Essentially my entire memorable life I have thought of myself principally as a student. Being a student is what I have always been good at. I was one of those really weird kids who actually enjoyed school & not just the part about seeing friends or playing kickball in gym class. Actually, I usually hated gym class unless I got lucky & had some good friends to suffer through it with me. But that’s a side note. I actually really liked going to class, reading my textbooks, & sometimes even writing papers. My point is I have always loved learning. It’s what inspires me & feeds my insatiable curiosity about life.
So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that since graduating from college & no longer officially being a student I often find myself feeling a bit adrift in life. Of late I see more & more of my friends going back to school including many of my nursing school classmates. When I see these things I hate to admit it but I am quite jealous for I fear that I am falling behind. After all I graduated at the top of my class in both high school & college, so I always thought I would be the first person (or one of the first I should say) to go back to school for an advanced degree. After all I went to nursing school with the sole intention of becoming an NP, preferably within five to ten years of graduating. Well, here I am two years into my nursing career & I find that the last thing I want to do right now is go back to school & that I have no idea if becoming an NP is what I actually want. Yes, bedside nursing is far from the perfect world that nursing school tries to portray, but I am pleasantly surprised to find that I really do love this career, more than I actually I anticipated I would. And I am really quite good at it! As much as I often doubt myself, deep down I know I’m a great nurse. I wouldn’t be serving as a charge nurse and a preceptor if I weren’t. I don’t want to be a bedside nurse forever but I don’t want a “desk” nursing job either, so basically I have no idea where my career is going which is both scary & refreshing. Is it even normal to think about such things at 24?
I like to think that since I am no longer an official student at any school/university, I am now a student of life. And I guess what life is teaching me right now is that life isn’t a competition, at least not with anyone other than yourself. And if in my heart I don’t feel this is the right time for me to go back to school, then it isn’t the right time. And it’s ok. Yes, I still may feel a twinge of regret when I see colleagues or friends “advancing” beyond me in their careers, but no, I do not have to wallow in guilt over feeling that way. So many people have told me “Go back to school before you have kids. Do it as soon as you can!” In so many ways I know that would be the easier path, & yet I find myself day dreaming much more often about becoming a mom than about becoming an NP. This is quite jarring for me because even as a kid I always fancied myself as more of a “career woman” who might eventually “settle down into mommyhood.” Indeed it’s only in the past year that I have started truly desiring to have children at all. And it’s still a pretty far-off wish. I know I’m not ready right now, & yet the idea of going back to school even in the next few years strikes fear in my heart. That sounds ridiculous in light of how much I really do love learning. But it’s the truth. I spent so many years of my life devoting myself so fully to school & I have no regrets over that (well, no serious ones). Thus I am inclined to wonder if perhaps my mind is just seeking a different path for a while. So I am writing this as a way of trying to make peace with myself over the idea that “just” being a student of life for a few (or maybe even a lot) more years is more than adequate.
I’m a big believer in technology & the ways that it enriches our lives. For example, one of my dearest friends lives in England & if it weren’t for the Internet we would not even know each other at all, much less communicate on an almost daily basis. But the downside to modern-day technology is that things like Facebook & Pinterest (the latter of which I refuse to join for this very reason) make it very easy for us to get caught up in comparing our lives with everyone else, everything from our hair & clothes to our homes, careers, & children. Such comparisons inevitably lead to depression, anxiety, or general dissatisfaction with our own lives. It’s the rat race on steroids. I’m not suggesting we need to forgo these technologies in order to be satisfied with our own lives. But I do have to remind myself often that the only person whose opinion of my life truly counts at the end of the day is ME. And I cannot base my life decisions on what other people are doing or what is right for them at a certain point in their life.
When I think back on all of the major decisions in my life (where to go to college, getting married, applying for & accepting jobs, buying our house, etc), I’ve always had a certain inexplicable sense of just knowing that I was making the right choice at the right time. I wish I could explain it scientifically but I can’t. With that in mind I am slowly learning to rest in the knowledge that when I’m ready to go back to school I’ll just know. And when I’m ready to become a mom I’ll just know. And it doesn’t really matter in what order those things happen for one of the greatest lessons I have learned as a student of life is this: There is no one right path for everyone. And that is what makes life so beautiful. As my Psychology 101 professor once said “Some things in life are not good or bad, better or worse. Only different.”