Sunday, March 9, 2008

coming down to earth

It seems longer than five years ago that I accepted a position at another unit.  I loathed leaving the hospital and the warmth of the people there.  It was almost a family atmosphere with the folks who had been there under human resources before it became a prison hospital.  But leave, I must, if I wanted a permanent position complete with benefits and retirement.  So I went...

to a place that was gray and concrete.  It had clanging doors that custody had to open for you - everything was locked - and on the mental health side, Christ roamed the halls and Satan was locked up in seg, my boss despised me and made no bones about it.  But I was trapped - it was stay or quit, and I couldn't afford to quit, with a sick husband at home who was depending on my health coverage to pay his hospital and physician's bills.

So I sucked it up.  I was a nervous wreck that first year.  The job itself was as huge a responsibility as the sick husband who became psychotic on his medications. I stayed - and worked damned hard because I had something to prove and a reason to be there.  But, oh, how I missed my former workplace and the atmosphere there, and vowed to go back if I could.

And then something happened.  I met an old man at the prison - a psychologist - who was very kind to me.  We became fast friends, and when things became overwhelming, I'd trip down the hall to his office to borrow a cup of his calm.  And then something else happened.  Somewhere between south unit and central, I made friends with the custody staff.  They gave me something that I whole-heartedly returned - respect.  I looked out for them the best my job would allow, and they did the same for me.  I was one of them.

And then other things happened - my boss decided I was a pretty-good-okay secretary after all, and our relationship became one of mutual respect.  I met a nurse from Trinidad - "the islands", as she put it.  And she was my charge nurse who depended on me and called me elephant brain because I knew the patients and their ailments as well as she did and she depended on me to know.

Then came the opportunity I had prayed for the first year of my employement - a position at my old unit.  I took it, though I loathed to leave my other team.  But I was tired and had taken an emotional beating over the past few years.  For a while, my time was split betweenboth locations - mornings were spent at the hospital and afternoons were spent as secretary to the nurses.  I didnt mind, actually.  And when that ended, I was full-time hospital medical records girl.

The place had changed.  All who had been there under human resources had left.  There was no responsibility, none of the adrenaline I had become used to - and addicted to.  Our office had become a gathering place for gripefests and the discontent among the employees under a new regime was loud and battering.  And there was no respect.  None.  There were loud arguments between my boss and the social worker, and on more than one occasion, I had to "testify" in an investigation.  Oh, how I longed for the place I had left and the old man's cup of calm.  For the respect.  For the team I had left behind.

And I vowed that one day, I would go back there.  I vowed it every time one of the officers from that unit came over and asked if I was ready to come back to them yet.  Every time they jokingly called me a traitor.  I would block out the sights that had driven me away and made me cringe every time someone mentioned the word "shower." 

And on occasion, I would see the old man in town and he would say - We miss you.  It feels like something is missing.  And I didn't tell him that there was something missing in my days, too, but I thought it, and hoped that the old man would still be there when I made my way back.

It was more than two years before the chance presented itself.  I pulled up the OSP jobs website one Tuesday morning an audibly gasped.  An opening there!  How very rare.  I spent the morning typing out my application and faxed it in that very day.  For  two weeks, I held my breath, wondering if they would even consider me for an interview after I left them.

And then they called me.  I had the interview.  I was so nervous I botched it - I wasn't professional at all, I was simply me, earnest with my answers to people who had once been my team.  I shook their hands as I prepared to leave and told them it was good to see them again.

And I heard nothing for two more weeks.  I had given up - if you have the job, usually, you know within a few days, and I knew nothing.  Then one night while I was laying in bed between sleep and waking, the small voice spoke to me from nowhere.  It said - You got the job. And I said - Aww, get outta here, dismissed it and fell asleep.

Two days later, my boss was reading her email and said - Did you know about this?  When were you going to tell me?  I was puzzled.  Know about what, I asked her.  She read the email aloud.  It said - We have just received approval for Ms. Broadaway to assume the position and would like for her to start as soon as possible.  Is March 17th all right with you?

I almost fainted.  I rose from my chair with the phone in my hand and told the person on the other end - I GOT THE JOB!!!!

In a building just down the road from the hospital, there is a lieutenant who will undoubtedly grin and say - what did i tell you? Now don't leave us again.  And there is a new supervisor and section head who have a faith in me that amazes me.  They chose me for a position they plan to expand.  They told me the job is a good place to start with their department, and that tells me they have plans for my future.  More importantly, there is an old man in that building who is waiting for me to come back to share a cup of calm, some laughs and a little philosophical conversation. 

I'm coming, Dr. H.  I'll be there soon.

Monday, March 3, 2008