by Meagan Freeman
IDENTITY CRISIS: Who am I Now?
Finding a New Purpose and Passion After Your Career Has Ended
If you are anything like me, you probably spent years creating and establishing your career through education and work experience. Maybe you even had one of those childhood dreams. “I always wanted to be a…”
Maybe you spent years of your life in college, sweating and toiling over exams, writing endless pages of term papers, and spending long nights studying. Maybe, like me, you spent thousands of dollars on tuition and books, or took out large student loans to fund your educational pursuits.
I spent about eight years in college, finally earning my Masters degree in 2012. Through this pursuit, I established a new identity for myself: I am a nurse practitioner. I am proud of this title, and you are probably proud of yours. We worked hard for this, right? Isn’t this who we really are?
What happens when your illness takes that title away from you? What if you can no longer work? We are such a career-oriented society, telling our children from an early age to go to college and “be something.” One of the most common topics of discussion between kids is “What Do YOU want to be when you grow up?”
With MS, most of us will reach a day when we can no longer find the strength, the cognition, or the ability to stay employed. It is just a matter of time, but what happens then? Will I still be able to call myself a nurse? If I am not a nurse, who am I? I have almost forgotten who I am without my professional title.
This year was a rough one for me, and I dealt with several relapses requiring treatment. During that time, I was forced to spend time away from work. I have begun pulling away from my professional identity, which felt like a loss at first. I actually grieved for this identity. The interesting thing is, I have found myself going back to the things I loved BEFORE I was a nurse practitioner.
The Chinese word for crisis is a great depiction of the components of a crisis. The word crisis in Chinese is formed with the characters for danger and opportunity. When you face a career- ending crisis, try to see it as a chance to find something brand new, exhilarating, and wonderful. It isn’t necessarily the tragedy you might believe it is. Change is never easy, but sometimes it is what you need, even if it isn’t something you think you want.
As a child, I loved theater, singing, dancing, and books. I loved to write poetry and creative stories. I was content with these things, and at that time I was just me. These are the things I have begun to love passionately again. This loss of “career self” has led to a rediscovery of my true self, and it has been wonderful!
I have started to enjoy writing again, blogging and sharing my experiences. I have time to spend with my children, and now I actually listen to them, help with homework, and have conversations. I have coffee with my close friends and family, and I enjoy the warmth of the sun, the colors of the fall landscape, the smile on my husband’s face, and the beauty of it all. If I can help just one fellow MS patient through my writing, I feel that my life has purpose and meaning, and this will continue even if I am no longer employed. If it weren’t for my illness, I would likely be unable to experience these simple, beautiful moments.
Human beings crave a purpose. For many people, the career is the primary source of purpose and meaning. When that career fades, the key is to find your passion. Do you love to read, sing, dance, write, draw, listen to music, or volunteer for charities? Find something that drives you, excites you, and makes you feel fulfilled. You are more than that title you earned in school; you are unique, capable, and valuable even after employment ends.
Meagan Freeman was diagnosed with RRMS in 2009, at the age of 34. She is a Family Nurse Practitioner in Northern California, and is raising her 6 children (ranging from 6 – 17 years of age) with her husband, Wayne. She has been involved in healthcare since the age of 19, working as an Emergency Medical Technician, an Emergency Room RN, and now a Nurse Practitioner. Writing has always been her passion, and she is now able to spend more time blogging and raising MS awareness. Please visit her at: motherhoodandmultiplesclerosis.blogspot.com.