How Leaving A Toxic Career Is Healing Me


Photo by Alexandre Croussette on Unsplash

I’ve always wanted to change my career, but it took me 10 years to do it.

I am an artist. I have always been an artist, a creative person, a person who loves using her imagination to solve problems, but that was NEVER accepted by my Korean immigrant parents. Moving to a new country to “start over” left them in a position to give up on their own dreams and I witnessed first hand their heartbreak. My father was a musician in South Korea, who later became a car mechanic in the USA to feed and take care of his family and my mother could have been great at a number of creative things, because she took well and excelled quickly at anything she put her hands on – piano, sculpting, ceramics, interior design. I personally think she would have been very successful as an Interior Designer or Stylist.

It’s hard to follow your heart as you get older and I think it’s harder to follow your intuition when you don’t have the right support. I knew my first semester in the Nursing Program that it was not right for me. I would have repeating nightmares where I’d take a leap into the air (I was a competitive dancer in high-school) to only fall on my leg and break it. I remember how vivid and real the nightmares were as I would wake up from a beaded sweat. My gut was telling me that I was going down the wrong path…but I chose to “stick it out,” because I felt like that was “the right thing to do,” and because I didn’t have the confidence back then to believe in myself. Also, finishing the program was a means to freedom. I’ll talk about that later.

It’s been almost 10 years as a Registered Nurse and after trying many different types of jobs within this field, I have come to accept that I needed to make a radical change. Change isn’t always easy, even if the change is good. For one, leaving a profession that makes good money is hard to give up. Financial security is always appealing, right? But if it’s at the cost of your happiness and peace, it’s just not worth it. Other reasons that made it hard for me to make the leap of faith was because of my pride, fear, and lack of self-esteem. I knew I would have to start over. Probably with an entry level position in the next job I chose, while figuring out my next step, and the thought of doing that made my stomach churn. “Starting over was beneath me,” I thought…but I’m learning that is FAR from the truth.

The thought of breaking up with my profession has always been at the forefront of my mind, but it became more of a reality in that I REALLY was going to finally take action. This thought started 4 years ago. The last 4 years, I would bargain with myself to stay a Nurse at least part-time, or to only settle for Nursing jobs that wouldn’t be so taxing mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually – while I worked on changing my career. I realized by being in the wrong career for a decade, it left me in a position where I didn’t even know who I was anymore and that was a scary thing. Imagine being a baby again learning how to crawl for the first time. The last 4 years, I worked on my inner self to awaken the little artist child in me – the little girl that has been trapped inside for so long. I found myself painting, drawing, illustrating fashion, acting, writing, and making jewelry – all things that made me really happy and I began to heal. I realized how beautiful I really was inside and how much I have to offer society – I just don’t know how yet but that’s okay! 🙂

Nursing was a toxic profession for me. The way that I’d describe it to others who didn’t understand me was that it felt like it was an abusive husband that I couldn’t leave…and now I understand why I was saying such things. There is nothing wrong with the profession itself (Well…there are some things that are wrong about it but I’ll blogpost about that later. My point is that some are meant to do it and kudos to them and some are not!). I didn’t have the normal college experience like most kids that go away to college. Instead, I commuted from home and I lived with a mother that struggles with NPD and an alcoholic stepfather that was emotionally/verbally abusive for almost 10 years. In these formidable years, my whole existence was to cater to the needs of my parents (my mother left my step-father a few years ago and is now happy and healthy, thank God!) in an unhealthy way because I felt like A) my mother couldn’t take care of herself (I “had” to save her life); and B) I was responsible for my step-father’s abuse towards me. I was constantly taking care of other people and never taking care of myself. If I did take care of myself, I was always reprimanded by my step-father.

