| February 21, 2018 |
[drum roll] Long-awaited “New Year” post. Ha… ha… haaaa… Kristen, it’s been 2018 for basically two months. I know, trust me. Can I say I’ve been busy? How about… tired? Can I make excuses? Nope. I won’t. Quite simply, I’ve been a lazy writer, and my creative self is very mad at procrastinating Kristen. [I forgive me.]
Honestly, I love writing these reflective posts. Not so much because you really want to hear all about my year, how much I changed, the good/bad/ugly… but because it’s so revealing to myself. I love looking back to see where I’ve been, even if some of the moments in the past were painful. It’s like looking in the rearview mirror while driving on the highway: you just kind of peer back every so often, just to be aware of what’s going on behind you. I try not to let this metaphor get too far though, because then I can justify making decisions in the present based on what’s in the “rearview.” I don’t let the past affect me. Instead, I just… let it be (thank you, Beatles). So, I guess I wouldn’t be driving on I-5 (WA!), the Southern State (NY!), or I-95 (FL!) in this instance… instead, I’d be on the Seward Highway (AK!), taking the scenic route, just kind of curious about what’s going on around me.
In all seriousness (why so serious?), life is oh-so-curious to me. I love how the unexpected often comes from within. It’s not always external circumstances that keep me guessing, but my own heart and intuition that make me go “woah!” at times.
One year ago, I returned to Washington state to work in Yakima for my second job as a Traveling Doctor of Physical Therapy. I planned to stay for three months. Then, I was off! I was going to Wyoming, Colorado, Alaska… anywhere! I was only going to be in Washington state for a short time (again).
Well, turns out, this was the second time I lied. I couldn’t leave Washington.
2017 was a big year for more self-discovery and learning opportunities in a variety of colors and flavors (oh my gosh now I’m thinking about ice cream… mmm, mint chocolate chip…).
Okay, I need to get on with this post before I take the metaphor game way too far…
2017 started off to a pretty epic start: Holidays in New York with family and friends, Wilderness First Responder course, PRK eye laser surgery… days and days with loved ones, and time with myself to reflect. Instead of running off to Hawaii or some other spontaneous, not-aligned-with-my-true-passions-and-goals place… I happily returned to Washington state! As I said in my 2017 post of emotional reveal, my second travel Physical Therapy position was right back where my passion is: pediatrics! Working with kids is certainly my calling, and I feel like I can be myself when I work with them. My energy level is quite high most of the time, and working with kids lets me be bubbly and peppy. Plus, it allows me to channel my inner creativity – making everything in rehabilitation a game. I love embracing my inner child because I think we all need to play more as adults. Having my work be play is something I never want to give up, from this day forward! It’s not only the setting, but the mindset. Fun, fun, fun!
My work in Yakima didn’t end after the planned three months (sound familiar?) – instead, it extended all the way until the first week of July – right before my plan to head to Tanzania for the second time! I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal to you (so what if I decided to stay?), but it really made a difference in many ways.
Firstly, I told family and friends on the east coast that I’d be moving on to another state soon, and they thought – oh yay, a new place to visit, or oh yay, Kristen may not be too attached to the west coast! Then, I set them up for disappointment when I kept deciding to stay. I just listened to my heart, and it was telling me I didn’t need to go anywhere. It’s hard to find that my heart has taken me so far from my family and loved ones, yet I feel they’re always a part of my journey, and for that I’m grateful.
Secondly, this revised plan went entirely against my perception of what a “travel” and “wanderlust” life would mean for me. I thought I had a gypsy soul. But, turns out, I like a little stability. I like to feel like I can progress in my career. I like to feel like the place I live holds deeper meaning than just “exploring.” I like to have a home that feels familiar – a place to come back to at night, to feel comfort and security. I like to have friendships, and not have form new ones every few months. I like to strengthen relationships, and work on maintaining those that matter most.
And, I guess, this is where a human of the opposite sex comes in. Ever see “The Fault In Our Stars?” Know how they fell in love slowly, then all at once (like how you fall asleep) or something like that? Well, I owe John Green some merit for coming up with that metaphor because, man, it’s REAL!
