On Quitting a Job in a Recession

“What do you do when you’re not working here?” I asked him as we stood on the beach.

“Well, I just gave my two week notice four weeks ago,” he said.  My face lit up.  “Oh how exciting!” I said.  I don’t think he expected such a response.  I explained that I’ve quit quite a few jobs in my time.  My sister looked at him and said, “Yeah – she quits a job every year.  But how old are you?”  “Twenty-five,” he said.  I knew what my sister – a married, home-owning, thirty-two year old, mother of one – was getting at.  “And I can quit jobs til I’m 50,” I announced, feeling her rolling eyes on me without even looking at her face.

I wanted to ask him more questions – how he did it, how it felt, what he really wanted to do – but not under my sister’s unapproving glare.  I got my chance a few days later.  Turns out he liked his job, but didn’t like his hours – the overnight shift.   When he started, he was told he’d be moved to the day shift.  More than a year later he was told he was so good at what he was doing, they wanted to keep him right where he was – working 7PM to 7AM.  He expressed his dismay, nothing was done, so he left.  In a recession.  Oh how I love these stories.

When I asked him what he really wanted to do, he said he should find another IT job as he figures he should work in the field he got his degree in for at least ten years so his parents don’t regret paying for his IT degree.  I laughed and wanted to say, “You didn’t answer my question,” but we were interrupted and I never got back to it.

I didn’t get to say it to him, but I’ll say it to you: No, there is no law of the universe that says you must do what you got your degree in.  Yes, there may be a law of your parents.  But no, most likely you did not sign a contract with them saying “I will work in my field even if I’m miserable and unhappy.”

Though initially they may not see your logic, ultimately most parents want you to be happy.  They may think the way you’ll be happy is working in your chosen field.  But that may not be the case.  It may take a little – actually, a lot – for them to get over you not wanting to “use your degree.”  But really – whose life is it?  When are you going to start living the life you want to live, not the one your parents want for you?

Yes, your parents may know you.  But I think it’s our job as kids to show them all the other possibilities that exist for us that they never thought of.  Good luck.  And if you need someone to congratulate you when you quit your job, I’m here for you:)

Canoe Island

“Do you camp up there?” people ask when I tell them I’m going on our annual family vacation to Lake George.  “Far from it,” I say.  “Picture Dirty Dancing.  The same ten families come the same week every year to the same place.”  “Is there a dance instructor?” they ask, referring to Patrick Swayze’s character in the movie.  “No…but they do have boat boys.”  I then have to explain what a “boat boy” is: basically college kids on summer break who take us out sailing or water skiing.  People think a place like this just exists in the movies.  I go on.  “They ring a bell for meals and we all go up to the Main Lodge.  They serve three meals a day.”  “Really?” people ask.   Really.

There was a time I hated this place.  It coincided with a time in my teenage life when I hated just about everything – including the way I looked in a swimsuit.  Therefore, a vacation on a lake was not my idea of fun.  Thankfully, they had a piano.  That was my solace.  I’d bring enough piano music to fill the bench and when I got bored of reading or sailing, I’d head up to the piano.  It sits in a room right outside the entrance to the dining room.  In the afternoons when I would practice, the place was empty.  But it became my own little tradition for quite a few years to play the hour before dinner.  My father would sit on a couch behind me and engage anyone who came in in conversation.  This was my only rule.  You had to pretend like you weren’t listening – otherwise I’d get nervous.  Dad was there to explain the rule and keep the conversations going.

Then, the bell would ring.  I’d finish my piece, put my music back in the bench, and close the piano.  Then, I’d join the procession into the dining room.  And sit down to a four course meal with the same people I’ve eaten with the last week in June nearly every year of my life.

The tradition continues.  Though my fingers hardly touch the keys of my piano at home anymore, I still bring my music to Canoe Island Lodge.  And perhaps tonight, I’ll entertain dear family friends for a few minutes before dinner.  But only if they pretend they’re not listening.

