When the world is so NOT your Oyster
When you can no longer pursue your dream career, you find yourself wondering – what on earth am I going to do? When this first happened to me I found myself saying over and over “The world is so NOT my oyster” (in my very best Merideth Grey voice). This was usually in response to people telling me it was! Telling me I could do anything; that I should embrace the freedom.
It was about 3 years ago that I found myself in that boat. A series of events lead me to realise that my career in health was not really the best thing for me, given the state of my body. It was a hard realisation that my body was failing me in more ways than one. But I was also faced with the challenge of trying to work out what I could do with such a hypermobile & unpredictable body.
For those who don’t know me personally, I have quite a bendy body. I’ve had 12 surgeries, and I have had chronic pain since I was 12 + a myriad of other health problems (like you, I’m sure!). Having had physical challenges my whole working life it has always been hard to secure a job, less because of discrimination and more because I was simply unable to meet the requirements of the role.
I did hold down a few jobs before I became self-employed, however, it was hard, and not without negative consequences for both me and my employers. Working for someone else definitely had its benefits, but working for myself gave me so much more freedom.
However, when confronted with the reality that I could no longer work in the area that I had trained, I was back to square one.
What do I do now?
What do I want to do?
What CAN I do?
There are a whole bunch of things that I know I can’t do, so how do I work out what I can do?
If you’ve been in this position, you are aware that it is a scary situation to be in. It was made worse by people saying to me “the world is your oyster” without realising that the world totally wasn’t my oyster. There were more things that I couldn’t do than I could do. That this was a terrifying experience; not an exciting experience. That this career change was not through choice but necessity.
And it wasn’t just about the money side of things. It was about identity. It was about meaning, and it was about purpose. It was more a “who am I if I’m not what I once was?” kind of situation.
It’s amazing how much our career influences our sense of identity. I had never personally understood this until my career ‘went away’.
Who am I without it? Find the answer to that is a journey I am still on today…. but I understand that my identity, that who I am is far less about what I do every day and far more about how I view the world and how I treat other people.
What am I doing now? Web design. Yep. Building websites. And running Hypermobility Connect… And some advocacy and education work. I know, I know, it’s very different to working with people every day and helping them solve the challenges in their lives… except, that I’ve come to realise that it’s really not that different. Now I work with people to help them solve the challenges of their business and find a website based solution. Who knew my university gained assessment, and problem-solving skills would be so useful!
Have you changed careers or had to stop working? What are you doing now?
Michelle is a Senior Occupational Therapist working solely with adults with hypermobility and related conditions. Michelle is the owner of Hypermobility Connect, an online platform for people with hypermobility to connect with resources, health professionals & each other. Michelle practices OT in her private practice and provides education to health professionals relating to hypermobility conditions.