Someone once told me (well, actually my cousin Jason just told me on Saturday) that I should document my journey through nursing school. Considering I’m almost done, you might say I’m a little late to the party, but you don’t know the story, unless of course you’ve been stalking me. In which case I would congratulate you for your stealthitude and I kindly ask you to stop. For everyone else, let me catch you up.
I wanted to be a nurse when I was a little girl. Typical, I know. But I am a Pisces down to the quark, and thus a creature of evolution so I changed my mind about a million more times. I also wanted to be a teacher, a ballerina, the first woman in my family to be in the army, an actress, a singer, a thoracic surgeon, a forensic psychologist, a cosmetologist, and for a moment I wanted to be a cop. In my senior year I went back to the idea of nursing and even applied to a gorgeous nursing school up in Maine. The campus was amazing, tucked in the Maine woods and right on lake Sebago. My entrance essay was Pulitzer worthy and I got accepted for the Fall of 2000, right after graduation. I felt so typical and normal, like I was good at life and it was all gonna happen for me now. Ah, the delusions of youth…
Then the panic set in, only I didn’t know it was panic at the time. I was afraid to move so far away from my family, afraid of being on my own, afraid of the idea of student loans, and terrified I would miss something awesome happening back home. And I had just come off of a senior year where I failed 2 classes because I thought naps were more important that pre-Calc or Physics. How was I going to handle alllll of that other stuff and a baccalaureate work load???
It was gut-wrenching. It felt like my whole world was about to come crashing down on top of me. I froze, but time didn’t. I deferred my admission, at first only until January when the Spring semester started and then until the following September. Then it got to a point where it just felt impossible so I declined it altogether. Thinking back about that phone call now makes my stomach hurt and my eyes a little burny. If I had a clue about anything at that point in my life, maybe I could have recognized that as the depression I would eventually acknowledge and treat. There was no reason for my reaction to life other than this unfounded anxiety, I just could not see past the end of my nose. Vicious little circle, anxiety & depression. Vicious and self-fulfilling.
[See, this is the nice thing about this free-form bloggy stuff. I’m having all these little Aha! moments. I hope you’re enjoying this and YOUR not all depressed and anxious now.]
This is when that whole working mostly fulltime and schooling mostly fulltime thing started. I went from nursing to my new-found love, pharmacy. I had started working as a technician and decided that I could totally handle going to school to earn a pharmacist’s salary. Plus I wanted to help people and all that stuff too. I was enrolled in a community college trying to get on their 2+ year-long waiting list for the RN or LPN program when I started applying to Pharmacy schools as a transfer student. I was going to transfer as junior year student after putting in my “2” years at the community college, and these schools were gonna accept me and like it. Dammit. I became obsessed with getting my way. MY way. MY dream. MY possible 6-figure salary. I had blinders on. I traded my friends, a social life, moving out, and becoming a grown-up for this academic pursuit. It was all about the salary, which school I wanted to go to, and what pharmacy I would rock at life working for.
Education became my obsession for the next 7 years. Seven years at a 2-year community college. I took all the classes. I couldn’t look for a new job because I had to deal with school. I can’t come to your party because I have to deal with school. I can’t go to that audition that my cousin set up for me for this amazing metal band that TOURS IN EUROPE AND THE U.S. BECAUSE I MIGHT GET INTO THIS AWESOME PHARMACY PROGRAM. Jesus H. Christ. What was wrong with me??? Nevermind the fact that I changed my major back and forth at least 3 times and even graduated with an associate degree in 2003. There is no other word save obsession.
And then we lost Nana.
Now my world had literally caved in on me. Of course the rest of my family suffered this loss too. My friends shared the burden of grief with us. Nana was my maternal grandmother, our matriarch and mother, no matter which generation we fell in. She sang, played piano, quilted, made clothes, cooked, yelled at us, cried with us, hugged us, bounced us, danced in the water with us. I can’t scream right now because I’m writing in our living room with my sister playing a video game, but I can assure you that in my silent typing and tapping these screams and sobs are leaking out of my pores and making my skin hurt. A great woman. A hardy Irish-German girl from New England. She was so much to so many people, but she was my Nana and I carry a crater in my chest for her.
And then we lost Camp.
