A Very Different Christmas Indeed

Friday 25 December 2020

On the 22nd of December, on my way home from work, I passed through one of the busiest streets in London. Three days prior, the government imposed Tier 4 restrictions in London. This meant that non-essential shops would close. What would normally be the busiest days in Oxford Street suddenly became relatively quiet. By relatively quiet, I mean there were still a few people out and about, however much less than what it would normally be this time of the year. The people I saw no longer carrying shopping bags, instead they held their phones just taking photos of the famous Christmas lights. The Christmas carols only heard from the trikes speeding along the street. As I walked through the blue light icy arches of South Molton Street in Mayfair, I was reminded that in 3 days, it will be Christmas day. 

In the last five years, we have been spending Christmas with J's family in Newcastle. We would normally leave London on the 23rd of December, but this year, we opted to stay in London. We wanted to protect J's family and ourselves, most especially because a new variant of the Coronavirus was recently discovered, which apparently is more contagious than the previous one. We were both willing to sacrifice one Christmas away from family for more Christmases to spend with them. 

Came the 24th of December, Christmas Eve in the Philippines. I have not spent Christmas with my family since 2001. Not that it really matters as we are used to spending Christmas apart, however I also have not gone home in more than five years. This really makes it more difficult for me as my parents are getting older. I know they are only in their early 70's, but they are not healthy. They now have a few co-morbidities which have worried me more this year. The only consolation I have right now is the fact that I can speak to them everyday via messenger calls or video calls. I wish my parents were healthier, but I am still grateful that they both made it this year. This is the reason why I was so happy to see my mother joining the rest of my family during their noche buena, albeit only a short while and on a wheelchair- something that has changed in the last two months. This is just one of the little things that I am grateful for right now.

This morning as I prepared for our Christmas lunch, I thought of those children who may not have food to eat today. I was reminded of the people who lost their homes and livelihood from typhoon Ulysses. I wished I could have done more than donating my coffee money and my food allowance. But then again, every little helps. One day, I know I will be able to help more. I thought of those who lost a loved one or two during the pandemic. I thought of those who have lost and are still losing their jobs. Those who remain in the hospital, potentially fighting for their lives. I thought about those who will be spending Christmas alone. I thought of my friends who are working tirelessly to look after the sick. I wished the world was a better place.

At around midday, we had a zoom Christmas catch up with J's family. It is J's first Christmas away from his family since he was born. It felt very different not being physically with them on Christmas day. The kids have grown- it's amazing how they've changed in a span of a year. What would normally be at least four days worth of exchanging stories, sharing laughters, playing with the kids and creating new memories have been compressed into two hours.  It's a change that I am still trying to come into terms with. And this is just one of the sacrifices that we have to make to keep each other safe. 

As I write this blog, I reflect on the little things that I am grateful for this Christmas. As J would say, we are already very lucky to have a roof over our head, food on our table and clothes to wear. All the gifts that we have received this Christmas are only secondary. What matters most is the fact that although we are miles away from our families, we remain united in our hearts. For me, I was happy to see my family happy despite what we had to go through in the last two months. No fancy gifts for us, but for me, the most expensive gifts are the ones you actually feel inside your heart, not on your hands.

I know that a lot of people are spending Christmas differently this year. I hope that some people who are able to celebrate Christmas with their loved-ones realise how lucky they are. 

To those who are going through something right now, I still hope that you find happiness, no matter how little, in the spirit of Christmas. Please remember that this too shall pass, and you are not alone.


The Bittersweet Goodbye I Didn't Expect

Saturday 5 December 2020

So, on Wednesday, another chapter of my work book has ended. This one was relatively short, but I know that my job there is done. For the first time in my whole professional career as a nurse, I left a job in less than 2 years. As unusual as it is, I know that there was only so much I could do to make things work in that place. I am at a point in my life now where my time and effort is so precious that I would rather spend it in a place where I can perform my role at an optimum level. 

You see, I took the job knowing the history of the place because I knew at that time that I was the manager they needed. I knew I had a purpose and rightly, three months into my role, I was serving that purpose. I have always believed that the staff are as equally important as the patients. This is the reason why as a manager, I have always prioritised my staff's well-being. I believe that staff who are happy and healthy mentally and physically, have more ability to deliver a safe and high standard of care to our patients. This means investing time and energy on them, giving them limitless motivation and encouragement, empowering them to reach their full potential, taking time to listen to their endless complaints and issues, be it personal or work-related, giving them the respect that they deserve, making them feel valued and appreciated in every opportunity you can get, treating them equal, treating them as human beings and simply just being kind to them. I firmly believe that if I look after my staff well, then it is easier for me to implement positive changes and to maintain compliance. Saying that, I know that not everyone didn't appreciate me as a person, nor the positive changes that I wanted to bring to the work place. Oftentimes, it only takes one person to ruin the whole positive experience. In my case, there were at least three.

