Houston Housing Update

Houston Housing Update

So, I know on that last blog I went on a mini rant about my hatred for bugs. Typical dramatic girlie girl. I see blood and various body fluids & parts on a daily, but freak out at the site of bug *eye roll. However this new living situation is much better! I may see a bug every so often, but nothing compared to the multiple juicy bugs I saw in that first airbnb for those 10 days I stayed there. 

On to more important things. The other airbnb tenant on the third floor has since moved out and a new guy has taken his place whom I coincidentally met today (same as the last blog). The new guy is nice enough and probably mid 30s, we had an introductory conversation while in the kitchen. 

I told him I’m from Chicago and his response being “oooo I’m sorry.” Uhm, SIR! Excuse me?

My facial expression must’ve betrayed me probably for the 100th time today. Before I could even ask a follow up question he was laughing and elaborated he was speaking only of the cold months. I was definitely about to begin the fact check of why Chicago is the best, haha. 

Am I only the person who gets territorial of my home? It’s like when someone outside of your family tries to pick on your sibling. Only I can talk shit about them, not you an outsider! 

Anyway, I’m not sure if it’s less awkward because I’ve been renting a room for 6 months now or my social skills are just getting better. Hopefully the latter. Regardless, having roommates has not bothered me as much as I thought it would. For starters I spend 8-10 hours a day at work Monday – Friday and another 1-3 hours of the day commuting and running errands. On the weekends, if I’m not traveling or having a visitor, I am relaxing at a local coffee shop or having lunch/brunch for a table of one.

Looking back, I am admitting I was little spoiled and unrealistic about the housing situations of travel nursing. I was expecting to be staying in high rise,1 bedroom fully furnished apartments close to work for every contract for less than 1/4 my salary. I’m sure I will stumble upon some hidden gems as I continue, but renting a room will always be more favorable for my financial goals. 

People have been renting rooms for centuries, it’s not even a big deal. If I’m not mistaken, my own maternal grandmother rented a room in Chicago to save up when she first came from Jamaica. It’s convenient and temporary. No worries of switching over utilities or cable into your name, it’s usually included.

My enlightened and now positive stance on shared housing is just one example of the growth I have experienced while on this journey. Many examples to come, stay tuned! You can see photos of my current home below, courtesy of the airbnb host/original posting. 

Houston Housing

Y’all remember when I said I wouldn’t be having a roommate for my future assignments?? Well my finances and I had a conversation and they determined we would definitely be in a roommate situation. 

For  this assignment I had two different airbnbs. I rented the first location for my first week of work just in case things didn’t work out. Also because the second home wasn’t available until Sunday June 30th. 

My first room was in a mother in law suite locked and closed off from the main house and it was built more like a hotel room. It had a mini fridge, a microwave and 0 cabinet space. It was in Eado (East downtown), very convenient location, but it was next to an open field and there were some big ass bugs lingering. 

If you know me, you know my phobia for bugs runs very deep. I saw about 5 different species of bugs in the apartment, it was too much. I messaged the host frequently in the 10 days I was there, but she seemed pretty much over me. She supposedly had the complex spray the apartment, but it did not help much. 

Now there weren’t just bugs constantly crawling up the walls, but I saw at least 1-2 juicy bugs a day while I was home and they were coming from under the sink not near the window or entry ways. So it was definitely concerning to me and causing serious anxiety. I tried to stay outside as long as possible, exploring. When I came home I kept all the lights on until it was time to sleep, but not without the help of benadryl and melatonin. Ever see a bug and just start itching? That’s me! 

Best believe I shook out every single article of clothing I had before I moved into my new room. Anything that was out, I washed!

The second room I found is in a cute town home with a private bathroom in the room. The house is absolutely gorgeous! It’s 4 stories, there’s a washer/dryer and garage parking spot with full access to the kitchen. It’s about 20 minutes from my job. 

