Thursday, December 10, 2015

Mourning my Unfulfilled Professional Potential

What would I have become if my life hadn't been derailed by chronic migraines and fibromyalgia?

See, I was one of those people who truly loved working. I loved having someplace to be every day. I loved interacting with coworkers and other community members. I loved learning and becoming better at what I was doing. I loved working hard and watching that work pay off. I loved accomplishing goals. I felt such a sense of purpose and fulfillment from my work. 

My path wasn't a traditional one by any stretch. I took several years off from college and worked in the life enrichment field at a senior assisted living residence. When I went back to school I got my degree in social work and spent several years during and after school working for small non-profits. It was hard work but quite rewarding. 

Then it happened - chronic pain. It's been about 10 years now. Ten prime career development years that stretched from my late 20s to now my late 30s, just gone.

Despite my best efforts to the contrary, sometime I can't help but wonder what I would have become; what I would have accomplished if I wasn't living with chronic pain...

I am fairly certain I would have gone back to school to get a master's degree in social work with a research focus because I find social research absolutely fascinating. Obviously, I would have then wanted to do social research. I imagine I would be living a rich intellectual life that challenged and excited me. I would be engaged in the world around me. I would have continued to make a name for myself as a reliable, honest professional. 

I try hard not to allow myself to focus extended periods of time thinking about such things because it stirs a deep sense of grief and longing within me. Anger is usually just under the surface of these other emotions. Anger that can't be directed or attached to a cause - it's nobody's fault. 

Still, it happens. The thoughts creep in. The emotions follow. I like to give myself some time to ponder what could have been and some time to feel all the emotions that stem from it. Eventually, the time comes when I feel the need to shift my focus onto what is. 

The truth is, many blessings have come into my life because of the unexpected path chronic pain has put me on. I have so much to be thankful for despite not being able to realize the professional potential I once had. This dichotomy can be deeply challenging. I wish I could find a way to still fulfill that part of me once so satisfied by my career. But that's really a different season, isn't it? 

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully said. My professional life was derailed only 1.5 years out of college (age 23), so it's been an ongoing process to work through those feelings for me, as well. I'm 30 now, and no part of my life is how I could've imagined it. I'm right there with you! It can be hard, but we do our best to bloom where we are. You're doing a great job at that!