3 Things I Learned From Quitting Nursing

It's been a year—a whole year!—since I quite my job as a floor nurse. In some ways, it seems like a lifetime ago that I worked those long shifts and cleaned up poop (among other things) for a living. Yet in other ways, I'm still learning to adapt to a new career and figure out what's best for me. Here are three things I've learned over the past year from quitting nursing.

1. I needed to learn to make mistakes.

As a recovering perfectionist, I hate mistakes. I've always hated them: mistakes in school, mistakes in social situations, and most of all, mistakes on the job. I hated mistakes because for a long time, I didn't believe in unconditional love. I couldn't imagine love not based on performance.

In the hospital, there was a lot of pressure to get things right. It was simply the nature of the job. And while certainly some pressure came from administration, coworkers, and patients and their families, most of it came from me. Part of that originated in natural bent towards perfectionism, and part of it was added on by depression and anxiety.

Eventually, I realized I was at a point in my life where I needed to learn about grace. If I was going to move forward and grow as a person, I needed to learn how to make mistakes. I needed an environment that was more low-stakes when it came to mistakes. I needed to quit working at the hospital.

For the past year, I've kept busy with freelance editing and writing jobs. It's been a beautiful example of how attention to detail matters, but it isn't life or death. It's given me the space to make mistakes and learn how to handle them. To be honest, it's still makes me cringe a little to admit that it's okay to make mistakes (like forgetting about the time difference when scheduling a call), but in the past year I've learned to embrace this part of being human more than I ever have before.

For that alone, quitting nursing has been worth it. But that's only reason number one!

nurse carrying hospital gurney to emergency room

2. It's time to stop hustling.

In many ways, the business world is all about hustling. When I first launched into the world as a freelancer, I bought into it completely. I learned I had to work overtime, network like crazy, and make a name for myself. I thought hustling was simply part of the entrepreneurial spirit.

As time passed, however, I've come to see a bigger picture. Entrepreneurship is much more than hustling. Hard work is definitely part of the package, but chasing success at all costs doesn't have to be. 

For example, as a pragmatic person and introvert, "networking" often seemed forced. When I focused on networking, I felt like I need to express interest in people of influence just in case they could help me later in life. I felt like I always had a hidden agenda. I know networking isn't like this for everyone, but I've learned I simply don't have the social capacity to connect with everyone—and usually the people I'm naturally drawn to are not the wealthy and well-connected (you know, the people you're supposed to network with so they can get you great, well-paying jobs).

I quit nursing to find a truer version of myself, and hustling was taking me away from that. If I feel like a fraud networking the usual way, it's not worth it. If I feel like I'm losing myself in pursuit of an audience and more "likes" or "views," it's not worth it. If I start to care more about the numbers than about the people they represent, it's not worth it.

I realized it's time to stop hustling, and it's a lesson I keep learning again and again. The data says I should be less successful since I stopped hustling, but I've found the opposite to be true. I may not be making as much money, but I consider a life of authenticity and integrity to be far more successful than losing my sense of self for potential riches.

3. Quitting my job didn't solve all my problems.

When I was working as a nurse, I would rise early before my shift, brew a cup of coffee, and then sink to the floor, totally overwhelmed with the thought of the day ahead of me. I'd sit there, with my back against the wall, and voice desperate prayers for help to get me through the day.

A few days ago, I found myself sinking once again to the floor in my kitchen, overwhelmed by life. With my back against the refrigerator, I was breathing out prayers for help when I realized I was feeling the same way I had when worked at the hospital. Even though I had radically changed my lifestyle, there I was, feeling the exact same way as the year before. I was discouraged and frustrated, to say the least. 

Yet wise words from a friend came to mind in that moment; he had mentioned that measuring progress by feelings wasn't always accurate. Measuring progress by what we've learned and how we've grown, however, was completely different. It was then I remembered I had radically changed my lifestyle so that I would be healthier, not so that I would feel better. While the change in career did decrease my anxiety and depression, it wasn't a quick fix to the hard work of getting to know myself and learning to listen to my emotions.

It did, however, provide a healthier environment to work through the hard parts of life. Another thing I've learned is that part of learning to love and care for myself means creating a healthy, nurturing environment. From quitting nursing to drawing boundaries to joining a gym, each choice I make to create a healthy environment has the potential to change my life. 

When I look back on the past year, it hasn't all been chocolate and naps (because aren't those things better than butterflies and rainbows?). It's been tough, and it still is, but in many ways, quitting nursing has allowed me to learn who I am as a child of God. It's allowed me to embrace grace through trial and error, explore the world and principles of freelancers, and celebrate progress in a more meaningful way. I've grown and changed and learned—and that, to me, makes quitting nursing absolutely worth it.

