I don’t know if I was ever as nervous or scared as my first day of work. The walk from the parking lot into the building felt like it was a mile long. A long sidewalk with little sculptures and water features made by local artists along the concrete walkway with little stakes in the ground with peoples’ names next to them on them “dedicated to Mr. so and so”, basically people who had donated money to build this monstrosity that they called a hospital, but which looked more like the Four Seasons. I remember thinking to myself “Do people really have that much extra money lying around to donate to a hospital just so they get their name on a tiny plaque next to a sculpture?”
Nonetheless I was in awe of the building. The entrance had a giant porte-cochere with men and women huddled in front of a fan waiting eagerly to valet cars. Vibrant flowers and weeping willow trees and the manicured lawn that looked ever so inviting made the landscape look like a scene from a painting. There was a giant waterfall two stories tall next to the large sliding glass doors that opened abruptly as I walked through them where I was greeted by a blast of ice cold air to my face. I stood there for a second and then realized the time. I power walked through the halls following signs for the radiology department. “Here goes nothing” I thought, “the start of my career.”
As I walked down the hallway I peeked in the doorway of each room, looking at all the intimidating new equipment that I would have to learn. I was new and filled with enthusiasm, which I was told by several people would end abruptly after a “couple months in this place”. For now, I was happy to have a job right out of school and also find that I would be working with some of my former classmates which eased some of my anxiety.
As the years passed and I had eased into my position, my anxiety started to fade. I was, but I was starting to feel burned out.
On days where I actually got to step away from the department I would go down to the cafeteria, even if I wasn’t hungry. I took the long way to the cafeteria avoiding walking past my boss’s office, she is an unpredictable woman and I never want to run the risk of walking by her office on a day where she looks as though she has steam coming out of her ears and is ready to give you a lashing for something that may not even be your fault. I don’t mind taking the scenic route down to the cafeteria. There is artwork that lines the walls, murals and pictures. There is also memorabilia, old charts, tools, and photographs from the early 1900’s from the previous hospital, which makes you realize how much history this company has. As I approach the cafeteria I see the sun for the first time in hours beaming through the large three-story high windows and I take a seat outside at the base of a 50-foot waterfall. Sometimes I just watch the water careen down the stone wall, trying to follow one specific bubble waiting for it to pop as it falls to the collection of water below. I found myself sitting there, unable to unglue myself from the whicker chair. I swear some days it felt like an impossible task.
As I walk back after my lunch, I find myself staring at the floor, not really looking ahead. “Why would they make the floor so many different colors and without any sort of pattern?” It was as if the person who laid the tiles was intentionally trying to make us confused “but what did it matter anyway it’s a floor” I thought. As I get closer to my department the wall colors become starkly white and the floors an ugly beige. The scenic parts of the hospital are only for the visitors. I wandered back into my dark workspace with patients lined up waiting for their x-rays. Out of the corner of my eye I see a familiar face a “regular” as we like to call them. “What did you stick where now Harry?” I asked. Harry was on a first name basis with employees in the hospital. He was from the psychiatric hospital down the street and would eat any object he could get his hands on and if it was too big to swallow, well, there were other ways he found of getting things in his body. This time he had gotten a hold of rings from a three ring binder that looks like it’s causing an obstruction in his small intestine.
I look at the students we have now. They are filled with such enthusiasm, just as I once was. Their eyes light up like Christmas tress when the x-ray comes up on the screen, especially when Harry comes around. I often look at them in admiration. They are so passionate about this field and I find myself more and more fatigued and burnt out and looking for a way out. Part of me wants to sew their wide eyes shut and tell them what my co-workers had told me, the enthusiasm will fade and what glitters is not always gold. I let them have their moments of achievement and small victories when they learn a new technique or a new skill as I don’t want to break their spirit too early on. Their enthusiasm and determination can be infectious at times, but it is short lived. Soon they will come to the realization that most of us have come to, that you will have to work for a living and as exciting as it seems now, unfortunately the feeling won’t last.