Before I pursued a career in writing, I was employed in the healthcare industry for 5 years. I worked long, hard hours, mostly on my feet. I pulled 12-15 hour shifts, often times overnight. I busted my bass 5-7 days a week. Healthcare work isn’t easy. I was cleaning up things most people don’t want to think about. I was running down hallways with crash carts, because someone had stopped breathing or their heart had stopped beating. I rarely got the chance to sit down, even for meals.
My days were long, strenuous, and sometimes utterly heartbreaking. I lost patients. I watched people die. I had to help break the news to distraught families. I had to push through CPR, sometimes for hours, on a person I knew wasn’t going to pull through. I missed out on a lot of gatherings with my family, working holidays and weekends, because, well, someone’s gotta do it.
It was exhausting, and it made me extremely unhappy. I carried my heartbreak home with me more often than not. I was stressed, sleep-deprived, and extremely over-worked. I suffered, my family suffered, and my home suffered. I had to choose between chores, a shower, or sleep. Usually sleep won out, whether I liked it or not.
I kept this up for a long while, even after my daughter was born. I only became more and more miserable. I was stuck in this shift for 12 hours, while my daughter was with someone else. I was missing everything: her first words, her first steps. I felt as though someone else was raising my child, and I hated it. She got to where she didn’t even cry when I left anymore. She was used to being with someone else. That broke my heart worse than when she would scream her head off as I walked out the door.
I started writing in high school and pursued that for the first few semesters of college, until I got pregnant. How was I going to support a family as a writer? I was afraid it would be too difficult to break into, it wouldn’t pay enough, and it was far too unstable. So, I opted for healthcare instead. There were always readily available jobs and they paid well. Plus, I already had experience in the field, given I’d been working in nursing homes and doctor’s offices already. It was more sensible and I was overwhelmed with that feeling that it wasn’t about what I wanted anymore. It was about taking care of this child: which I did.
“Almost every piece would have at least a comment or two referring to me as a lazy millennial, a “libtard,” someone who needed to get a real job. To those, I say a big, fat, fuck you.”
I landed a local job at a clinic when she was 2. I thought I’d find more happiness there. It was close, the hours were a lot better. There were no nights or weekends, and although the pay was a little less, it was worth it due to the location and schedule.
I didn’t necessarily “like” the job, but I thought I could at least deal with it. Until one morning I got up, started getting my daughter dressed and ready for the babysitter, when she looked at me with the saddest eyes I’d ever seen. She didn’t cry, or scream, or fuss. She looked at me with all the earnest sincerity in the world and said, “Momma, can you please stay home today and play with me? Just this one time?”
I did my best to explain to her why mom had to go to work— to make sure she had nice things, and all that bullshit. But it didn’t make either one of us feel any better. She didn’t cry at the sitter’s that day, but I cried myself stupid in the bathroom at work. I had this child, I brought her into this world and gave her life, and she feels like I don’t have time for her.
I resolved to fix this situation, and fast. I was already having trouble with co-workers. I fucking hated this job and all the others like it before. I wanted to write. I wanted to see my kid. I didn’t want to miss things with her anymore. I wanted to show her that your dreams and your happiness are important—they have value and they matter.
I was working this job because I felt like it was the right thing to do. But was it? How could it be the right thing when everyone was miserable? When my child was telling me that she wouldn’t buy anymore toys, and she didn’t need anything for her birthday just so I didn’t have to leave again, I was done. So, when shit hit the fan at work, I told every single one of them what I thought and bailed the hell out of there. No warning, no explanation, no two weeks, and no letter of resignation. It was entirely unprofessional and the most liberating thing I’d ever done in my life.
I’d been saving money for months in case I decided to do just that. I used that money as a cushion to start on, and I looked for writing jobs. It took time. I got desperate and discouraged more than once. I stayed up late as hell, night after night, trying to figure this shit out. But I made it work in the end. People started hiring me. I was making money. More than I’d even expected, and all while I was at home with my daughter. I could take her to the park. If she needed me, I was there.
But I didn’t do so without catching shit from virtually everyone around me. “This isn’t a real job. How do you think you’re going to support your family with something like that. You can’t make a living off a hobby. If you really wanted to do well by your child, you’d have a real job; something to support her.” Then, if it wasn’t coming from family, it was coming from trolls online. Almost every piece would have at least a comment or two referring to me as a lazy millennial, a “libtard,” someone who needed to get a real job. To those, I say a big, fat, fuck you.
I have worked that “real” job. I’ve been stuck in that grind. It wasn’t for me. I was miserable and unhappy, and so was my kid. Instead of staying stuck there, because that’s what society says I’m supposed to do, I grabbed myself by the boot straps and carved a new path. One that I was happy with, and that made me feel accomplished. Something I was proud to tell my daughter about. Her mother didn’t settle and she didn’t conform. I trudged through the bullshit and made my own way.
I struggle to understand why people think that it’s any of their business what I do for work. I’m taking care of my child. I’m supporting my family. We have plenty of money, and now we have plenty of time as well. I’m doing right by her and I’m finally doing right by myself. I had the opportunity to make a living off of what I love. Why is that a bad thing?
You don’t have the right to tell me what I’m “supposed” to do. The definition of work is, “mental or physical activity as a means of earning income.” Why does it suddenly not count as work if I’m not pulling 12’s? What gave people the right to define what “real work” is and what isn’t? And what in the hell made them think that their opinion mattered to me anyway?
I’m here to tell you that what I do is real work. I’ve spent many nights up until 3 or 4 in the morning, researching, making sure that what I turn in is the very best. I’ve worked weekends and even holidays. I work my ass off. Just like everyone else. Just like all the photographers, the artists, and the writers. And believe it or not, I work just like the factory workers and the laborers. There is no one certain job or trade or schedule that defines a real job. Real work is a passion. You don’t get to be angry or bitter or call me names just because my work is different than yours. Honestly, most of the trolls are just shitty because I get to work from my couch in my jammies and they don’t.
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Andrea is a freelance writer based out of Kentucky. She is the mother to a 3 year old little girl and step-mother to a 6 year old boy. She’s been married to her husband and best friend for 5 years. She enjoys fishing, camping, hiking and the occasional glass of wine by a bonfire.