Monday, July 26, 2010

Yes, I Had a Real Job Before I Wiped Your Butt.

Over the weekend I took Aaron to one of those Build and Grow clinics that is offered at Lowes. This week’s project was a UFO and he did a fantastic job. While we were there, I ran into one of the pathologists that I used to work for when I was a histology technician back before I had Aaron. He was probably one of my favorite docs to work with and seeing him brought back so many memories of my old job and the four and a half years that I spent with some of the most amazing people that I have ever had the pleasure of calling my friends.

It was the summer of 2000 and I had just wrapped up my second year of college, but I was absolutely miserable. I don’t know what it was, but I hated just about everything about college life which was surprising because I had always done pretty well in school before. I had made good grades and I genuinely enjoyed learning. Maybe it was being away from home, or the pressure of the increase in responsibility, or the fact that I was engaged to an absolute ass who kept me on a very short leash and prevented me from truly experiencing college and all of the fun that it had to offer. What ever the reason, college and I clashed and I soon began contemplating quitting altogether.

After a few weeks, I decided that college wasn’t for me and I started trying to find a job. I would consider that the worst mistake of my life except that that decision led me to a job that I absolutely adored and to friends that I cherish to this day. You see, the gigantic ass that I was engaged to at the time worked at a local hospital and one day he brought me a list of job openings. I looked over the list and immediately stopped when I saw the words Anatomical Pathology. I was intrigued. The job listing described a position where the applicant would assist in the processing of microscope slides, assist a pathologist with the gross dissection of surgical specimens, and occasionally assist with autopsies. I knew that I HAD to have that job. I had always loved science and the things described in that job listing sounded like the most fascinating position ever created. I’m sure most people would have seen the word autopsy, fought off a wave of chills and the urge to vomit, and then moved on to the next listing. For me, it only made me want it more. I’m sick like that I guess.

Anyway, I sent in my application and started harassing the woman doing the interviews for a chance at this job. I’m not sure how it happened exactly, but she eventually contacted me and just told me to come in and start working. No interview, just come on in and work. It was kind of on a trial basis and if things worked out, I would get a full-time position. I practically ran out to buy some scrubs and I very anxiously went in to work the very next day.

At first my job was pretty simple. I did whatever everyone else needed me to do. I would cover slip the slides as they came out of the stainer. I’d set up the counter of specimens for dissection by the pathologist. I made trips to the OR to collect specimens. I basically did the odd jobs for the ones who were busy doing the real work. And I loved every single second of it.

As time went by though, Tim, Karen, and Connie started teaching me more about what was being done and started training me to do some of the things that they were doing every day. I started assisting the pathologist with the gross dissection every afternoon. I learned how to embed the processed tissue into paraffin wax to prepare it to be cut and mounted on the slides. I learned how to cut the tissue on a special machine called a microtome and then mount that tissue on a slide. I did special stains and eventually Karen even taught me how to use the immuno stainer which was her precious baby and only allowed a handful of people to breath around it let alone run it. By the time I left, I was able to do just about everything that I had marveled at during my first few weeks there.

When I started that job I was twenty years old, had just quit school, and as I have already mentioned, was engaged to an idiot. In the four and a half years that I spent there I dropped the idiot and met my knight in shining armor, Mike. Mike and I got engaged and Tim, Karen and Connie along with Lance and Lori attended our wedding. I took and passed the tests to become an officially certified Histology Technician by the American Society of Clinical Pathology. And of course, I got pregnant with my firstborn, Aaron.

Getting pregnant with Aaron changed everything. Everyone knew that Mike and I were planning on having a family and when that day came, I was planning to quit so that I could be a stay-at-home mom. The night before my last day in Histology, I sat on the floor in the nursery, eight months pregnant, and sobbed to Mike about how much I was going to miss this job and the people that I had come to love. I was so conflicted because I was just a month away from giving birth to my first child and becoming a stay-at-home mother which was the job that I had been dreaming of for my entire life, but starting that job meant leaving this one behind and that hurt so much more than I had anticipated.

Everything about my last day made me want to cry. Everything that I did I noted that it would be the last time. I had stepped out for a minute and when I got back I saw that Mike had sent me flowers. I still have the card that came with them. It said, “Thinking of you on your last day of work.” That did it, and I started crying again. I cried off and on for the rest of the day until it was time to leave. I said my goodbyes and stopped in Tim’s office for the last time. He had this thing that he always said whenever any of us were leaving for the day which was, “Thanks for coming in, being here, and making a difference.” He said that to me and I just had to leave. Karen walked me out and we decided that we weren’t going to say goodbye because (A) It was just too hard, and (B) My baby shower was that weekend and so why go through the agony of goodbyes when we were going to see each other in just a few days. Good call Karen.

I got in my car and sobbed the whole way home.

Being a Histology Technician meant more to me than I could ever begin to explain. Even now writing this I am getting all chocked up because that job was so much more than just a job for me. When I walked in every day I felt like I was there to do something important and when I left each day I left truly feeling like I had made a difference. The work that we did in that department mattered. The quality of our work could mean life or death for our patients, and we took that responsibility seriously. I was good at what I did and I was extremely proud of it.

Of course I know that being a mother is the most wonderful and important job on Earth. I get that, but it can also, at times, be a very thankless job in which more than once I have questioned whether I was really cut out for it. Deep down I know that I am a good mom, but I am constantly plagued with doubts. I knew for certain that I was a good histology technician. I am not saying that I don’t love being a mom. There’s truly nothing like it, but it’s hard to see the significance in what you are doing when most of what you do everyday seems so trivial; changing diapers, preparing meals, keeping up with the laundry, etc.

Maybe some day if I’m lucky, when the kids are old enough to take care of themselves, I’ll be able to go back to that job as I have been told many times that the door is always open. But until then I hold the memories of those four and a half years in my heart and when the difficulties of being a mom get overwhelming, I think back to those years and it always makes me smile.


Leslie said...

I totally understand how you feel.