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Flashes of Lightning and Flashes of Clarity

One summer a few years ago I was in Cambodia with a team. Darkness had fallen, and we finished scarfing down fried rice for dinner so we could load up in the van and head back to the hotel. We were staying near the Vietnam-Cambodia border, and as we drove down the bumpy, pot-hole-filled route, enormous trucks full of imported goods from Vietnam would rumble by, shaking the whole road as they passed. Rain began to patter on the windshield. Everything was pitch black, but I knew the road sloped down on either side and morphed into acres and acres of muddy rice fields. As I stared out the windshield, two tiny dots of light slowly enlarged as the headlights of a vehicle approached: another gigantic truck full of imported goods.

Windshield view during the day

Windshield view during the day

Side view of the road during the day

Side view of the road during the day

When we were about 100 meters from the oncoming truck, a flash of lightning suddenly illuminated the sky, the road, and everything around us.

In that split second, we could see everything. We could see the ditches alongside the road. We could see the miles of rice fields and the hills beyond them. We could see the long stretch of road ahead. And we could see the over-sized truck ahead of us. The truck was carrying an extra-wide load that stretched across nearly two-thirds of the road. We were heading straight for it.

One split second, and everything was dark again.

Stock photo from

Stock photo from

But one split second of clarity was all we needed. Our driver swerved to the side of the road as we passed the truck, thunder clapping in the distance and cement road vibrating under us. We all exhaled loudly.

We could have died. But God, in His mercy and in His sovereignty, placed a lightning bolt exactly where it needed to be, exactly when it needed to be there, and we were safe. This single moment of clarity had the power to change a van-full of young people's lives. When I think back on this experience, I marvel at the Lord's providence. I wonder at His power and His goodness. I realize again how a single moment of stark clarity can change a life. 

When I visited Cambodia in July and came back with the decision to quit nursing, I reached a pivot point. Though I didn't intend on resigning my nursing job when I left for Cambodia, my time there provided the right setting for the Lord to provide significant clarity.

Once again, a moment of clarity in Cambodia changed the my life. It wasn't a bolt of lightning, and it wasn't a literal swerving on a concrete road during a storm. It was, however, perhaps just as important a moment of clarity in my life. It eliminated guesswork, extra stress and anxiety about putting in my two weeks' notice. It was crystal clear I needed to reroute the direction of my life to avoid a major wreck.

As I'm following this new route, I'm learning each day that the change in direction isn't as much a switch from nursing to writing as it is a transition from prioritizing my reputation to building my life around the Lord. Each day, I learn a little more about trust.

Slowly, I'm learning to accept that I'm out of my comfort zone in this new line of work. I'm learning to let go of the pride that says, "I have to be the best in my field."

When it comes down to it, I could work in writing/editing for a couple years, and then this career could completely fizzle out. It could take a nosedive. It could explode. I have no idea what the outcome will be, and I'm learning to be okay with that.

Part of surrendering to the Lord and crafting my life around Him means trusting that what He has for me is better than the dreams of success I have for myself. I can't help but think this is the lesson He wants me to focus on over the lessons in marketing, gaining clients, and self-employment. Because no matter what career I land in, this truth remains: He is faithful, He is trustworthy, and He will take care of me. With flashes of lightning and flashes of clarity, He guides my path and protects my life. All I have to do is to keep my eyes open and say yes.


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Busted: 4 Myths of Career Changes (and the truth behind each myth)

Well, it's been a month. One month since I officially transitioned over from the world of clinical nursing to a job in editing and writing. In some ways, it has been exactly as predicted: exciting, stressful, and a lot of learning. In other ways, it's been full of surprises and absolutely the opposite from what I expected. As I continue processing this major career shift, here are four myths I believed about career changes that simply are not true.

Adobe stock image

Adobe stock image

Myth #1: It will feel natural.

I suppose because writing and editing feels natural to me, I thought transitioning into a career that utilized them would also feel natural. However, using these skills on the side and creating a job around these skills are completely different. To my surprise, I grieved leaving the hospital, not just because of the wonderful people I knew there, but also because I knew the system. I was familiar and competent with the hospital system; I could navigate it as easily as a millennial navigating a smart phone. It was comfortable. Stepping into the freelancing world, however, felt starkly uncomfortable. I was entering a microcosm filled with abbreviations and acronyms that people actually go to school to learn. As the weeks pass by and I learn more and more, the awkwardness is starting to fade, but I continually have to remind myself it's okay if it doesn't always feel natural to be an editor and writer.

Myth #2: Changing careers is easy.

Um, am I the only person in the young adult population who has bought the lie that changing careers is easy? People throw around the term casually, and they act like it's no big deal millennials tend to career hop. I thought, "If so many people do it, it can't be that hard!" Wrong. I'm actually amazed how career switching tends to have connotations like "irresponsible" or "noncommittal" rather than "resilient" and "gutsy" and "persevering." Changing careers is difficult, takes time, and requires people to accept a steep learning curve. Not only does a new career bring new material to learn, it also includes a new community and specific subculture. I'm having a blast getting to explore this new community, but it definitely is not easy.

