted to figure out what’s wrong with an organ system and work to fix the imbalance, rather than removing it with invasive surgery. I wanted to help people heal deeply from the inside out in a holistic way. It seemed like no one around me was interested in these pursuits, however, and I felt like an outsider.
By working with thousands of sick people in a system that I found pretty flawed, I became even more aligned with my desires and clearer on my mission. I realized that sometimes you have to spend time in what you do not want in order to find out what you do want. The thing is, I had no idea how to make what I wanted actually happen.
I would look at people on social media living their mission and looking so happy and fulfilled and be like, “OMG, how can I have that? What can I do? I want to stop working night shifts and feeling like I’m just barely getting by. I want to talk to people about my passions and help people eat well, feel great, and find food as medicine! I want a ‘thing’! I want something I can share with the world!”
So, I began the journey of looking into how I could turn my dreams into reality. I became relentless in my pursuit, and that’s when things began to fall in place. I went to nutrition school at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and found a community of people who shared the same views as me, which made me feel like less of a weirdo and motivated and inspired me to no end.
I cold called random nutritionists and functional medicine practitioners in my area to say, “Hey, you’re a badass, I love what you do. How did you do it?” I started my own health and nutrition coaching business in order to fill the gaps in our healthcare system I had identified over many years. I had to create my “thing” in order to live it out, and that was a totally new and foreign concept to me.
I used to get jealous of people who were so clear on their mission and were born knowing they wanted to teach kindergarten or devote their entire lives to the study of the auditory systems of amphibians or something. And while I had a clear idea somewhat early in life that I wanted to be a healer, it has been a crazy journey to try and really find my “thing.” I’m still working on it! And for the record, I still wipe butts part-time and probably always will.
Author’s note: I realize that saying all nurses do is wipe butts is pretty much like saying that teachers just sit around and eat apples all day. We are so much more than that and provide expert, high-level care for our patients, advocate for them, support their families and coordinate multi-disciplinary care for complex cases. As a brand new RN, however, I was just coming to terms with all of these things, and it felt like these undesirable tasks dominated my days.
The point of this post though is to encourage you that finding your purpose is not only possible, but it’s actually your divine right as a human being and it’s available to everyone.
I’m not even going to be like, “Okay, write down a list of your interests and strengths, and then apply that to a job” because you’ll probably be like, “Okay, what job involves watching Bravo reality TV, drinking rosé, doing yoga, and dominating at Candy Crush?”
But what I will say is that you do have a lot more to give the world than you know. Trust me on this one.
It’s about realizing that we have the power every single day to create our lives, rather than watching our lives happen to us. If you are unhappy, unsatisfied, and yearning for more, then do something about it. You are literally the only one who can. I don’t mean to sound bossy, but sometimes we all need a swift kick in the pants (myself included) to realize that we control our own destiny and are not victims of our circumstances no matter how dire they may seem. And I do know that it can get pretty dire.
The first step in purposefully creating your life is to pay attention. Every day, your thoughts, feelings, and actions determine how your day unfolds—and therefore, how your life unfolds. Pay attention to your thoughts first and foremost.
Do you think, “I have to slave away and work hard to be worthwhile because my parents did,” or, “I can never make enough money to become financially independent,” or simply, “I’m not smart enough to do that”?
Or maybe you’re thinking, “Okay, you’re a nice, privileged white lady, so sure, you can create your own life,” or, “You have resources that I don’t have; I can’t do that.” I hear you. I do. But those thoughts are also beliefs that are stopping you from pursuing your desires and creating the life you want.
Pay attention to these limiting beliefs and stories, because we all have them. They are the things that create a ripple effect and dictate your feelings, actions, and behaviors. Challenge yourself to take a few minutes and write down what you want your future to look like and what kind of person you want to be.
Do you want to be healthy, confident, social, financially independent, and surrounded by people you love? Note the limiting beliefs that come up when you get in touch with your desires and ask yourself: Is this true? Or is this a story I’ve made up and kept along the way?
Start there. And keep moving forward toward a beautiful life that you designed.
Author: Christina Tidwell
Image: Author’s Own, Flickr/eflon
Editor: Travis May