If there is one subject I’m perpetually fascinated with, it’s how our relationships and careers intertwine. Perhaps one of the reasons I find it so compelling is because it’s a relatively new problem. Its current incarnation has only existed for a generation or two, and we’re all still figuring out the ropes. Earlier this week we talked about how two careers are not a zero-sum game, and today, Kristine Harrington is exploring how her husband Steve sacrificed his career for hers (temporarily) and now is building his own. As someone who has been in Steve’s position, and who will one day probably be in Kristine’s position, I want to offer support all round (and discussion).
When Steve and I first met, we were already on the verge of physical separation. Completely twitterpated by our third date, I broke the news to him hesitantly that I had been accepted to nursing school out of state and would be leaving in a matter of weeks. His response? “Well let’s just see what happens then.”
You know the rest.
After I left, it didn’t take long for Steve to join me. He quit his job (at the height of the recession), packed up his car, shipped a storage container north, and moved into my (now our) 600-square-foot apartment. With his (now our) eighty-pound chocolate lab, who fast became friends with my (our) fluffy, bossy Bichon Maltese puppy. As I began what would be my hardest semester of nursing school.
Yeah, that was interesting. But somehow we survived and emerged (mostly) intact from the adventure. Unfortunately for us, I became a newbie RN in a saturated job market and quickly learned that nursing was far from the recession-proof career we all had believed it to be. My first job in critical care was in yet another state. Steve faithfully helped me pack up a moving van and moved with me. Then we moved back a year later when I realized that critical care nursing did not fit me at all.
All this is to say that Steve has repeatedly put his own needs and professional goals on the back burner throughout our relationship and early in our marriage. He hasn’t done so silently, nor would I expect him to do so. He’s taken soul-crushing jobs for which he is vastly overqualified, in the name of making rent and paying the bills. It’s affected him some days more than others. He’s struggled, but he’s survived the roller coaster much more gracefully than I ever would.
When I graduated with an MSN this past May, we sat down and talked about his future. He, like me, is passionate about a million different subjects and has an intellectual curiosity a mile wide. But when he really thought about it, he realized that he wanted to do what he had dreamed about for decades. He wanted to work in… wait for it… health care (did the man learn nothing from the pits of despair I call Nursing School?!). He is now taking classes to become a Physician Assistant. I am so proud and so impressed already.
But what has really amazed me throughout this process is that I’ve come to understand what it means to share a present and a future together. And how to negotiate our individual futures so that they become not “his” and “mine” but “ours” (sort of like blending a 600-square-foot apartment and two dogs, but on a much bigger, scarier, more uncertain scale).
In the midst of his own excitement about school, Steve has still encouraged me to continue my own education, which is far from over. (My name is Kristine and I am a school junkie). As we’ve researched PA programs for him, we’ve found nurse practitioner options for me, and we’ve started to realize that this is going to be an even bigger adventure than we anticipated. It may require a cross-country move. It may be enhanced by the growth of our family (or not). It may call for a complicated and delicate dance of jobs, clinical internships, and coursework, all while keeping a roof over our heads and food in our bellies.
But the beauty of the adventure is that it will be ours. And all of the uncertainties and unknowns of the next X years have gotten me all twitterpated again. Because it will be a journey I share with my partner, and that will make all the difference.
Photo by: Daniel Sheehan of A Beautiful Day Photography (APW Sponsor)