Almost two years ago to the day, I stepped onto my first flight with British Airways. As the aircraft was turning onto the runway and the pilots gave the industry-insider double ding that meant we would reach unstoppable speeds within 20 seconds, a passenger pulled me from my jumpseat and dragged me to a man he had just met. The man was cyanosed, grey in the face, and clammy.
With no experience in impending disasters that hit with such sharpness, nor with leading the way in a medical event, I became the leader in the first 45 minutes of effort that went into saving that man’s life. For those who don’t know, CPR has a staggeringly low success rate outside of hospitals. With colleagues and business class passengers watching, I helped lift the man from his seat, hitched my skirt around my waist to reveal my bright red knickers, and began pumping at his chest.
As the air traffic control team around Heathrow began diverting traffic to surrounding airports so that the paramedics could enter a non-live runway, four of us altered between compressions, rescue breaths, and shocks. Only one shock was delivered, and with an audience of hundreds rubbernecking from other cabins to take in the commotion, I did more than spend 45 minutes trying to bring a stranger back to life.
I realized I wanted to rethink my life decisions.
Since then, I have been to medical school to pursue a career as a physician assistant. I was overwhelmingly happy working as a flight attendant/cabin crew, but bringing Heathrow air traffic to a standstill as I contributed towards giving someone more time on Earth began pulling me in another direction.
Over a year later, I had completed the first few rounds of intense lectures and was starting my initial placement. It was then that I began to realize that, maybe, the skies were the place for me after all. Ideas of pursuing a life on the other side of the flight deck door began to fly through my mind. And from then, my entire world was thrown into chaos.
In the months that have followed, I have oscillated between love for my new career path and pure hatred for it. I have shaken with rage as consultants have made overly personal remarks about my appearance. I have dreamed of stepping onto an aircraft ready to reach the next destination, only to wake and remember I am once again donning a pair of scrubs and being ignored for the day.
You see, here in the UK, physician assistants are new. We’re known as physician associates, and to many our role is abhorrent. Despite it proving successful in varying degrees of healthcare systems worldwide, we’re approached with suspicion and often malice. We’re ‘doctors on the cheap,’ ‘job thieves,’ and ‘pointless.’ A combination of not being wanted from one side and being made to jump through hoops by the course’s leaders has pushed me into a world of mental peril at times.
Recently, I began stepping back and looking at the entire picture. Was that moment actually enough to make me leave British Airways? Why did my compulsive nature fling me towards joining a problematic career path with little recognition in the UK? Why not just continue to enjoy balancing traveling the world for a living while working as a freelance writer? My income was significant, I socialized all the time, and now I often feel like I am enslaved by a failing healthcare system that’s using mine and my colleagues’ presence as a means to an end.
Since that reflection period began, I’ve started to engage in more self-care. I’ve begun seeking therapy, writing again, booking breaks away…anything that’ll help me feel as though I am not encapsulated and defined by this quick decision.
And so, I have decided to write about the many things I am thankful for. That was far longer an introduction than I would have liked, but putting pen to paper (or fingers to a keyboard, in my case) is cathartic, and I feel as though it has done me some good.
The peace of my boyfriend’s house
Trust me when I say I otherwise live in a hectic environment. Five days a week, I stay with my boyfriend. I do this not just to see him, but to get to placements faster.
I also do it for peace.
As lovely as it is around him, the peace that’s there when he’s working long shifts gives me the freedom to write, stroll, look at the pigeons in the back garden, make plans…whatever I fancy. At home, I have a codependent mother who will creep out of nowhere and intrude on my attempts at grasping peace. Here, it just flows.
I will talk more about my therapist below. However, it was he who convinced me to download a mindfulness app and start incorporating it into my daily routine.
As someone who suffers from anxiety and occasionally loses her cool over small matters, mindfulness provides me with the grounding I need to push ahead with projects, attend classes, and socialize.
I’m thankful for mindfulness apps because they act as prophylaxis for fury and distress when I am having my low periods. In fact, the other day I wrote a post on choosing the best one for yourself as a freelancer, so do check it out.
Being able to access a therapist online
Okay, so as a physician associate in training/freelance writer, I seriously lack in time. Add in the fact that my hospital rotations change every three weeks and I have a daughter. Can you see how an ‘in office’ therapy session would become challenging for me?
Being able to access a therapist online allows me to benefit from mental health care, without having to leave my home. Also, my therapist is all kinds of awesome. He sets new tasks for me each week, which I usually complete in a rush.
But, my gosh do they give me a greater insight into myself. That insight allows me to tackle days where everything seems a little tiring and scary. Or, those days where I don’t know if I am heading on the right path.
