Everyone loves beginnings- beginnings are full of hope, excitement, and opportunity. Beginnings offer a promise of something new, often something better.

No one likes endings. Endings are tough, bittersweet or just plain sad, and final. Endings are synonymous with closure but what do you do when that closure doesn’t happen?

This is my attempt at writing my own closure to the unexpected ending of a chapter in my life. This won’t be a chapter that gets pulled as a “highlight reel” or an excerpt for the back cover if my life ever becomes a best seller. But it will be a chapter full of character development, plot twists, and cliff hangers.

The last few chapters of my life have not gone as planned. Maybe that is because I was trying to take control of the pen instead of letting the Author write? I thought I had finally found a place of belonging after my second interview in December 2020. My soon-to-be supervisor lit up with a passion for older adults equal to my own. I knew this was where I belonged, and I saw my future unfolding here.

I could write paragraphs about my journey in this place. The mountains that sprouted in front of me, the climbs, the falls, and the few times I reached the peaks, but that isn’t the story I need to tell. What’s the saying? Every good thing must come to an end? Truer words have never been spoken.

Within a year, I had been given a new supervisor, peer relationships had changed, and my voice had been silenced. I showed up every day for one reason: the older adults I had the opportunity to help. My passion and heart for this generation blinded me to the toxic culture I faced each day. It wasn’t, and isn’t, a toxic environment for everyone. But for me, I might as well have been pouring arsenic into my coffee each morning instead of my creamer.

It wasn’t until lunch with a close friend weeks after the ending, who kindly said, “You look thin,” that I realized other people could see what I had been silently watching on the scale for months. From December to February, 30 pounds lost. I was unable to eat due to the stress and toxicity I faced at work. Unhealthy, yes, but I kept pushing forward.

It wasn’t until my neurology appointment weeks after the ending that I realized another physical symptom: headaches. My neurologist reviewed my headache calendar, looking at the dates following the ending, and said, “What happened? There are no headaches.”

It wasn’t until I found this quote, and the tears fell:

“A normal happy person would never kick someone while they were down, depressed, injured, pregnant, ill, or going through something emotionally hard in their life. A toxic, controlling, narcissistic person lacks empathy and doesn’t care how their actions or words affect others.”

Just weeks before the ending, my supervisor said to me, “It’s not that I am trying to kick you while you’re down, but I kind of am.”

I would be a hypocrite if I played the victim and pretended that I was completely innocent. I know there were days that I let stress consume me, making me a chaotic coworker. I know there were days I let my depression and anxiety rule my emotions, making me a negative employee. I know there were days I let my pride take root, making me defensive to feedback.

But, overall, I showed up with my focus on the older adults under my care. I poured my soul into their well-being, and I took whatever steps necessary to be the best at my job in order to improve the care given to them. When that was no longer enough, and my personality “flaws” were too much, the ending came.

Suspended. Then, fired. Words I never expected to have written in a chapter of my life. Chapters that are filled with achievements and accomplishments because these things are how I prove my worth. How do I move forward after this chapter is marred with these words?

That’s the cliff hanger. The Author might have the next chapter figured out, but I am still waiting to find out. My confidence has been depleted and my self-worth extinguished. The toxic words feel like tattoos that I still wake up reading most mornings. I am learning how to let go, but it is a slow process.

I know that I am happier, I am healthier, and I have a peace in my soul for the first time in months. If you find yourself in a toxic situation, I hope that you will have the strength I didn’t have. I should have walked away months ago before my well-being was destroyed- don’t make the same mistake I did.