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Unexpected Gems in Charm City

I had a lot of expectations coming into the year. I got my position here in Baltimore pre-pandemic and I had a few blissful days of dreaming before COVID regulations set in. I expected to be exploring Baltimore’s attractions and having a community of four in the house to learn and grow from. I was expecting to be in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) position in the hospital and learning how to be a nurse for the first time. 

None of that happened, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Because most of COVID restrictions, my community member and I have become walking tourists of our area. We have learned to find the peace and wonder in the ability to take in the sites of the city. We don’t expect for the city to wow us in big ways, instead we find the small pockets of peace the city has to offer. A brightly painted bridge, a museum corridor, our favorite Aldi, finding the best local boba tea have all become my favorite parts of Baltimore.

Instead of the NICU, I started my nursing career on the front lines. I swabbed roughly 2,000 noses and screened hundreds of people at the front doors of the Mercy Medical Center. I settled patients’ nerves by promising them I wouldn’t hit their brains and it would be over in less than 10 seconds. I surrounded myself in plastic gowns, face shields, N95 masks, and a smile that they couldn’t see but hopefully they could feel. 

Then I moved onto the Mother/Baby Unit to help new mothers and babies recover from labor. I got the hang of swaddling and changing diapers before babies could start crying. I look to calm nervous parents that just want what is best for their baby. I’ve learned the best part of the job is being able to send moms and babies home to continue their journey together.

And best of all, being in a community of two means that every grocery trip, meal shared, and movie watched is community time spent together. Spirituality nights look like actively engaged in conversations regarding spirituality, racism, sexism, and disability ministry. Unpacking a day of work with my community member and hearing of her own experience is what I look forward to most after a long day. 

So, expectations and reality look a lot different. I never really know what the next hidden gem we will find, or impactful conversation will hold. Instead, it’s the small and unexpected things that have been the most impactful part my experience in Baltimore.

Emily Pachan: Baltimore, Maryland

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