Growing up, whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I knew one thing for sure, I wanted to help people. I wanted to make the world a better place. The one occupation that immediately came to my mind was teaching. I was going to be a teacher. I wanted to teach my students while preparing them to take on the world. Granted, my mind would go from that to being a star, or a doctor, or the president of the United States.
Once grown, I did embark in a career as a substitute teacher while going to school to become certified. I had some amazing experiences, but it dawned on me that teaching, at least in a traditional kindergarten through high school classroom setting, may not be for me after all. In between, I took jobs at a restaurant and a bakery. Again, a good experience, but I knew that this wasn’t my life’s calling.
One day about a year and a half ago, a friend told his friend, who happened to be a manager at an assisted living facility about me. After a phone call and an in-person interview, I was immediately offered a full-time job. I was going to be a caregiver. The first thing that dawned on me was that I was made for this job.
Being raised by my grandparents and great-grandparents, I had been helping people since I was six. I had helped my grandma through her fight with cancer and two operations. Later, I helped my great-grandparents through several health issues. I had been doing it my entire life, it didn’t seem like a job to me. This was an opportunity to live my life as I always have, while getting paid for it.
There are times that I still feel like a fish out of water. I never honestly saw myself getting into the medical field. This came from my own self-doubts of my abilities to do so. Science and math have always been my worst subjects, I’m about as strong as a marshmallow, and the mere sight of blood makes me lightheaded.
I have surprised myself at how I was able to adjust well at my new job. Overall, it seems to come naturally for me. Granted, there are times that I still have doubts. There are times that you must deal with crankiness and impatience. I still haven’t mastered the fine art of juggling four or five cups of coffee on one side of the dining room while taking butter and jelly to a table on the opposite side.
Then there’s the heartbreak of becoming attached to your residents and having to watch helplessly as they physically decline, eventually coming in to find that someone you worked so closely with passed away. When I go to work, I see my grandparents there. Everyone has families and friends that love them. It’s up to us to keep them safe and comfortable. I remember watching my great-grandma sitting by my great-grandpa in the nursing home before he passed. It broke both of their hearts when she couldn’t no longer take care of him herself. I like to think that they are looking down at me, smiling.
There are times when I feel weary. I ask myself what I’m doing. Do I really have what it takes to have all these wonderful people and their loved ones depend on me? Am I just kidding myself? There are times that my back and feet are hurting so badly, I’m bent over. And sometimes I struggle with a moment of crankiness myself, and I have to take a moment to take a deep breath or listen to a favorite song.
But then something magical happens. A little elderly lady in a wheelchair will call out my name with a huge smile on her face as she takes my hand. She tells me that I make them all so comfortable, even when they’re feeling horrible. In that moment, I wonder if perhaps I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be after all.