The host are a young and pretty chill couple and they are renting to at least one other person who is on a separate level (I only found this out this morning, but whatever no big deal I guess). Compared to my housing in Mass this second room is a much better experience personality wise. Everybody does their own thing and we’re in similar age groups which is very helpful. 

Not to mention, this second house is surrounded by concrete, a city girls dream! Anyway prayers for me that bugs don’t come harassing me at this new location otherwise I am never coming back to Houston or the south period. This was supposed to be my permanent residence in the long run, my escape from Illinois which is not looking bad considering we don’t gigantic bugs like the south. I am so glad I took a travel assignment first to test the waters!

Securing My 2nd Travel Assignment

What happens when everything you thought you wanted is handed to you on silver platter and you know longer want it?

At the end of April I was beyond determined to get to DC or NYC for my next contract. I stalked job openings for weeks and even signed up with my 6threcruiter (which is definitely doing thee most, but we’ll address that another time).  Some recruiters didn’t have positions in that area at this time, others just didn’t staff in the states I wanted.

Some of my recruiters started with their “realistic” speeches about how travel opportunities slow down in the summertime and I should be open to going more places. My recruiters themselves all seem like nice people, but at the end of the day they work for a bigger company. With every place of work there is always pressure from management in some form. I remained persistent on what I wanted, not what was convenient for the company.

I was sent packages for places so far from my ideal destination both in location and environment, Kentucky, Indiana and Missouri. The pay matched the area, but it did not match my goal. I’m not saying I wouldn’t go to those places one day, but I want to complete my travel assignment bucket list. The money isn’t the only motive.

I applied for NYC, DC and even Hawaii. Hawaii wasn’t on my list, but why not aim for paradise? These pay packages were meeting the standard, the shifts were perfect and I would’ve been able to expand my skill set once again; but the cost of living is so trash – the exact reason I’m over Chicago.

My biggest goal is to be debt free by 2020 or 2021, maybe then I will revisit paying an obscene amount of money for the quality apartments I want. To be honest the roommate situation is not really an option for me (see previous post). So I had to let go of my champagne taste and sit my beer budget behind down, for now.

My next assignment is in a lit city and with decent cost of living! The only downside is it’s going to be hot af.  I do not like to be outside when it’s above 85 degrees. Nonetheless, I’m so excited to announce that I’m taking my talents to Houston!! Beyonce and Megan have been on shameless replay! What a time!

Massachusetts Housing

When I told my close family and friends that I would be renting a room in an Airbnb and living with the host most of them gave me that same side eye and that uncertain “ok.” Some even called me out with a simple “JEN! Now you know this is not the living situation for you. You like your personal space!” All valid concerns!

For those who don’t know, travel nurses are given housing stipends on top of the hourly rate. The goal is to find cheaper housing options and pocket the extra money. After spending many hours on Airbnb, VRBO, corporate housing and short term lease searches, I had to face the realization that having a roommate was the best option financially for my Massachusetts contract.

I was attempting to be open, but I still had to be realistic and safe as a solo female traveler. Apparently New England has a bad rep for being racist so I had to research neighborhood demographics before I chose my living situation. I wanted to see people who look like me or at least other brown/ethnic people.

My requirements for shared housing: close to the hospital, my own room, bathroom, parking space, a female roommate and no children in the home. I love kids, but I’m not trying to live with anybody’s kids but my own (very, very far in the future). I had full access to the kitchen, but I despise cooking so I really just need a place to store my takeout and microwave it.

It seemed that I found the “perfect” private room to rent from a retired Puerto Rican woman who occasionally watches her grandkids and wanted to rent to female healthcare workers. The situation was mostly positive and convenient.

However, I did sense that she would’ve liked me to spend more time with her. She kept assuming that I wasn’t comfortable because I rarely sat in the front room or watched TV with her. There was one day she literally told me not spend time in my room after I had a rough workweek. Her tone was like when a frustrated mom tells their teenager to put their phone/game down.

I don’t know about y’all, but after a long week, I spend my first day resting and catching up on my shows blissfully aware of the fact I don’t have to work. I had to hit her with a nice, but firm no thanks! My voice was sweet, but I’m sure my face was mean mugging. I know she meant well, but my own mama doesn’t tell me what to do or how to spend my time.

