Two months ago I left my job as a histotechnologist. This was the start of a general life upheaval. Life upheavals aren’t always a bad thing. In my case I get to live two blocks from a beach in northern Spain for a few months and I get to miss the Maine winter. Still, I’ve left behind my home, my country, my family and my dog. My sleeping and eating habits have changed and I’m also working on a career shift in which I get to charge people to publish my writing and do this full-time. Basically, everything that I warn people to look out for as triggers for bipolar disorder, I managed to do in a three-week period.
Not getting up everyday to drive to the lab and sit at my microtome is a little disorienting. It’s more than quitting a job, it has an element of quitting a performance art as well. Yes, what we do is science, but most histotechs will tell you there’s also an element of art. You have to have rhythm and delicacy. Without them you’re just cutting up and throwing around body parts, which is gross. It takes thousands of hours to get the process just right.
I should probably do something like yoga, dance or roller derby again to get back the sensation that comes with performance art. The sense of control, flow and beauty are simultaneously relaxing and empowering. The problem right now is the language barrier issue (I’m working on it). I’m not really looking to add negative stress to my relaxation.
Yesterday we spent the afternoon with a gentleman from the psychology department at the University of the Basque Country where my husband, Jordan, is teaching for the semester. The gentleman’s research involves a good bit of immunohistochemistry and since science likes to use a lot of Latin, his English and my Spanish didn’t matter as much. We had a nice chat about immunofluorescence and I left with a sense of confidence.
That’s when I realized that I had needed a histology fix.
I was a good histotech, but I want this career change to work. I love doing the research and the writing and I think I do it well. There are the practical reasons for the change, like my health, but there’s also my desire to be able to drop everything and hop a plane to wherever I like whenever I like. It’s inspirational. You can write anywhere. I made sure. I spent hours figuring out tax laws so that I don’t screw things up with any potential employment. I’m a U.S. citizen based in the U.S. It’s cool.
Just with any life-changing event, the transition is hard. I have to learn the ins and outs of an entire industry. Again. Sure, it makes it easier that I can see the ocean from my balcony and that my husband makes it financially feasible for me to take the time to take this chance, but it’s a difficult process.
Then there’s fear.
What if I’m actually a terrible writer and no one will want my work? What if it turns out I just don’t like writing full time or what if I legit miss histology and want to go back?
You have to earn your spot on any bench, laboratories included.