There will always be rocks in the road ahead of us. They will be stumbling blocks or stepping stones; it all depends on how you use them – Friedrich Nietzsche
In 2011, I was working as a clinical counselor, happy in my career and providing a comfortable life for my family. One day, unexpectedly, I was told that my job was being eliminated due to downsizing. I had one month to find a new position. In my field, that is quite difficult. Even if I had been willing to relocate – which I wasn’t – thirty days was not enough time.
To keep my benefits and keep a roof over my kids’ heads, I stayed at the university and took a position in the genetics laboratory. A significant demotion in all respects. It was a financial blow and it also did wicked things to my self-esteem. I struggled for a long time, harboring anger and resentment and battling depression. I internalized all of that. The only person who saw the effects was my husband. Behind closed doors. Outwardly, I tried to stay as positive as possible.
I spent a lot of time treating this detour as a stumbling block. I was convinced my life and career were ruined and my education wasted. I failed to see the bigger picture. I failed to see anything beyond the moment I was in.
It took time, but I did begin to see the positives. I learned a whole new aspect of genetics about which I was short-sighted before. The lab was a supportive environment full of people who taught me and encouraged me. My coworkers were the coolest group of people that I have ever worked with. It was a fun place to work (most of the time). We had potlucks, parties, lab olympics and a devoted Walking Dead group. I made some very good friends and broke out of my shell a bit. I worked in a team but also had a lot of solo work, when I could just put in my earbuds and stay in my own headspace. What the job lacked in compensation, it made up for with flexibility. I could change my hours as needed and take vacation days more easily, allowing more time with my family. The lower stress and path of inner discovery put me in the proper mind-frame to reconnect with my love for writing. Staying at the university kept me proximal and well-aligned to take back my current position when the opportunity arose.
The four years I spent in the lab were definitely a branch in my path that I did not expect. While it was not always easy, it was a stepping stone. The lab was a soft place for me to land in my time of need. I gained knowledge there that I am using clinically now and it has made me a better counselor. I miss my old coworkers, though I do talk to them regularly since I send them specimens. On particularly hectic days, I sometimes long for the relaxed pace of the lab. I wish that I hadn’t taken so long to see the rocks for what they really were.