A Dream and the Time

a dream and time
Editor's note: This is the second piece in an ongoing series about Mairead's quest to become a nurse in a resource poor area with an NGO. You can read her first post here
My mantra for 2012: I have no idea what I'm doing.

Seriously, I have no idea what the hell I'm doing. And it's funny that I have this opportunity to write about my utter up in the air state of being because people keep saying "You should write a book." Well, this isn't exactly a book, but here you go.

My husband (soon to be ex) and I moved to London in September 2011. We came because we were both enrolled in a course in tropical medicine for nursing that would give us the training to work in resource poor areas of the world, which was the ultimate goal for both of us---or so I thought. I'll back up a bit to approximately a year and a half before we arrived. At that point we had been married for about 2 years, together for 7 years, and both of us in our 30's. We were living in San Francisco and were in the beginning phases of thinking about buying a place---a two bedroom place where we could raise a child. Then I found this absolutely amazing program in London that taught you how to diagnose malaria under a microscope, deliver a baby in the field, manage war wounds, establish a refugee camp during a crisis, etc. How freaking awesome does all of that sound? In literally one nano second all thoughts and ambitions to have a child, buy a place, and settle down were erased from my mind.

I'd like to believe that I was going to have a smooth approach to asking my hubby if we could abandon the plans of baby and home ownership---you know, like let him walk in the door first. But that's not quite how it went. I don't know why, but I happened to meet him outside of our apartment building, and before I could stop myself, I blurted out about the course in tropical medicine and moving to London. And can you believe it, just like that he was on board with me!

Now I'll fast forward to the last 6 to 8 months. We split up. He went back to San Francisco 3 days after we finished our course. It turns out working abroad in impoverished areas for long amounts of time isn't his dream. It was mine and has been since I was 17. His was plan A: settling down and starting a family. Absolutely 100% a normal reasonable thing to want with your wife of 4 years when you're 36 years old. Unfortunately, I just couldn't do it. And to be fair that wasn't the foundation of our split. In my mind the relationship had been going in a downward spiral for at least a year and a half before we left because of core communication issues. We almost didn't get married because of these issues. But we loved each other and really wanted to make it work. We were in therapy on and off for five years and tried as best as we each knew how. We kicked that horse until it was dead and then we jumped on it in stillettos and kicked it some more.

But I digress. Back to how I don't know what the hell I'm doing.

I'm 33 and with a slow, steady, all of a sudden, I'm going through a separation in a new country without my close friends or family. I don't have a constant job, have no work satisfaction even when I do work, am essentially living on my savings which in London is suckypoo with an emphasis on the sucky and the poo, and for the first time in nearly 10 years, I have to live with roommates. I've gone from being the queen of my own domain to having a room in a house with an unemployed 23 year old who plays video games all day and another couple who are in their early to mid twenties. Who feels like hot shit?! Not me.

What I am hoping will happen is that by November I will have gotten a job abroad to work with an NGO in . . . to be honest I don't care where it is or what I'll be doing. As long as I'm working in a resource poor country with a little bit of famine, an obselete health care system, some malaria, raging HIV, or a civil war, I'd be a happy camper. You'd think organizations would be jumping at the chance to find people who are willing to work in these situations where they are risking their lives, sanity, and health! Apparently not. Apparently we're a dime a dozen.

I cannot get a job and it is definitely not for lack of trying. And to a certain extent, I have a hard time believing it's from lack of skills and qualifications. I've been a nurse for ten years. For three of those I was a travel nurse, which in the briefest of explanations means I can work in a variety of settings with minimal orientation. My specialty is oncology, which though is not like being in the ER or ICU, I deal with some sick, sick patients that need acute complex management. I've travelled extensively in developing countries and am no stranger to different cultures and being without creature comforts. I started a temporary clinic in a tsunami resettlement camp in Sri Lanka. I have a diploma in tropical medicine for nursing from a world renowned school. I have passion and determination like you wouldn't believe. What else do they want?

To answer my own question, they want you to have already run a health system in a developing country, have advanced language skills in French and/or Arabic, have extensive IT knowledge, and know how to drive a manual transmission. The positions I'm applying for are aimed at nurses right? It seems like they're looking for IT managers from French or Arabic countries that drive a manual. In all honesty, I can absolutely see the benefit of hiring someone with all those skills, but that is one tall order to fill.

But I will keep trying; I will not give up. As I see it, life is not worth living unless you have a goal, a dream, a passion. This is mine. How am I to go back to San Francisco and work with onocology patients who would give anything to have the time and capability to carry out their life's ambition? I could easily go back home in a moment's notice and be with my close support group, have a satisfying job, and make a good income, but I know, I just know, I would be so disappointed in myself for giving up. So I'm not done yet and I'm going to stick it out over here. I start a permanent job in the field of oncology next week that will take me through November. I hope by that point, the gods of fate will have started to like me again and something I apply for will pan out. If not, the next step is to go to the country I want to work in first and try to get hired locally. If I'm right on their doorstep, it may be harder to turn down my charms.

I'm lucky: I've got a dream and I have the time.