Back to the Future

“That’s a real one,” I said to the group of four nursing students as they pulled a vertebral column (backbone) out of their bone box.  “What do you mean real?” one asked.  I laughed.  “Real.  As in it used to be in someone’s body.”  I watched as two of them lost all color and leaned away from it while the other two grabbed for it, their eyes wide and mouths open.  “Really?”  “Yes, really!”  I explained how you could tell the real bones from the plastic ones.  “The real ones are a lot lighter and more porous – you’ll see holes in them.  And they’ll be a rougher when you touch them.”

“Is ours real?” said a student at another table.  “Yup,” I said.  Some were happy they had real bones in their boxes, some thrilled to find they didn’t.  Wait til we dissect sheep brains, I thought to myself.

I wisely don’t tell them what we’re doing ahead of time.  As I’m going through my plan for that days lab, I just casually say, “After we finish going over all the structures on the brain models, we’ll be dissecting sheep brains.  There are gloves in the middle of each table.  The trays are over there.” I point to the sink.  Most students at this point are stunned.   I hear the whispers.  “Is she serious?” they ask each other.  I continue, enjoying every minute of watching some of their faces turn from disbelief to sheer joy and excitement.  “Take a tray per lab table, and one instrument from each box.  Then, get a brain from the plastic container over there,” I say, pointing to the bucket sitting next to the sink.  “Be very careful – they’re slippery.  I don’t want any brains on the floor.”  I just keep going as if people look at brains every day. A more vocal student will usually stop me at this point saying, “Hold up Miss Gallo.  You mean we’re going to cut open a brain today?”  “Yup,” I respond.  Most are thrilled, or at least interested.  A few want nothing to do with it, to which I respond, “If you’re going to be a nurse, you’re going to see a lot more disgusting things than this.”

Though I finished teaching A&P six weeks ago, these memories came back to me since I just finished reading the book “The Anatomist” by Bill Hayes.  It’s basically the story of how the book Gray’s Anatomy came to be.  In doing his research, he attends gross anatomy classes at UCSF and that, for me, was the most interesting part of the book.  Especially since he spends one semester with physical therapy students.

It wasn’t so much that it brought back memories of my own time in a cadaver lab, but that I wanted to be there again.  I was a little jealous that he was in a lab dissecting human bodies and I wasn’t.  No – it was more than that.  He talked about the instructors and I wanted to be them.  I can’t tell you how many times, in teaching A&P to my nursing students, I wished I could show them something on a cadaver.

I had a chance to get back into a cadaver lab on Friday.  I had dinner with my former anatomy professor.  In the days prior to our meeting I thought the first thing I wanted to do was go see the cadavers, but for some unknown reason I didn’t ask.  So I didn’t get to see them. I realize for most people that seeing dead bodies would not be on the top of your list of things to do before you eat dinner…but that’s beside the point.

The good news is the opportunity is not lost.  My anatomy professor teaches the course over the summer now and it would be very easy for me to go out there for a day, or a few days, or a week and help him out.  I assisted him when I was in school, and he has offered that he would welcome my assistance again.  So who knows?  This summer, I might just take that opportunity.  And then I won’t be jealous of that author anymore.

Another Crazy Idea?

Not too long after I started teaching Anatomy &Physiology lab at a local college, one of the tenured professors asked me if I was considering getting a doctorate and teaching full-time at a college.

“No, I don’t think so,” I said.  “It’s a lot of time and money to get a doctorate.  And I have too many other things I want to do.”  He understood.

A few months ago I was on a Saturday day trip with my father.  My mother was out of town for the day and he was going stir-crazy.  He decided to take a mini-road trip and asked if I wanted to join him.  Though I had plenty of anatomy to prepare, I opted for the adventure.  A little was out of sympathy, but another reason was just for the sheer “being a kid again” factor.  Just me and dad.  On a road trip.  On our way to our destination (a newly remodeled Dairy Queen my father, owner of two such stores, wanted to take a look at), we stopped and looked at things for sale on the side of the country roads on which we were traveling.  I was marveling to my father that his driving wasn’t really getting to me like it usually does.  I can’t recall how the topic changed to teaching.