Myth #3: You'll automatically be happier if you switch careers.

Since apparently new jobs don't always feel natural and are downright hard sometimes, it makes sense immediate happiness isn't a given with a different career. Now, a few weeks in, I love my job and I am happier, but the emotional lightness didn't come as an automatic perk. In fact, I was pretty stressed out and unhappy at first. Rather, happiness came as a result of being able to cultivate a healthier work environment, which still requires a lot of intentionality and prayer. Once I settled into a routine and chose to trust the Lord with my successes and failures, my happiness meter slowly rose. Perhaps a common flaw in our thinking today is believing it is the job switch itself that brings us happiness. We fail to identify what aspects about the job make us unhappy and how we can address them. Sometimes addressing them means quitting a job (or an entire career field), sometimes it means transferring positions within a company, and sometimes it means changing out expectations, attitudes, or boundaries and staying in that exact same job. For me, happiness didn't come as a result of the writing/editing career itself but from the lower-stress, overall healthier work environment I was able to create.

Myth #4: Following your passion is all that matters.

Passions matter, and they are worth following. I followed one of mine into writing and editing. But more than that, I followed the steps I believed the Lord was leading me to take. So often we have romanticized dreams and ideas of what "following our passions" could mean: traveling the world and working, making it big in the creative world, launching a business, and so much more. While it can be very healthy to dream big and pursue these things, our emotions around our passions can change. Emotions, by nature, ebb and flow. So does motivation. Yet the Lord and His word doesn't. He remains the same, and really, following Him is exponentially more rewarding than following a dream or a passion. Jesus came to extend the greatest invitation we will ever receive: the invitation to follow Him and walk with Him. This, by far, busts the greatest myths of career changes and success I've ever encountered: the most fulfilling choice in the world is not about jobs or money or husbands or children; it's about choosing to accept Jesus' invitation to be in His presence every day of our lives.

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How a Crying Child Brought Me Peace about a Career Change

I recognized the look in his eyes as soon as he turned around. The little boy started crawling toward the door, and then came the furrowed eyebrows and the crying.

Each Sunday before worship service, his parents dropped little Trevor James (name changed for privacy) off in the children's wing of the church. It was only a few weeks ago I began serving in the kids' ministry—the "crawlers" room to be exact, which of course is for children who are crawling. Every week, little Trevor James begins crying as soon as he realizes his parents are gone.

On this particular Sunday morning, I was the closest one to him, so I scooped him up and consoled him until his cries became less frequent. However, little Trevor James is one of those babies you cannot put down without the crying and tears beginning all over again. He rubbed his eyes and rested his head on my chest, clearly tired and ready for his morning nap but fighting sleep with all his might. So I held him and walked around the room with him, and we spent some good quality time together.

His cries still came periodically, the distress apparent on his face before the audible cry would come. I patted him and rocked him and told him everything was going to be okay. "It's okay. I promise," I whispered into his tiny ears when he began to whimper. Voices and crying echoed from down the hall and even from within our room, but I let it fade and simply focused on this little boy.

Stock photo from

Stock photo from

As I held little Trevor James, the Lord began to speak to me. It was the day after my last shift at the hospital, and I had woken up with a sense of panic that I had made the wrong decision.

What was I thinking? I can't just quit my job. I made a horrible mistake.

Yet as I swayed back and forth with little Trevor James, consoling him each time he became anxious and afraid, a distinct sense descended on me that this is how the Lord wanted me to rest in Him.

He wanted me to lay my head against His chest and experience the panic and fear that would naturally come after quitting a job, but He wanted me to experience it all right there, close to Him. He wanted me to stop chastising myself for feeling doubt or for feeling dumb because there was no distinct reason for me to be afraid. He simply desired that I feel those things while allowing Him to hold me.

The same patience and love I had for little Trevor James was what the Lord felt for me. He would happily whisper, "It's going to be okay. I promise," when I felt anxious for no reason, when I furrowed my brows and fought sleep and grew restless in His arms. He was letting all the clamor and voices and expectations fade into the background, and He wanted me to do the same. He wanted to hold me. (And He wouldn't even be sore the next day like I may have been after holding children for so long!)

As I paced the room and patted little Trevor James' back, I found peace. I found peace about resigning from my job because Jesus came back into focus in my heart and in my mind. I found peace about pursuing full time writing and editing as I remembered it was a step of faith, not foolishness. For a moment, the noise of the world faded into the background, and it was just God comforting me, and me comforting little Trevor James—both of us covered by a supernatural peace, both of us being held.

Next week, I'll show up at church and probably so will little Trevor James. I'll hold him and rock him, and I'll pray he learns as much about the character of God and His tenderness as I do in that classroom.

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