This was a very minor and one time situation. However, I discovered that we had very similar personalities. So for the life of me I could not figure out why she wanted to invade my space. If anything she should’ve empathized. She could’ve won me over with a simple Peurto Rican meal in all honestly, but like me she despised cooking! Very similar like I said.

Minus a few differences, the experience was decent. Renting a room allowed me to save so much extra money especially in that area, but I don’t want to do it again. For me it was slightly awkward, for those less picky it probably won’t be a big deal.

Happy travels!

Stick To What You Want

As I’m approaching the end of my contract, my recruiters are checking in more frequently and sending potential assignments. To date the most annoying aspect of my travel nursing experience is my limited specialty, which is nobody’s fault it’s just the way it is. When I visit company sites I see 15 – 40 options available for Endoscopy Nurses, compared to the 100 plus destinations for more demanding positions like OR or PACU. The assignments are usually close to a big city or in towns in with less diversity.

With this being said, I am extremely adamant on my next assignment being in NYC (preferably Manhattan or even Brooklyn) or Washington DC. After my experience in Worcester, I am sticking to my guns traveling to big cities. I don’t want to be near the big city, I want to be in the big city. I want cities where there is diversity in the workplace. My Dad was actually the first to express concerns of racism in New England, but I still gave it a try.

On my current unit, there aren’t any nurses of color on staff. Not a one out of twenty five nurses. From what I’ve seen, none of them are prejudice and were supportive and disappointed when I had an encounter with a racist patient. This patient was obviously not used to seeing a melanated health care professional in charge of his care. This is exactly why representation matters and isn’t just specific to our younger generation.

All of my recruiters mean well, but I am so tired of repeating myself about what I want. As a result I have definitely been more blunt with my responses. One recruiter sent me a position in Massachusetts to my response being “I never want to visit New England again!” Which was harsh and required some cleaning up considering he was from the area. I even explained to another recruiter my reservations of traveling to cities with low African American population because racism still exists. I find once I connect my no to a harsh reality I am usually not bothered with assignments for that area again.

I was open to starting in Massachusetts strictly to gain travel experience; it was a sacrifice. Now I don’t have to deal with the extra pressure from recruiters suggesting smaller towns as a first assignment. When I say no, I can once again draw on my experiences to emphasize why. The only thing more irritating than explaining myself is repeating myself.

I am hoping to start my next assignment around mid June, but if my destination becomes available at hospital with a great reputation for travelers I will definitely leave early. With any thing you have to be flexible, while I’m not going to anymore “small towns” I am flexible with my start date. I still have a per diem job at home and I will be working regardless. I just don’t want that stagnant feeling to resurface while waiting for one of my dream assignments.

Purpose

This May will mark my 5 year anniversary of graduating with my BSN and this past February made 4 years of practicing as a RN. I’m still in disbelief that I am an “experienced nurse.” There’s always more to learn and it keeps me on my toes!

A major component in why I chose Nursing was the opportunities. If I want to switch specialties at any time I can. If I want to work 3 days a week or 5 days a week, I can. I can work a desk job or be with patients; work in the hospital or a clinic. Whatever my heart desires, at that time. 

First there was cardiac nursing, which I loved. Now there is Endoscopy procedure nursing, which I also love. Hopefully in the future I will pursue dermatology/cosmetics? My options are endless.

From the moment I graduated until just 6 months ago all these possibilities felt daunting and overwhelming as I was trying to find the “perfect nursing job” for me. I was stressed for years about the next stage of my career and finding my “purpose”. Creating elaborate plan after plan after plan for my career change, but it always felt like I was settling, like something was missing. I realized I was focused on societal pressure and the idea of being prestigious. I was boxing myself in; I didn’t give myself permission to dream bigger.

Looking back, I should’ve been enjoying the moment and trusting God with every ounce of my being. Needless to say, I have learned from that mistake.

