In exactly six weeks, my registration with the Nurses and Midwives Board of NSW expires. It's been almost a year since I did my last shift, and I am no longer in the employ of any of the fine health-provision facilities whose halls I once strode. I've handed in my ID tags, my sensible shoes and all the pairs of surgical scissors I borrowed from the treatment room over the years. I've forgotten how to read an ECG, I couldn't cannulate a garden hose with a power drill, and I giggle when I hear someone use the word "infarct". So I'm not a registered nurse any more. Except that I am. While ever I am still RN11***09, I can hypothetically bail this writing caper and seek re-employment in the children's ward or emergency department of my choice.
My wife has made it very clear that even if I did need to seek other employment, she would fight tooth and nail to prevent me going back to the life of an under-paid, over-worked, under-valued shift-working registered nurse. Because it made me a far less pleasant person to be married, she tells me. To which I nod, and say, "Never mind being married to it – living it was bad enough."
I became a full-time writer quite some time ago. That is to say, I stopped being a registered nurse who liked to write, and who had a couple of published books to his name, and became a writer who occasionally worked a casual shift in an emergency department. Something changed in the way I approached my writing. I guess the short version is, I became more professional about it. It felt good.
So now I sit here, with my Renewal of Registration form on my desk before me, and I'm not going to renew it. I'm not. And it's not just the $95. In fact, that's not it at all. This is a symbolic thing. Once I drop that form into the recycling, I'm on my own. I'm a writer, and only a writer. And it feels great.