I was just pissed off now. Camp is a cabin on a pond that was my family’s for 82 years and she deserves a whole blog for herself. I can’t give you a description like I did Nana because I can’t think about it that hard without heaving sobs. When I tell you I FELT homeless I am not exaggerating. I was not, nor am I now by any means, homeless. Maybe excommunicated is a better descriptive. I met God and spoke with the Moon on that pond. I mention these two losses specifically because they physically ripped my heart out of my chest and crushed it in front of my face. My paternal grandfather had also died, and although I didn’t know him very well his death lent a color and a shadow to my life that I still haven’t quite figured out. In the aftermath of that death my parents had separated. When reconciliation was being considered so was leaving the apartment we all lived in and buying a house. This was also when I was growing weary of chasing pharmacy schools, I hated my job at this gigantic retail pharmacy chain store, and I decided to leave this company I had worked at for nearly eight years. I found a new job, but I listened to break-up songs during this transition. If I was obsessed with education, I was married to that job.
I swear, I’m getting to the “HALLELUJAH I’M GONNA BE A NURSE” moment. If you made it this far, bravo for you and me! But honestly though, I wouldn’t be very good at sanctimony if I didn’t give you all this “epic struggle” back story now would I?
Trauma. Drama. All of it happening to me. I was becoming very self-centered and mean. When Camp was over it was like the road in front of me dropped away. My whole family had lost a home we had all shared for 5 generations. But so had most of America at that point. This was 2008 when life sucked for everyone. We had lost the Camp because of money. People in my family feel guilt and dole blame, but in the end there just wasn’t enough money to save it. I said goodbye to my Church standing at the water edge of a wood and metal dock in the middle of the most raucous thunderstorm I have ever experienced. I made a deal that day that either I would be struck down and die on that dock or I would figure out a way to get that peace back for me and my family.
I started to get really angry about all the unfairness I had experienced. Now my family is so much more scattered than we used to be because we literally lost our common ground, sacred ground. My cousins’ kids lost the tradition of learning to swim and dive, fish and row, and make perfectly golden marshmallows. Little treasures, little moments that fill my memory from the time I could remember that they will not have. I was robbed. They were robbed. I got this thought in my head that if I hadn’t been such a fuck-up at the end of high school, if I had gone off to Maine, I would have a salary big enough to have bought Camp back (on one of those now known bad mortgages.) This guilt became my motivation to stop letting life run me over. I wanted to get what I want for once. And for once I was ready to dig my heels in and do the goddamn work.
HALLELUJAH I’M GONNA APPLY TO NURSING SCHOOL! Aaaagain. And I did. That became my new fulltime obsession, but I was working it. I interviewed, took whatever standardized tests they wanted me to, toured the campuses like it was my job. Like a boss. And I got in, first to one program that was prestigious and expensive and then to the one I’m in now, both prestigious and affordable. I’ve minimized that moment. Please, allow me to elaborate (word count is up to 1623 now…) I was in the middle of running around, getting my shots and ordering uniforms for one school when a strange email came from the other one. It said I needed to send in my financial aid information in order to make my aid package. Huhhh? So I called to find out what exactly they meant because I had a rejection letter from that Spring. The poor girl on the other end of the phone didn’t know what she was getting herself into when she told me a spot had opened up and that the financial aid office got to me before the acceptance package had arrived. I shrieked, I cried, I laughed, she politely giggled. It was quite a moment. I had gotten my way and there was an end-goal in sight again.
I chose to make a career out of nursing for many reasons that you can glean from this post. I also chose it because I really enjoy helping people. I get the impression that a lot of people out there think of nursing school as hand maiden school. Nurses are not step-and-fetch-its to do whatever you want so you feel better. Helping people means teaching, coaching, guiding, talking, holding a hand, not talking, listening. And then there are all the nursing skills! Oh, the skills! I want to be the one who puts in your stitches because I have a feeling I can make the whole process suck a lot less for you. I want to use physics and a bed sheet to help you have that baby because I want to make sure this goes well for you and your baby. I want to teach you how to use this inhaler because I want you to be able to take a deep breath.
I don’t know what specialty I want yet, so don’t ask. I am so deeply enamoured with the field of nursing that I just want to get this degree done with and get out there, on the floor where the care is being delivered. I’m not going to save the world and it will probably take me a few years before I’m able to buy a replacement for Camp. There are so many uncertain things right now, and I don’t think 18-year-old me could handle her shit very well under the circumstances. Life is no less difficult for me now than it was back then but what’s changed is how I react to it. I still slip and panic (THAT is a blog for another day… with pictures to boot! Haha, boot. You’ll get it), I’m still occasionally mean and selfish, but I feel like me for once in my nearly 30 years. So cliché, I knooooowww. These tragedies really did give me some clarity. I really felt like I lost everything, wiping my slate clean. But what I learned is a lot about me, a lot about you, and that we are all one big cliché trying to unwind itself into normalcy. Only nothing is normal, no one is normal. We are just simple people who want other people to understand the story, a little sympathy for the “why” behind whatever moment of their life you meet them in.