As I continued to embrace my time in Yakima, I embraced a developing connection with someone living on the other side of the Cascade Mountains. We’d meet on the weekends anywhere in the mountains to adventure, climb, summit peaks (I’m the worst at keeping you updated, dammit), ski (well, he snowboards… for now), rock climb, slackline (okay, I never actually slacklined – can’t stand up on the dang thing), cook ridiculously delicious dinners, do karaoke… and anything else our hearts desired. At first, he was just my climbing partner, but slowly became more – even before we knew it. It’s funny how all this happened over the course of a few months, and holy COW has it been a journey!
Every month, we hit a new milestone, a new adventure. We both went through some difficult times with the loss of a friend in May, then explored Tanzania together in August, and returned to Seattle in September for me to buckle down and find a permanent job. Why? So we can stay together and keep finding a way to balance work and play in the mountains. I’m so lucky to have someone in my life who shares the same values and vision for the future. We’re better together, Robert :).
The bottom line? It’s not that I don’t love traveling (I seriously do) or the unknown (I NEED it), but the “gypsy” life, living in temporary housing, never feeling “settled” started to get to me. I felt so grounded in Yakima, and so genuinely ready to stay somewhere. I spent my entire six months in Yakima living in one apartment. It was an Air BnB on an organic farm, next to a vineyard, overlooking the Yakima valley. It felt like my own place sometimes, because I had the entire cottage to myself. However, there’d sometimes be other Air BnB guests staying in the vacant bedroom, and I’d be reminded again of my transience. I realized how deeply I just wanted to have a place of my own again, to feel grounded all the time.
I guess I wasn’t sure what would ever feel like “home” to me. Of course, New York is always home by nature of most of my family/friends being there… but I always feel like I don’t belong there. That isn’t to say that Washington is where I truly belong, or where I ought to be forever. I guess life will keep on unfolding in this beautiful, complex way…
On another note, I’m incredibly grateful for my education. Being a Doctor of Physical Therapy is a blessing because I have full autonomy over where I work. I can be picky about what setting I work in and seek the job that best fits my goals. Though this may have taken more time that I’d liked in my recent job searches, I do believe I’ve finally landed exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’m not working in two different pediatric settings, and learning more than I could have imagined!
Washington state is filling my soul professionally and personally in so many ways, and I’m so happy to be here, right now.
Closing Thoughts on Travel Physical Therapy
I really feel that being a travel Physical Therapist was a necessary experience for me. Though I only stayed in Washington State, the flexibility and freedom I felt allowed me to decrease burnout in my career and also get real with where my true passions are. I realized how much I truly belong working in pediatrics, and how important it is to maintain meaningful relationships. I recognized that moving three times in a 6-month period is quite exhausting, and having a stable home is something my soul needs.
I highly recommend being a travel Physical Therapist if you’re feeling unsure about your career’s direction (what setting do you want to work in?), or if you feel like you want to move around. Yet, be aware that the jobs may not be as fulfilling as you wish, and there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to stay. I was quite lucky in each of my positions that I was able to extend to a 6-month contract. Some travel positions end before the 3-month contract due to staffing changes. As unpredictable and exciting as this may sound, it can also be quite stressful.
Be mindful of what your body and soul needs, and listen intently. Please feel free to reach out if you have ANY questions about traveling Physical Therapy.
I suppose it’s time we do some revisiting of the successful AND unsuccessful trips in 2017, so stay tuned for upcoming posts! I have a lot of photos to continue weeding through, and plenty more to share. I can’t wait to build on 2017’s successes and learning experiences in 2018. Every month felt like a whole new adventure, so stay tuned for…
April: Mt. St. Helens (attempt)
May: The hardest month of the year…
June: Sourdough Mountain (summit), The Brothers (summit)
July: Mt. Adams (summit), ski via SW Chutes (somewhat success)
September: build a culvert in Tanzania (success), hike around North Cascades
October: through-hike Enchantments (success)
November: Giribaldi Lake B.C.
December: rock climbing (in December?? Success.), visit Alaska