I got a job. This is a big deal. Is this the step that means I have reintegrated (in some fashion) back into my home culture? I don’t know. But I do know that this job seems like a really good fit for me and my priorities post ‘mission field’ (i.e. greater flexibility, lower stress, benefits, etc). I will have actual American benefits — 401k, medical insurance, the whole shebang.
Why am I so excited, you ask?
Well I wasn’t at all excited about getting a job when I moved back from overseas. I pretty much hated a lot of things about my home culture, mainly because I was grieving the many losses during my life overseas and the loss of my life overseas (i.e. living in Haiti).
I knew I needed a break when I returned, so I took a sabbatical and interned with a missionary care organization. During this time (more than 6 months), I gradually redefined my faith, reintegrated my values, and remade my life in a way that fit me, my home culture, and the country where I served.
I lived minimally, thanks to the graciousness of others, in order to explore my heart and my passions, focusing on me for the first time in a long time. I knew that coming back to my home country and immediately returning to a full time job in my professional career in healthcare would not be good for my soul at that time.
So I entered back into the workforce slowly. I applied for a few per diem jobs in healthcare that allowed me tons of flexibility to say yes or no to work, to travel as much as I wanted to, and work as much or as little as I wanted. Granted, with less job security and no promise of income during slow times.
While interviewing for these jobs, I had one particularly formal interview process. During the first formal phone interview I told loads of Haiti stories. Gosh, Rachel, don’t be such a weirdo! I thought to myself. I even told the story of when a woman had a baby at our medical clinic… that didn’t deliver babies.
Behavioral interviewing is the common interviewing technique in healthcare (and beyond) in the States these days. These are typically 1-3 hours long, asking specific questions that start with “Tell me about a time when…
You faced a difficult situation? (umm did you miss the part about me just living in a foreign country for a few years?.. Isn’t that enough said? Blank stares…)
You were in conflict with a coworker and how you resolved it? (umm you mean the 12 Haitian colleagues that I was supposed to lead and had no idea how to?)
You faced a seemingly impossible scenario? (umm you mean the time that we delivered a baby our medical clinic in a foreign country?)
You get the point. Behavioral interviews target storytelling from your real past to try to see how you will actually respond in stressful situations. While these interviews went well (and no, I did not give the above answers), it can be challenging to pull from previous life experiences other than the extremes of a life overseas.
It’s been almost two years since I returned from Haiti, and it’s time for me to settle into American culture just a little bit more. I’m in a new season, a new transition, a new state, a new professional license, and applying for new jobs. It was still daunting but less so this time. I made it through an entire two-hour long behavioral interview and only told one story from Haiti. I drew other stories from my previous work experience before and after Haiti.
It’s not that I want to minimize my life overseas. I loved my life overseas, and it was very complicated, as most are. I feel like my life overseas is finally more integrated into my everyday life. Not all the stories I tell involve my life in Haiti, and I don’t suppress them like they are years and stories I want to forget. It’s a natural part of conversation, but it doesn’t have to come up.
I’m excited about this job. In corporate healthcare America. I never thought these words would come out of my mouth. I love my profession. But I’ve found, through living in another culture and self-discovery, that I love a lot of other things too. I like teaching yoga and participating in missionary care. I like being in the kitchen, cooking, and making kombucha. I like writing, keeping up a blog, an email list, and I’m working on writing a book.
So I found a job that allows me to practice my profession while leaving time for me to continue to explore my other interests. I never thought it would happen.
What I want to say is that it’s possible to feel more integrated. I’m sure my story is different than yours; everyone’s is. But I got a job. And I felt confident and comfortable in the interview process. I’m hopeful and excited about this job. AND it’s not the only thing about me. I can still be a global citizen and travel (though that schedule will be a bit more limited) and practice yoga, and missionary care, and many other things.
And I can work within the limits and boxes of corporate America and reap the benefits of a steady income, health benefits, and retirement benefits.
I got a job!
Rachel K. Zimmerman is a physical therapist who spent two years working alongside a capable Haitian team to establish a community health center outside Port-au-Prince, Haiti. A self-proclaimed ‘geographically confused’ individual with a Texas license plate, an Oklahoma license, and 40 Haitian stamps in her passport, Rachel currently resides in Washington where she enjoys coffee, teaching yoga, and gasping at the majestic view of Mount Rainier. She is a recovering perfectionist, lover of cross-cultural workers, and student of trauma and healing subjects. You can read along at her blog, catch her on Facebook, or follow her on Instagram.