Saturday, February 22, 2014

So, what did you want to be when you grew up?

People often ask me, as I am halfway through a mid-life career change to nursing, if I wanted to be a nurse when I was a kid.

The answer is yes, but that's not the whole answer. Truth is, I wanted to be a ballerina, a nurse, a member of the French Resistance, a mom, a teacher, a famous detective, and a chef. Among other things. Like most kids,  what I 'wanted to be' when I 'grew up' changed often. I did think about nursing more than some things, but only because my entire concept of the profession was informed by the Cherry Ames and Sue Barton series of novels, which I devoured between 6th and 9th grades. By the time I was 18 and figuring out my major, however, you couldn't have paid me to go into a nursing program because a) math, b) science, and c) a significant 'ick factor' related to bodily fluids.

And in truth, once I was in college, and then in the working world, I didn't think again about nursing as a career until I was, oh, 39 years old. At that age, I'd just completed 6 months of treatment for breast cancer, and had been in the care of some really awesome nurses, and it occurred to me that, "hey, maybe...."

But I told myself that, no, it was too late to switch careers, and besides, I actually liked what I was already doing.

And then my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer when I was 43, and died when I was 45, and his hospice nurse was just so caring and fantastic. But still, I told myself that I wasn't a 'change careers in mid-life' sort of gal.

And then came my brief tenure in NYC. Honestly, after the first 6 months, I really didn't enjoy my time in NYC, except for one thing: my weekly gig as a hospice volunteer. And that was where it happened - where suddenly, the question of 'would nursing have been the right path for me when I got out of high school, oh well, too late now' became 'I must go back to school and get my RN.'

And so here I am. In nursing school, approximately 300 days from graduation, and loving every minute of it, even when I'm so stressed out by the course load that I'm breaking out in hives. I cannot wait to be an actual nurse. When I'm with a patient, either as a hospice volunteer or on clinicals for school, I feel like I am in 'the zone.' I feel like I am where I am supposed to be, and all is right with the world.

Do I regret not doing this sooner? No. I think perhaps I wasn't ready until that moment that I absolutely knew that I had to push forward toward this new career. But I'm so glad I didn't wait a moment longer. Not just because I'll be 50 right after I graduate, but because I cannot wait to start doing this work. This meaningful, amazing work.

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