Ultimately I believe purpose finds you. Sometimes it’s by taking new risk. Other times it’s by surrounding yourself with new and great people God can use to speak to you or to show you something different than your comfort zone.

I feel at peace these days because I know that every step I take I am still “walking in my purpose.” I’m simply living in the moment and trusting God. Everyday I wake up I have the choice to make a positive difference and be a better person than the day before. I no longer feel that pressure of the next step. I know what is for me is for me, “periodt”.

985 Miles

While I am in no way regretting my decision, I’ve never been over winter so much in my life. Twenty some odd years of winter has me feeling some type of way walking out the house every day. So how the hell did I end up in Massachusetts in the wintertime?

My initial reason for traveling was to end up somewhere in the south for cheaper cost of living. My second biggest reason was for new experiences, new restaurants (because I’m a foodie) and new relationships. I was so naïve. However, after seeing some of those pay packages, I was unimpressed. I needed the pay package to be worth it to uproot my seemingly stable life. I was ready to be in my travel nurse bag and maximize on this coin.

I had to look at my lifestyle and be honest with myself to change my focus. Higher pay was now my top priority as long as it would be in or near a major city. I was and am currently not open to towns with extremely low minority populations. I didn’t want to put myself in situation to be discriminated against for all this melanin.

 At the time, I didn’t have my Registered Nurse license in any other states except Illinois. To avoid delaying my travel experience, my recruiter and I agreed to exclusively submit to jobs in walk through states or states where license processing typically took less than 4 weeks. A walk through state is just how it sounds, you pay a fee for your license and you’re granted a temporary license to practice immediately.

While Massachusetts wasn’t a walk through state, it only took 3 weeks or so to get my license. I agreed to submit to two hospitals in Massachusetts, one in Boston and another 50 minutes away from Boston.

In my naïve state (yet again), I didn’t think the hospital outside of Boston would actually contact me because my hopes were set on that big city vibe, but they did the very next day after submitting. I had a brief interview with the manager and she offered me the position.

At this time I had submitted to 5-7 other hospitals nationwide without any luck. Either my start date wasn’t soon enough or I wasn’t experienced enough. Just like any other field, it is said managers are looking for nurses who already have travel nurse experience.

While it was not one of my dream cities, I am very grateful for the opportunity. Not only can say I am now an experienced traveler, but this hospital is training me in advanced GI procedures. How could I say no, especially since the pay packaged matched? It ended up being a win-win, but next winter I will be somewhere warm because “I deserveeeee” in my Mama Dee voice. 

To think my travel nurse journey started back in October with a simple suggestion from my old boss and mom. I was unfulfilled, but I wasn’t “ready” to change. Instead I complained and continued to be disappointed about my lack of results.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same fucking thing over and over again, expecting shit to change.” – The Urban Dictionary. I’m not sure who originally created this definition, but this version will do. 

To actually be in this moment is surreal! It’s easy to say your going to do something extraordinary, but it’s more difficult to be courageous and do it. There are times at work where I think to myself “Damn, I really did it” and give myself an internal pat on the back.

It has been very difficult to find the words to describe my first day. At the end of day one I was elated. I’ve heard stories about travel nurses being treated like dirt. Fortunately my new and temporary coworkers were welcoming and I received an additional orientation day than originally anticipated.

I’m currently working four 10 hours shifts and after my first full week, I was exhausted! While I knew in my mind I was traveling for work, my body must’ve thought I was traveling for leisure. Babyyyyy, I slept on and off until 1 pm that following Saturday. 

I had this idea of travel nursing that I would be “living my best life” and I would be “lit” all weekend with my new coworkers/friends. Completely unrealistic considering the first location I picked and majority of my coworkers have kids my age.

I’m not brunching it up this assignment, but I’m still living my best life. This assignment feels more like a retreat in a quiet, peaceful town in Massachusetts. There’s no doubt that my time will come when I let my ratchet side roam free.

