Yesterday I was eating dinner with one of my best friends, who I haven't seen in probably three months, and my phone rang. I felt my stomach tie up into a knot and I knew before glancing at my phone.... that it was work. I run a group home, and one of our girls keeps having seizures. I get the call several days a week around 8:30 pm and robotically instruct my staff to follow her to the hospital, find coverage so that she isn't alone, and notify her workers and parents. I spend the majority of the next morning filling out reports for licensing and human rights and filing internal investigations. It's a lot of work, it's an emotional situation, and it sucks.
The first night it happened, I had been at work much later than intended and 15 minutes after getting home and taking off my shoes I got the call. It was perfect timing, and I still laugh to myself thinking about it - I had poured a glass of chardonnay and the moment the glass hit my lips......... I got the call.
That afternoon, this teenager had been in my office yelling at me for holding her accountable and threatening to harm herself if I didn't give into what she wanted and that it would be all my fault, because "You don't care about me, you just do this for the paycheck!"
It was hard for me to hold back laughter. The garbage man makes more than I do and I have yet to receive my quarterly bonus I was promised when I signed on.
Anyway. I got the call that this girl was in her bedroom, unconscious, and that she was in an ambulance on her way to the hospital. I left my wine on the counter, pulled on my shoes, and ran out the door yelling to my boyfriend, whom I hadn't seen in days, "I have to go back to work! I'll probably be home really late! I'm sorry! I love you!'
I can't tell you how it felt to have my mind racing the entire way to the hospital. How it felt to know that the last thing she said to me was that I didn't care about her. How hard it was to be stern and hold her accountable, when all I wanted to do was hug her and tell her that I love her and wouldn't let anyone hurt her like she'd be hurt before she came to me.
I felt like a fucking parent and I didn't like it. I didn't like it for two reasons: because her actual parents weren't coming to the hospital to be there for her, and because I was not her parent and yet couldn't imagine being anywhere else.
I got to the hospital and she was awake, laughing at me for running to her bedside and obviously holding back big, fat tears. I stayed with her the whole night. I couldn't sleep. I just kept watching her, making sure she was breathing. Smiling to myself at how innocent she looked, snoring and not even realizing that she had scared the living shit out of me.
Before she fell asleep I overheard her talking to a nurse. The nurse was saying that she worked all the time, and she responded: "You sound like Ms. Kara. She loves us. She is always working, and every time we need her she is always there. Even when she's busy, she stops and listens to us."
I keep thinking back to how it sounded to hear some one say those things about me.
It was very strange. Yet, it made me proud; like I was put on this earth to do this work. I think I'm better at this job than I've been at anything else in my whole entire life.
Is that sad?
But sitting at dinner last night, I felt bad. Sometimes I get consumed by my work and I forget about the people in my life that I love.
I think I'm starting to realize that I need balance. That I can be good at my job, and still have a personal life. That it's ok to delegate.
I'm still figuring it all out. But, in the meantime, I hope that my small circle of people whom I keep close in my heart know just how much they mean to me. That I am able to do great work, because I have incredible support.