Going back to what was shared earlier…I felt like if I finished the Nursing Program, I’d be free. I’d be free to make enough money to move out and get away from my dysfunctional family. I chose a career out of fear and for many other wrong reasons. I didn’t choose a career because I enjoyed what I was studying or because I had a genuine interest in it. Medicine was black and white. My mind didn’t work that way at all. I’m a person that saw all the colors in-between. I chose Nursing out of emotional survival and practical necessity, not because I was pursuing what I was passionate about. Everyone should have the right to pursue what they love to do. That is what dreams are all about. And when you don’t have any dreams…you are like a flower that wilts and dies. Throughout my whole career, I was faced with nursing peers (Nursing work environments are known for it’s bullying culture and lateral violence – google “Nurse’s Eat Their Young” and “Nurse Bullying Culture”) and instructors that reminded me that I didn’t belong. Even though I excelled at my career, I wasn’t happy. I doubled my salary within a 3 year period, but again, I did not feel fulfilled and I was actually clinically depressed. Doctors were always sad whenever I decided to leave a job, saying, “No! It’s always the good ones that leave. You’re such a good nurse” and managers would beg me to stay. It was clear to me as my 35th birthday was approaching that I could not repeat the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. I needed a different strategy and a fresh approach!


This all happened as of 3 weeks ago. I took one more last Nursing job, thinking that I could just stick it out while I attended Fashion School. I woke up one day and just didn’t want to do it anymore. I was sick and tired of being unhappy, depressed, and angry. I knew there was another way and I knew that meant swallowing my pride, starting over, and getting uncomfortable. I wanted to reclaim my life back – my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. As a Nurse, I’d often work night shifts (from 7pm to 7am) and for someone that loved exercising, I stopped taking care of my body. I was depleted mentally, emotionally, and spiritually because I was always pulled in every direction, giving all of myself until I had nothing left for me. Especially with my emotional abuse background, self-care was something I was terrible at and being in a field that required myself to give and give, above and beyond at a level other professions don’t even ask for (because other careers aren’t life or death or a code blue waiting to happen), it made it really hard to get the healing that I needed.

I broke up with my profession. I’m dealing with my hurts and pains…and finally allowing healing to take place in an area of my life that needs serious attention. I’m not caring about how others perceive me anymore because no amount of money, prestige, or job title will give you confidence or self-worth. Strip all those things away, and you are left with just…you, flaws and all…and it’s all so beautiful.

I’m proud of my decision and some days I feel very encouraged…but other days, I start to doubt myself and I have to fight my negative self-talk. Despite how hard this transition is, I’ve committed myself to not look back and keep moving forward. I know my soul needed me to do this and for the first time, instead of saying, “I’m going to be happy once I change my career or once I do this or that or once I’m at this point in my life…” I’m finally just dealing with my issues and working on being happy in the here and now no matter how uncomfortable I feel. This is more than just a career change; this is about growth, healing, and discovery of self…and I’m buckled up and ready to go!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Basil Brown says:

    I am a Nurse for 22 years. Your post was amazing, and so well written. You are 100% correct. I am a male nurse, was an army medic, and have been in healthcare for over 30 years(22 as an RN). I am also an artist, and have done none of it, because of getting my BSN. YOU are amazing, and living your truth. The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to live your authentic self. Money can not buy happiness, self esteem, or the real you! I want to stop nursing too. It probably means loosing the house, but I do have a back up plan, maybe a tiny house. Its a sick profession, a slave mentality, and an abusive field. You will be amazing at whatever you touch! Basil


    1. authoress333 says:

      Basil, first off, thank you for being a nurse for that long! And for serving for our country! Thank you for your words, it’s greatly appreciated. I understand how hard it can be to leave especially if you’ve invested so much time and money into it – and ESPECIALLY when it’s tied to your living, aka house, etc. I’m not sure if this helps any but I started this process over 4-5 years ago. I first started with paying off any credit card debt I had because I knew I had to set myself up for success when the time came to leave for good. These things take time – the great thing is you know you want to leave it. Now, it’s all about planning and doing the increment steps to get there. I’m comforted to know that another fellow nurse understands how the nursing profession can be – abusive and downright cynical. And it’s really never the profession, it’s the people that make up the profession that color the culture, right? I used to want to stay so I can make a difference – but I truly feel it’s a cancerous profession that is already 4 stage. There’s only so much one person can do and I learned the whole point in my journey was to learn to be selfish and take care of myself…and that it was truly okay to do that. I wish you all the best and luck. That tiny home idea sounds cool. You can make anything happen. It always starts with a thought and that thought becomes a habit and that habit becomes an action and that action becomes change. All the best.


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