Looking back all the hype, back and forth, indecisiveness, hesitation and the obsessive research seems so silly. I would stay up until 2am researching the “best” recruiters, the best companies, housing stories, comparing pay packages, everything travel nurse related. The truth is, it’s the same sh*t different company and hospital.

It’s really not that big of a deal now that I’m on the other side. Like, why was I even stressing?

I’m OFFICIALLY A Travel Nurse

“The comfort zone is a psychological state in which one feels familiar, safe, at ease and secure. You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Roy T Bennett

My big move is about 5 days away and I’m still in this conflicting mood. I’ve spent the last few weeks reflecting on my life, specifically my nursing career. I can’t believe I have been practicing as a nurse for 4 years now, wow. Anyway, I truly believed my most recent job was divine intervention. 

This job provided a comfort zone that I desperatelyneeded when I started in 2016. I was ready to give up on nursing and seriously considering career changes. Not only did it expose me to my Endoscopy specialty, but it also brought life long friends and two exceptional women into my life that now serve as my unofficial mentors. It gave me time to feel rejuvenated and excited about my career again.

Despite all of these great aspects, I knew at the end of summer 2018 my exit was approaching. While I have enjoyed this time in my comfort zone, I became stagnant. I knew I wasn’t living up to my full potential and my career alone wasn’t giving me enough purpose. Not to mention the intense desire to relocate out of Chicago. I needed more; I craved it, but I was unsure about which direction to go.

My mom and unofficial mentors suggested travel nursing. At first I thought they were absolutely insane and ignored their suggestions. Honestly, it just made sense. I am not 100% sure where I will settle, potentially Texas, but who knows. These temporary contracts will allow me to live and explore like a local without the serious commitment and responsibilities of moving.

I’ve done so much research and followed so many travel nurses on social media for inspiration, but that can only take me so far. No amount of knowledge can replace actual experience.  While, it’s beautiful to see other people living out their dreams, living vicariously through others is not living. No more “I wish I could do that” or “I wish that was my life.” It can and it will be my reality.

My spirit is so excited for new beginnings. I’m well aware that there will be challenges I’ve never encountered; regardless I have finally found the courage to step into the unknown. Out of all my accomplishments, this is what I am now most proud of. Taking a leap of faith and embarking on this uncertain journey.

I challenge anyone who reads this to step outside of their comfort zone in some way. Whether it’s trying new genres to binge watch on Netflix, traveling abroad, trying food from different ethnicities or a positive major life decision. DO IT. Put material things aside, what do you really have to lose?

Comfort zone

To be honest, the excitement has started to wear off and in its place this “Wtf did I just do” feeling has taken over. Why am I uprooting my entire my life (friends, family, coworkers I absolutely love and admire) for uncertainty? While there is definitely an explanation it will have to come in a later blog post.

With the big date approaching, naturally, people are asking me the same questions. Are you ready? Are you excited? Amongst other small details about housing, how I’m getting there, the facility, etc. As I prepare the numerous documents, complete competencies/modules, setting up appointments, it is beginning to feel very real yet overwhelming.

My mind is starting to race with “what ifs.” What if my assignment is canceled, what if this is a mistake? What if the housing situation is not what I thought? What if I’m floated to a different facility every day?

At the end of my response to all questions from others and myself has been: “Honestly I’m just winging it.” Which is said in a very nonchalant tone accompanied by a shoulder shrug. The amount of confused looks and side eyes has definitely been entertaining. While it sounds absolutely insane, it is my plan B. After all, adapting is just a fancy word for winging it.

In this travel nurse role, it is expected that I will “hit the ground running” the day I walk on the unit.  There will be minimal, if any orientation and hopefully a tour of the facility. I have to be open and accepting of my future circumstances, regardless of what they will be because adapting (aka winging it) is a “whole job skill” as my friend put it. 

I’ve made it this far, I owe it to myself to see it through despite the “what ifs.”

“God placed the best things in life on the other side of terror. On the other side of your maximum fear are of all the best things in life.” – Will Smith

Winging it is a job skill. It’s called adaptability