I mentioned in a recent weekend wrap-up that this was coming, and now it’s here. As of today, I’m officially no longer a nurse, which is a pretty massive identity milestone for me.
This isn’t an abrupt transition by any means. I’ve known this was coming for a while now, and I’ve already been through a shuffling of role identities. My nurse identity has been on the back burner for quite some time, and it’s been pretty clear since about mid-2020 that returning to work just wasn’t going to happen.
I resigned from my job a few weeks ago when my disability application was approved. The annual renewal date for my nursing license was at the end of February, so I didn’t renew that. I could have renewed it for another year, but that would have been about $500 US, which just isn’t worth it when the chances of me being able to work this year are extremely slim.
Because “nurse” is a restricted title, I can no longer use it. A few weeks ago, I started going through my profiles on various websites where I have a presence and changing “nurse” to “former nurse.” That was a bit weird.
I first started working as a nurse in 2004. It was a big part of my identity, and I really liked what I did. I started working on my master’s degree in 2012; there wasn’t any specific reason I was doing it, just that I wanted to learn more, do more. Then in 2016, I left my full-time job because the shitshow was damaging to my mental health, and it’s been downhill from there. After that, I only worked a couple of casual jobs, picking up shifts here and there. As my illness became more disabling, I worked less and less, until I stopped working entirely at the end of 2019.
That decline over time was one factor that helped me ease out of the nursing identity. Another factor was blogging. Building up a new and meaningful identity meant that there was something to take the place of the nursing identity as it rode off into the sunset. The meaningful part is important because the nursing identity was very meaningful. I was one of those rare people who really loved their line of work.
Earlier this year, I got rid of some of the material items I had that reminded me of a pre-depression and pre-disability life. My mental health community resource and contact info binder when I worked at a community mental health team. Study notes from university classes seem pretty irrelevant at this point. Items related to social activity, like entertaining people at my home. Things related to a style of travel and adventure that’s totally off my radar now.
It’s weird how you never know what might happen to change the course of your life. Hitting this kind of identity milestone, in this way, is not something I would have imagined. But life gives you a certain hand, and that’s what you’ve got to play with. And the past? That doesn’t live here anymore.