i can't believe it happened.
i've graduated. i've accepted a job. two major milestones in my nursing journey, checked off my list. it's taken me years to get here, but i can now say i wouldn't trade the process for anything. the process is what shaped me, primed me for success.
to reflect on my whole journey, i have to think back to my high school self. i've grown from a chronic daydreamer, riddled with unidentified anxiety, longing for the quickest escape route. i didn't believe i had what it would take to accomplish a college degree. not that i at all wanted one (i believed i would 'beat the system'). i had grown receiving praise for how smart i was, how skinny i was, without even trying; i never did homework outside of school and i ate like crap. i was being conditioned that i was admirable because i possessed these "successes" naturally. i came to believe that an accomplishment had all its due admiration and glamour sucked from it in direct proportion to how hard a person had to work for it. i suffered. i so badly wanted to achieve; but resented the words 'over achiever.' i became a classic case of wasted potential.
thankfully, i eventually did decide college was a viable option. unfortunately, i still didn't know what i wanted to be when i grew up. i also mistakenly thought i must choose only one thing to be when i grew up. i made the wrong choice. i made a choice that required me to work against my personality, pitting my weaknesses against my weaknesses. pursuing a degree in the arts was one of the worst things i've done for my mental health. i was lacking in the things my type a personality so sorely needed, largely because i resented my type a need to put in effort and expected myself to achieve more with less effort.
i took a step back from school. i was failing. i was grappling with despairs i didn't have names for. i took inventory of what i knew i wanted, knew about myself. it wasn't much.
i determined i wanted to continue working with children, as i had my entire life.
still, i knew i did not want to pursue my childhood interest of becoming a teacher; it didn't pay enough, there was little room for growth, and a teaching degree would leave me with one and one option only for a career.
so flexibility, then, and growth, were conditions i needed.
i knew from the loosey goosey, subjective nature of the design degree i had pursued, that i also craved clear direction, a definitive path.
these were the only terms i came up with to guide my new life direction. i knew i needed to go slow in my decision making this time. i had wasted enough time. i needed something permanent. i needed to finish something, for once in my life.
i remember many conversations during those months of indecisiveness and uncertainty. conversations tossing out career ideas on car rides with my dad, making up majors in conversations where i was put on the spot regarding my future, exploring how various career paths felt in my mouth.
i remember clearly the defining conversation of my career. it was a simple, casual exchange. one of my brother's friends was over. he had been a childhood family friend, really. he knew of my decision to quit my degree. he had just finished his lpn, and suggested it to me, too. i shrugged him off at first. i had never been one to study hard. didn't blood and gore make me queasy? the career sounded dead-ended. i wanted to work with children, and i wanted room to continue pursuing my creative passions. i didn't know how much i did't know. he opened my eyes, describing to me just how much freedom and flexibility there is in the career; that i could even specialize in pediatrics! he told me many nurses work 12 hour shifts, 3 days a week, leaving plenty of room to pursue other life interests. i was intrigued, but still not sold. i was pretty sure blood made me queasy. i talked to my brother about this option a few days later, said that i was considering it. he suggested to me i get my cna, put my toe in the water of nursing, and decide then. it was a low-stakes method to determine if it was a career for me. i had no idea what a cna was at the time, but i had become intoxicated by the idea of this magical, 3 day work week, child-inclusive career, so i enrolled myself in a local cna course. spoiler alert: i fell in love with the art of nursing, and that was that.
well, not quite. that was in summer of 2014: i still had a long road ahead of me. i threw myself into my cna course. i sat in the basement of a church for many long hours several times a week while working full-time, and attended clinical at one very small, horrible nursing home in the middle of nowhere one weekend. i was so nervous and felt so awkward around the residents, i went my whole clinical rotation without providing any care to a single one (don't tell my instructors). despite that, i was over the moon. i was incredibly excited. i slept in my first pair of scrubs the night i got them. the day after completing my rotation, i dressed up, and marched myself into the executive's office of a rehabilitation facility near me. i walked out of that office with a job. i hadn't even taken my state certification yet. but i had a purpose. i had clearly defined goals, tasks to complete. i was going to be a nurse. i couldn't wait to be a nurse.
i continued to nanny during the day, working additional full-time hours on the evening shift as a fresh cna. i had one full day off every other week. i was the happiest i'd ever been; but also the emptiest. i still had yet to fully understand and give in to myself; to put the names depression and anxiety to my emptiness and periodic paralysis. but i was at the ripe age of 21 making more money than i'd ever seen before, going out nights i had worked a full 16 hour day, and do it all again the next. i was obsessed. until i realized i had put myself in a hamster wheel at full speed. i had become stagnant. i was not pursuing my goals. i was making money, yes. but i realized, in the middle of a summer day, changing between jobs in my room, that there were no short cuts in life. i had to start back to school, and i had a lot of work to do first. the thought almost broke me. i became so angry with myself. i used it to fuel me.
i picked a nursing program and made my plan to finish my prerequisites. i printed off checklists, emailed directors. discovered it would take me 3 semesters; longer than i had to apply for my choice program, with my friends. i was devastated. i wanted this, now. again, i reflected on my revelation: there were no short cuts. i wanted to know more, to do more, to continue making money. i took up a cma course, got a new job passing medications, and worked evenings in a preschool; making 13 hour days while enrolled in online classes. eventually, my body gave out. i could not keep up my pace of working myself into the ground. i transitioned into full time hours as a preschool teacher, and left my job passing meds, choosing the less stressful of the jobs as i focused on finishing my classes outside of work.
9 months later, i was finishing my classes, and the application date for my nursing program was approaching. around this time i discovered i was just beginning a separate 9 month journey.
as overwhelming as that sounds, even to me, now, there was no decision for me to make. it was an easy, clear answer. how could being both a mother and student full-time differ so much from holding 2 full-time jobs in between sleepless nights? i felt as if suddenly my journey made sense. i felt as if i had been preparing myself for this. despite the fear and uncertainty and moments of pure panic that were to follow in the coming months, i knew there was only one thing to be done. and i am at last so proud to say, i did it.
this past year has been the best, most defining year of my life. i have been dreaming this dream for so long now. i have made the most incredible friendships. i met someone who meets me where i am, challenges me, and helps me not to take life so seriously. i've learned so much about myself, defining and redefining myself. i've forgiven myself and others, let go of things that needed so badly to be let go. but if there's anything i've learned this past year, it's that the best part of goals is in the getting there. i've learned to be comfortable in the becoming, and less uncomfortable in not being who, what, and where i would like to be just yet. because there is no moment, no version of myself, outside of this moment; and this moment is all that can make me into what i yearn to be.
i have been joking that with the close of school, i am going to tailspin in to an identity crisis. school has given me such a definite purpose these past ten months, and really in the years leading up to now. between becoming a new mom and being determined to succeed in my program at the same time, my daily tasks and goals were so clearly defined. i did not have time to consider much else. the pride of doing both has been so grounding, that i've feared without it, i might find that i crash without such clearly defined direction.
my solution, in the wise words of flynn rider: i get to dream a new dream.