My experience is about my current dream job, incredible boss, and co-workers who feel like family. I work at Reston Hospital Center in Virginia, a hospital that has over 1200 employees of all different races and religions. Even with such a widely diverse group of people, it is a place where people can feel comfortable as they are. This is a place were people are respectful of each other’s cultures, religions, and backgrounds. I can truly say that I have a job that feels like I am with family everyday. I am very fortunate.
However, it has not always been this way for me.
After I was divorced, I reentered the work force and started working in human resources. This was about 15 years ago. I began with health care recruiting, moved to human resource specialist, then to IT recruiting and finally back to health care as a nurse recruiter. For many years I was a contract recruiter/HR specialist. As a single parent, I had time restraints so contract recruiting gave me the flexibility I needed to be with my kids when they had soccer games or appointments. But I wanted to be a nurse recruiter. I applied for many nurse recruiter positions, however, I was always rejected because I am not a nurse.
I worked as a contract recruiter and held many jobs in human resources all around the Washington DC metro area. Many of those jobs were horrid. I did not know it at the time but each difficult experience I encountered (while continuing to chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo abundantly and going to SGI meetings to get encouragement — I had to!) actually prepared me for my goal of becoming a nurse recruiter. As a result of all my contract recruiting, I was able to work in many different health care environments and gain valuable experience and training from nurses who were working in human resources as nurse recruiters. Those nurses helped me to develop and expand my skill set as recruiter and prepared me for my future role as a nurse recruiter.
About five years ago I started working at Reston Hospital Center as their nurse recruiter. My dream job.
“… SGI members often speak of ‘turning poison into medicine’ when they describe how their Buddhist practice has enabled them to transform a difficult, negative or painful situation into something positive. … The process of changing poison into medicine begins when we approach difficult experiences as an opportunity to reflect on ourselves and to strengthen and develop our courage and compassion. The more we are able to do this, the more we are able to grow in vitality and wisdom and realize a truly expansive state of life.”
Prior to working at Reston Hospital Center, I was out of work for a while. After 9/11 there were zero jobs for recruiters, mostly because there were zero jobs. Many people lost their jobs after 9/11. So I worked temp jobs — however, the money was not great. Anyway, I moved multiple times (because my rent kept going up) and to help pay the bills I had to sell some of my furniture including my most prize possession, my piano.
My piano had been with me since I was about five years old. My piano came with me wherever I moved and no matter what town I was living in. I did not feel complete without it. Needless to say, it broke my heart to have to sell it. This was such a difficult time for me and I wanted to give up many times. However, I continued to chant through these obstacles and attend SGI meetings because they were always uplifting. And during this difficult time, my children’s father was always right there to take care of the kids financially. I never, ever had to worry about money for them. He is a wonderful Dad.
I was a women’s leader then. Leadership roles in the SGI are temporary, volunteer roles. Leaders volunteer time and energy (in other words, teach people to chant, study and visit with members, and much more). Leaders not only take responsibility for themselves, but for others as well. As a leader, I visited many members’ homes, chanting and studying with them, helping them break through their obstacles. A lot of the members were much worse off then me so it was encouraging to see them chanting, praying so diligently, in spite of their circumstances. My personal faith deepened as a result of those visits and made me realize that not only was I helping them, they were helping me. Visiting members over the years has deepened my appreciation for the SGI members and deepened my sense of responsibility.
In the past, when I would get into financial trouble I would usually call my family for help. They helped me out a lot over the years, however, this time I felt like I just could not ask them again. I was tired of constantly asking for help and I am pretty sure they were tired of me too. So I decided to make do with what little money I had and suck it up. I had the feeling everything was going to be all right. I did not know how it would all work out, but I remember chanting and thinking, “this is what I need to do right now and everything will be okay.”
There were times I had little money for food and utilities. Sometimes I would chant in the dark by candlelight and without heat. And even after I started working again, the residual effects of losing my job carried on through to the next few years. My car broke down (right after I started working at Reston Hospital Center) and I could not afford to fix it so I had to take the bus for about six months. Luckily, the bus stop was right outside my door and dropped me right in front of the hospital.
“Buddhism teaches that suffering derives from karma, the causes that we ourselves have created. The Buddhist teaching of karma is one of personal responsibility. It is therefore our responsibility to transform sufferings into value-creating experiences. The Buddhist view of karma is not fixed or fatalistic — even the most deeply entrenched karmic patterns can be transformed.”
The job offer was for a full time position, not contract. I was concerned about my children’s schedules and about job flexibility. I explained my situation to my boss and she said it was not a problem. She said she understood my situation and there would be no problem accommodating me. Wow!
My financial situation has greatly improved over the past five years since I have been at Reston Hospital Center. I have purchased a reliable car and I moved to a beautiful condominium. I am able to pay my bills and even save some money. I was just appointed senior recruiter at Reston Hospital Center and elected to the board of the Washington Metro Area Healthcare Recruiters Association. WMHRA consists of health care and nurse recruiters from Maryland, DC, and Virginia. So where I was once rejected as a nurse recruiter I now sit equal with other nurse recruiters and health care professionals in the Washington DC Metro area. What a victory!
“By taking a difficult situation — illness, unemployment, bereavement, betrayal — and using it as an opportunity to deepen our sense of personal responsibility, we can gain and develop the kind of self-knowledge from which benefit flows. Buddhism teaches that self-knowledge ultimately is awareness of our own infinite potential, our capacity for inner strength, wisdom and compassion. This infinite potential is referred to as our ‘Buddha nature.’ The original meaning of the phrase ‘to turn poison into medicine’ relates to this level of self-knowledge.”
The song I was commissioned to write was for a couple named Ellen and Paul who just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Also, they both just turned 75 years old. Aww, so cute. So I dusted off an old song I had written when I first started practicing Buddhism (23 years ago), rewrote the lyrics, went into a studio (with studio singers) and recorded it. It’s called, (cause I just don’t belong …) “Without You”. It was the perfect song for them. The song was presented to them over the holidays. It was a lovely moment.
Then I found out that Paul (of Ellen and Paul) sits on the board of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra — this was the reason they wanted to give him the song. I remember that the first time I ever heard a symphony was when I was in the third grade. After that, I always had this secret dream of composing music and having it performed by a symphony orchestra. Writing this song for this couple who were married for 50 years was not only an honor and a privilege, it also reawakened that secret dream in me. What a benefit!
As a surprise, my family sent me a gift – a new piano. I cried tears of joy. I felt complete again — I was so happy I could hardly stand it! I told my family I would never be able to repay them for such an incredible gift. They just said, “Peg, we just want you to keep playing the piano and writing songs.” I cried again — this time, tears of wonder (and joy). I have THE best family.
I have been practicing this Buddhism for 23 years. I have THE best job and get to work with THE best people. PLUS, I have my piano back. And best of all, I have gained inner strength and happiness in my life — and, at the risk of sounding cliché, inner calm and peace.
However, no one is perfect and nothing stays the same. That is life. By continuing to chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and practicing Nichiren Buddhism (especially when I do not feel like it) I am able to gain that inner strength and happiness I need to advance in a positive direction, never giving up, no matter what obstacles arise and in spite of myself.
“This teaching of the possibility of profound transformation makes Buddhism a deeply optimistic philosophy. This optimism propels Buddhists as they seek to transform the negative and destructive tendencies within their lives as well as those in society and the world at large.”