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In common with the uncommon

Dear diary,

It’s been a little long. I lost track of the days, hello life. It’s crazy to think about our schedules. Most registered nurses work about 3-4 shifts a week. That doesn’t include any possible overtime shifts. Do the math…that leaves us with a good amount of days off. Some nurses block it so they work all 3 or 4 shifts consecutively and their reasoning is, well, then they have consecutive days off, uninterrupted by a random shift in between. I know myself, and it’s challenging for me to work more than 2 in a row. I am someone that cannot be away from my life for that long. Laundry piles up. I skip the gym. I don’t have time to myself. I quickly get thrown out of rhythm and life gets unorganized. Perhaps I’m being dramatic, but it’s the truth.

Thanks for coming to my TEDTALK.

Now, back to the real story. It came to me when I was working last Friday. As I sat at the nurses’ station with my other coworkers, laughing and listening to the bantering, I couldn’t help but feel so thankful. Thankful that in the midst of this crazy profession, I found community. It’s a hectic, stressful, ticking-time-bomb kind of floor and here we all were, finding ways to slow down and enjoy each others’ company.

It made me wonder, how a bunch of seemingly different people could have so much in common. I have coworkers who are parents, are nonbelievers, are married, and are much, much older than I am. Despite the numerous differences, we were able to build a bond. What could have sparked this unity? I would say this: being in the trenches together. On our unit, and maybe I speak for most units, you cannot afford to work alone. You cannot carry on without the support of your coworkers. I have yet to get through a shift without asking for help/advice/a vent session/gum. We lean on each other for emotional support, for answers to questions we may not know, or how to tackle a long list of tasks for your crashing patient. Our hardships, shared annoyances, and shared passions brought us together.

When I first started working on my floor, I was chewed up and spit out every single shift. I was in over my head. I was always playing catch up and seldom clocked out on time. For anyone who is in my life outside of work, you all know how rough the first few months were for me. I still have my days, but they are way more manageable thanks to a lot of things. The most impacting being my coworkers.

As I pondered this revelation, I started to reflect on my other communities. All of us identify with multiple groups. It could be gym buddies, workplace friends, a book club, a bible study, a religious community, a Bachelor-watching-group, etc. I happen to be a part of a few of the ones I listed (not the Bachelor one though, yikes). It’s such a small concept, but it has me thinking big. How fascinating is it that we can say we do life alongside many people of various groups?

Humans, by nature, have this innate desire for belongingness. It’s actually a human need, just like clothing, shelter, and food. For some of us, it is the source of our feeling valued or like we have purpose. For some of us, our identity could be the summation of the people we surround ourselves with. For some of us, it’s just a nice feeling to have people who see you, hear you, relate to you, and want you around. There is a sense of safety and security. It may not resonate with everyone, but there is some truth in this.

I look at every group I’m a part of, and I am shocked. Shocked at how I could have something in common with people I might have categorized as “uncommon” before. What I’m realizing is, despite all of the things that make you and I complete opposites, all of those things aren’t actually barriers. They could be enhancers to a group of people or someone individually.

I have a friend who is not sporty, in the slightest. I grew up with sports. This friend was into theater growing up. I was not. Somehow, after identifying the obvious differences, we still clicked. We stuck around long enough to realize we actually had so much in common. And I found myself more interested in theater and things from their world that I previously never explored. For my friend, the same thing also occurred. What you have are two people not initially seen to work as friends, now unified by discovered commonalities and new interests. We’d met through church, too, so the initial means of unity was, well, God.

I love who I see when I think of my communities. People I once loathed, I am doing life with. It reminds me of Jesus (I told you I’m a Christian, so just bear with me because it’s applicable to everyone, religious or not). He walked among people who were criminals, prostitutes, deemed unqualified, illiterate, diseased, despised, etc. The differences didn’t matter because he saw the beauty in combining worlds. We are all uniquely created and what we bring, individually, is a small piece of a complex picture (that’s a hallmark card in the making, just wait). Jesus and those who followed him, worked so well because they were unified under one commonality: their belief in God. There is always one thing that unifies us all and under that, we all play an important role in reflecting that unity.

I love my people. I love my coworkers (yeah, I said it). I love where I’m at in life and who I get to share it with. Unity looks different to everyone, especially what actually unifies the group, but it’s a true blessing.

Today, I hope you slow down and allow yourself to reflect on your respective communities. Write them down. Identify the key factor that brings you all together and give thanks that a hodgepodge of personalities and backgrounds, could compliment one another. It’s not always going to be perfect. It’s not always going to be those you’d envisioned, but that’s what makes it so wonderful.

Here’s to the uncommon…you spice up my life.

-RN

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