Update on Moving back to Adelaide: do I want my old job?

Each day I wake up, take a deep breath and remember the possibility that I may move home in the next five months. My time in New Zealand is finite.

I’m still exploring my options, but today I decided to message my old boss and tell him I am considering coming home and to ask if any jobs might be opening.

I am lucky to be close with my old supervisor. He was the second in charge of my laboratory and probably the smartest and wisest person I’ve met to date. The morning after I broke up with Joel, a mere three weeks after moving to New Zealand, he messaged me. After a night of fighting, Joel and I were enduring the torturous nine hour drive from Tauranga to Wellington so I could start my new job. For most of the drive I stared out the window, bursting into tears intermittently. I had never felt so alone and was terrified to tell anyone we had broken up. But when my boss messaged me, I felt there was probably no one better to talk to about it.

After hearing me out, he said:

Do you want to give up or do you want to be a fighter? It’s going to be tough but staying will only make you stronger.

Boy am I grateful for those words.

Fast forward almost two years and here I am, stronger, smarter, more at ease with life but wondering which direction to take.

One of my old colleagues said a scientist position was supposed to be coming up, but he didn’t know when it would be advertised. He mentioned it might only be advertised internally, that maybe the girls who replaced me would get the position.

I started to feel guilty. Maybe these girls who actually want to be in this career long term should get the job? Perhaps it’s unfair if I win the position only to quit once my one-year post grad is done and move to London.

But what about me? What about all the work I’ve put into this career? I started from the bottom where I knew nothing about laboratory medicine when I got my first job. A mere year and a half later I was chosen to be part of a group of eight people to start up the brand new laboratory in the new Royal Adelaide Hospital. These girls work in the lab I helped build. They didn’t see the long hours, tears, and copious amount of stress. They weren’t there when we had to work with completely new analysers, software, equipment, phone numbers. In a brand new hospital, phoning a critical result through became a challenge. All healthcare workers were adapting. Nurses, medical officers, security staff, pharmacists. On our induction of the hospital we were told that if we took a certain elevator, we’d be fired immediately; they were for use of the AGV robots only. Stress reactors were everywhere.

No, these girls weren’t there when I ran a red light driving home late one night, completely drained of all brain function. And what have I done since leaving? Trained new staff, written new Standard Operating Procedures, created competency assessments and training material, edited our manuals and had further training in specialist areas. All while performing the complex everyday tasks of working in a diagnostic pathology laboratory. So why should I feel guilty?

But then I think, maybe taking a lower position would be easier. Maybe then I wouldn’t have to feel guilty, once again, when I quit.

When I messaged my friend to tell her I might move home to study communications and work at my old lab again she said: don’t you dare step into another field. Your experience is far too valuable to lose. But when I caught up with her in Adelaide in June, she complained about how her mental health was seriously suffering in our career, battling uphill against a company run by a state government who doesn’t understand our needs.

If I move home I seriously hope I don’t fall back into the life I moved country to escape from. Maybe things are different now?

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