“You really like it, don’t you?” Dad said.  I confirmed that I did, was enjoying it very much in fact.  “It’s a great place to work,” he said.  “College isn’t like the real world.”  Dad says this a lot.  By “real world” he means that the professors aren’t punching a clock like office drones.  They can make their own schedules to a point and get all those holidays and time off .  Dad, as an entrepreneur, doesn’t punch a clock either.  He, too, can make his own schedule to a point.  But he doesn’t have paid time off and someone else paying his health insurance.

I was saying how many different things a professor could get involved with on a campus.  There’s the teaching, but then you can advise a student group or be on committees.  And your work changes.  But before dad got thinking I might have found something I’d do “forever” (he still harbors dreams of that), I said, “but I’d need a doctorate to do all that…and that’s way too much time and money.”

Then something clicked.  My alma mater offers doctorates in Physical Therapy.  A clinical doctorate.  Not a PhD.  But a doctorate all the same.  In other words, it’s more hands-on clinical research and less sitting in a library writing a dissertation.  And I recall reading that they had a “transitional” program for those of us that already had a Masters degree in PT.  I said perhaps I should look into that.  But would it be the craziest idea ever to get a doctorate in a field I pretty much abandoned from the moment I graduated?  Just so I could teach?  I’d have to think about this.  But I did mention it to dad.  He’s been trained to not get too excited about any one of my ideas because a lot of them are only ideas and never get pursued.  He doesn’t always remember this training, but thankfully this time he did.  “Yeah, you should look into that,” he said, his voice indicating a wee bit of excitement but much more subdued than in past years.

Upon our return, I hopped on the internet and was shocked to see that the DPT only requires 16 credits – four classes.  Not only that, but three of the four actually interested me!  And you could do the entire program on-line!  I also learned that it cost a whole lot less than I thought it would.  This couldn’t be right, I thought.  So I looked at other schools who had these transitional doctorate programs.  And they were all pretty much the same – in terms of credits, on-line coursework, and cost.  Whereas I thought my research would show me the degree would take forever to get and cost more than it would be worth for me, I found I was wrong.  Hmph.  Who knew.

Visiting the Tumbleweed Tiny House

As we drove up to the Harley Davidson dealership in Austintown, Ohio, the Tiny House was no where to be seen.  I grew a little nervous.  “Uh oh,” I said.  “Wait a minute,” responded Dad.  “Let’s drive around the whole building first.”  And that’s when we found it.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  I would have felt terrible if we had driven seven hours only to have the thing not be there.

Here are some pictures of it – inside and out.  I’m in most of them to give a sense of scale!

In the Sleeping Loft

Outside the Fencl

The Kitchen (the bathroom is through a doorway opposite the sink)

Sitting in the bump-out

Mom and Dad in the Living Room

Dad peeking in the front door

On Listening to Your Body

After noticing her dog was keeping an eye on us, our host explained, “He knows he gets fed at 8, 12 and 5.  So if it’s near those times, he stays close to me – reminding me it’s time.  It’s amazing how their bodies just know.”

And I thought, “Our bodies know too….we just aren’t taught to listen to them.”  I’ve tried listening more lately.  I’ve learned that I don’t need to eat nearly as much as I do.  That if I listen to my body, she’ll tell me when I’ve had enough.  And she’s always right.  She’ll also tell me when I’m tired and when it’s time to get up.  She dutifully calls me to rise – sans alarm – at 6:55 each morning.  Sometimes I listen, sometimes I don’t.  She also lets me know when I’m doing too much.  And if I don’t listen, she brings some sort of sickness to me to remind me who’s in charge.  However, she’s also kind about bringing on this sickness.  She usually does it over a school break when she knows I can afford to stop without getting too far behind.

She softens my skin in the summertime, then dries it up in the winter.  I can feel when I’m getting sunburn, and in that way she reminds me to put on sunscreen.  She forces me into tears over seemingly nothing at least once a month.  On my morning walks, she shows me all the new life spring brings.  I try to remember to notice it the rest of the day.

“Self-knowledge can, and ought, to apply not only to the soul, but also to the body; the man without insight into the fabric of his body has no knowledge of himself.”

-John Moir, student of anatomy, notes from opening lecture, Anatomical Education in a Scottish University, 1620, as quoted by Bill Hayes in The Anatomist