There are lots of online therapy options, and I chose Better Help. I won’t link to it, as I feel you should explore the other ones out there yourself and come to a decision based on what works for you.
Oh, and I am extra thankful that my therapist is Texan because you people are earnestly polite.
Time to myself
As I write this, it is Valentine’s Day. My partner has forgotten, plus he has canceled our date night for tomorrow. Before you begin mentally shooting daggers at him, he is otherwise fucking awesome.
So, why am I mentioning my non-existent Valentine’s plans when I love time to myself? Because when I don’t have a special occasion that I place a lot of value on, (and yes, I do know that some people hate the commercialized nature of Valentine’s Day; I’m not one of them, though) I know that time to myself is precious.
Having time to myself allows me to gather my thoughts, reconnect with what I want from life, inject organization into my routine, and re-read any Harry Potter or Philippa Gregory book that catches my fancy. Yes, I am the ultimate basic Btch on the reading front.
The opportunity to reconnect with my dreams
When I threw myself into my new career path, I was my usual stubborn self. I created a perfect illusion of saving lives, with few struggles and lots of rewards.
I also told myself this was the only dream I could or ever would have.
Over the last few months, I have realized I am entitled to more than one dream. Said dreams include writing, learning how to fly a plane, and the career path I am currently on.
Every time I have an opportunity to reconnect with those dreams, I feel thankful. In fact, I am reconnecting with them right now just through writing them down and feeling a warmth spread throughout me at attaining my goals.
My recent trips to Lisbon and Tenerife
Being a freelance writer gives me the freedom to travel a little more. Due to my degree, I don’t get to travel as often as I want. However, without my freelance lifestyle, I wouldn’t travel at all.
In December last year, I spent two weeks in Tenerife with my grandparents. Doing so was pure bliss because they are two of the people I love most in the world.
Then, in January, just two weeks after touching down from the Canary Islands, my boyfriend took me to Lisbon. It was a short but sweet trip for my 30th birthday, but I was able to see a lot of a city I only fleetingly spent time in while working for British Airways. Again, the extra income I get as a freelancer made contributing to this trip possible.
Quick yoga sequence pins
Put your hand up if you’re are a freelancer who doesn’t stress from time-to-time? Yes, the aim of the process is to kick a little rage from your life, but sometimes those fury-inducing moments explode into your reality without warning.
To me, yoga is an act of prevention. I don’t use it when stress happens; I use it to reduce the likelihood of it happening. But, as someone who is eternally busy, I don’t have the time to engage in long classes. Not until I graduate anyway.
My Natural Medicine Pinterest board features lots of them. I’m a particularly big fan of the one involving bears, just because I love bears. Sure, they’re fucking terrifying in reality, but cute pictures of them induce those “awww” feelings.
Rediscovering my desire to write
Have you ever read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert? Although I’ve never tried any of her other books, I love this one.
It explains why we don’t have to find perfectionism in our creative work. In fact, it opens your eyes to the many ways aiming for perfection is corrosive.
After downloading the audio version of her book to listen to during commutes, my freelancing writing experience feels much lighter. Rediscovering my desire to write helps me unleash my creative side, in a way that I enjoy. Oh, and there’s no pressure now either.
My nana returning to the UK for the summer
I’ve always considered my nan to be the cornerstone of my sanity. She is the only person in my life who listens to me without judgment.
While other friends and family members don’t mean to judge, I often feel that my need to rant and be heard results in gaslighting or judgment. When you just need someone to listen, she is that person.
Unfortunately, she flies away for the winter to the Canary Islands like some sort of wise old duck. When I’m in my seventies, I hope I can do the same. Of course, there’s always Facebook messenger; but that isn’t the same as a good old face-to-face conversation.
When she is back, I know I am only a train ride away from free in-person therapy. Therapy with wine. Who doesn’t love wine?
The opportunities to learn and thrive that come every day
And yeah, sometimes I will readily moan about these. But, they’re bringing me closer to my career goals, plus I can reach out to new ones if I need to.
For example, at the moment I am listening to an iTunes University course in the fall of the Roman Empire. Why? God only fucking knows, but I am, and it’s interesting.
Our parents and grandparents didn’t have the chance to do that. People worldwide don’t have the opportunity to do that. But we do, and even if we don’t apply that knowledge to anything, boosting your pub quiz powers is a prize on its own.
Plus as a freelance writer, the more knowledge I can get, the better. It just makes life simpler for my clients and me.
And there we go. While it wasn’t the happiest of lists, I do intend to write one each month. I don’t doubt my views will change, just as life does.