To be honest, I actually planned to stay until I am able to build a more  positive culture.  However, I started seeing "red flags", and hearing things that really made me very uncomfortable and unsafe in a way that I couldn't trust some people not to put me into trouble, so I made the drastic decision to leave. I realised that their values are not in line with mine. I can put up with anything at work, but when it comes to my values, this is one thing that I am not willing to compromise. I still believe that I was the right person for the job, however it was not the right environment for me to lead. 

My plan was to leave quietly as I was only there for 7 months. However, some of the staff knew better. I started receiving thoughtful gifts the week before I was due to leave. The first gifts I received were from the best nurse I've met in the ward. She also gave me a very thoughtful card and a very meaningful text that really touched me. Albeit she is not a permanent staff, I saw her dedication and her genuine intentions in ensuring that the ward is always safe for the patients and for the staff. I felt her sincerity whenever she was at work. She has patience in supporting staff and she is very good with patients. I would really love to work with her again one day.

Then I received an orchid and a bottle of champagne from someone that I truly respect. To be honest, this person is holding the place together and she deserves far more credit than what is due. She is one of the reasons why I feel sad about leaving. I wanted to help build her confidence and give her more support so that she can perform her role more effectively. I know she is more capable than what other people think. I have faith in her and I was willing to work with her closely so she can reach her full potential. I feel sorry that I had to leave her. But I hope that somehow, in that short period of time, she learned a thing or two from me.

The morning before the day I left, a bouquet of flowers was waiting for me in my office. It was from one of the most passionate nurses I have ever met in my entire nursing career. I know she gets misinterpreted sometimes, but I know that she always means well. In fact, she is one of those nurses that I would gladly have in my team. She knows what is best for the patients and for the ward, and she has no reservations in showing this or asking for what needs to be done. I truly admire her feistiness. I also hope to be able to work with her again one day.

Honestly, I have left at least four jobs in the last 20 years, and I have never felt this special on my last day at work. I guess what made it so special this time is the fact that I was only there for a short period of time. The Senior Management Team came into my office before I went home on my last day and handed me some gifts. The Hospital Director even gave a heartwarming speech. None of this I really expected. I was blessed to have worked with a senior team that is very supportive. They were always there for me when I needed some guidance. And if I were to be given a choice or a chance in the future, I would still love to work with them.

I became quite emotional during my last day because I received so many gifts not only from the permanent staff but also from bank and agency staff. But more than the gifts, it was their heartfelt messages that truly moved me. One of the bank staff even came to see me in her own time just so she could say goodbye. Words are truly not enough to express how grateful I am for these people. 

I know I have written a lot already, but I can't finish this blog without mentioning one of the most touching cards that I've ever received in my whole professional life. It was from a staff that I truly believe in. I know she has potentials, but she needs the right guidance from the right person to fully realise this. She is also one of the strongest nurses I know. I hope and pray that she gets the right support and motivation that she needs in order to progress. And so, her letter goes:

Those roses, vibrating at 320mHz, the highest frequency of all tangible things, 
are a gift for you.

Pink, to wish you a life full of grace, joy and gratitude
Orange, for enthusiasm and passion
Red, for Love, beauty and perfection

Thank you for everything you have done for us during these tough times.
You are my role model and I will never forget your advice, "work and live by example".

You have demonstrated exceptional qualities as a leader and I wish you 
all the best in your new position.

Not even for a second doubt yourself and your Light.

Of course I cried when I was reading this. She also said that she will continue to be nice to everyone from cleaners, surgeons to kitchen staff. And when I asked her why she was telling me this, she said because that's what I did, and that I was nice to everyone, so she wanted to continue this. I mean, this left me pretty speechless. I wasn't expecting such kind words. These things inspire me to become better not only as a manager, but most importantly as a person.

If I can be honest, I wasn't sure how much impact I've made in the workplace as I am not one that counts. However, I would like to believe that somehow in my own little way, I have made a difference in some people's lives. All these by doing the right things and being my authentic self.

I am sad to be leaving some people behind, at the same time I am looking forward to a new challenge in a bigger place. I believe that my 7 months tenancy in this job had a purpose and there is definitely a reason for everything that happened. I would like to believe that God is preparing me for something bigger and brighter.

The most important thing in this whole journey though is the fact that I left my job on a positive note, with so much integrity and with my dignity intact. And yes, I would like to believe that there are no bridges burned.

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