If you know me, you know that I have always been, & likely will always be, a perfectionist at heart. An over-achiever. A bit OCD, if you will, but not to the point of having the TRUE disorder. So it should come as no surprise to hear that I got into nursing with the goal of becoming a Nurse Practitioner. I saw it as the cheaper way to become a doctor (or rather something similar enough to a doctor) since I had a full scholarship to nursing school. And I had no problem working as an RN for several years in order to get there. Initially I thought “Ok, I’ll do 3-5 years as a bedside hospital nurse & then I’ll go back to school.” Well, five years went by & the unthinkable happened: I decided to become a mom! If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know that for many years I said I never wanted children. But somewhere around age 25 or 26 I changed my mind. Believe me when I say it wasn’t a flippant decision either. It was something that happened gradually & that I put a monumental amount of thought into- if anything TOO much thought, as I am often known to over-analyze things.
Anyway, around that same time in my life, I realized that becoming an NP just didn’t interest me that much anymore. It’s not that I didn’t/don’t think I was/am smart enough to do it- I had/have no doubt in my mind I could do it if I wanted to. Many doctors & NPs I’ve worked with over the years have told me I’d be a great NP, just as they’ve also told me I’d be a great ICU nurse- but I’ve never wanted that either, for a variety of reasons. The simple truth is I realized being an NP just wasn’t what I WANTED anymore. Now, five years later, I feel even more strongly about this issue. The longer I’ve been a nurse, the more I realize that I don’t agree with certain things that the medical system teaches/does, so being an NP would put me in way too many ethical dilemmas that I don’t want to have to face. Furthermore, as a mom of a small child, I don’t want to take call overnight & on weekends. I don’t want to come home & have a mountain of charting to do. Simply put, I don’t want a job that follows me home & dominates my life 24/7. I had enough of that experience when I briefly did nursing management & I realized that life it is NOT for me. Or at least it isn’t at this stage in my life. Obviously I can’t predict how I may feel in ten or twenty years, just as I didn’t predict I’d eventually want to become a mom (ok, deep down, I knew I’d probably change my mind on that but I fought against it for a long time, believe me).
I know plenty of women my age (& younger) who have gone back to school when they have young children, but I for one cannot even begin to fathom the stress of doing that on top of having a young child. Maybe I just find motherhood more stressful than some women do. Or maybe I just value my own happiness too much. But if there is one thing I’ve learned in a decade of nursing it’s that life is way too short to be anything but happy as much of the time as we can. As someone who struggles with anxiety & depression & OCD tendencies, the last thing I need is to overload my life with too many things going on at once. I’m in awe of those who are able to do it & seem to not just survive but actually thrive. But I know my limits. And I’m not pushing them. Plus, if nothing else, there is no age limit on when I can go back to school if I do decide to pursue that path someday. It’s not like you can’t get a master’s degree in your 40s or 50s (or older)! On the other hand, my daughter will NOT be young forever. Someday she will need me a lot less than she does now. Trust me when I say that I look forward to that more than maybe I should some days. But at the same time I refuse to give up time with her now when I know she is still very much in her formative years. To be clear, I’m not judging anyone who chooses a different path than I have. We all have different personalities & needs, as do our kids- this is just what I’ve found makes sense for ME.
As much as I love nursing, some days I actually dream about becoming a high school English (or maybe even history) teacher. I would love the chance to grapple deep subjects with young minds. But as with being an NP, there are so many things I disagree with about the modern education system. The idea of doing lesson plans makes me cringe. The idea of enforcing dress codes makes me cringe. Furthermore, I’d probably get fired for choosing books almost entirely from the various banned books lists (keep in mind the Bible is on many of those lists so it’s not as narrow of a range of books as you may think). Not to mention there is the sad fact that I’d be making considerably less money as a teacher than I do as a nurse (even working part time). And I’m not going to lie, I don’t want to take a pay cut, especially since I’d have to pay to go back to school to pursue such a career.
What I’m getting at here is that I so often find myself as odds with “the system.” I’m a great rule follower when it comes to following protocols for things like starting an IV, inserting a foley catheter, taking a BP, etc. That kind of stuff is very evidence-based, very tangible. But there are other part of our medical system that are not so evidence-based, in my opinion, but are still done because they benefit the system itself (or the various pharmaceutical companies) or they’re just “the way it’s always been done.” Anyway, on a similar token, if I were a teacher I think I’d be great at getting kids to have in depth discussions about serious life matters. But I’d probably be horrible at some of the more practical aspects of teaching, like lesson plans & grading homework.
I guess what I’m saying is there are so many things in life I think I could accomplish, but there are so many hoops I’d have to jump through, so much unnecessary red tape to battle, that I find myself for once in my life being satisfied with what some might call mediocrity. Being a part time outpatient nurse, partly because the schedule is beneficial to my husband’s career (meaning I’m more available for our daughter when he sometimes isn’t), is certainly something I would have called mediocre a decade ago. But you know what? I’m happy! I don’t mean I never feel sad or disappointed or scared or anxious. Trust me, in truth I’m naturally a bit of a melancholy person. But overall, I am very content with my life. And if that means having a bit more of a traditional role than perhaps I envisioned for myself, so be it. After all, it’s not like I’m stuck at home all day every day. It’s not like I do all the housework while my husband does none. No way! I could never stand for that, as I mentioned in my last blog post. The way I see it is I get the best of both worlds & if that means I’ve settled for mediocrity, for once in my life, I am content with that.
I’m not really sure what the point of all this was, other than to settle my own overly analytic brain. But that’s a point in & of itself, is it not? Anyway, if your life hasn’t turned out quite the way you imagined, if you’ve made different choices than you thought you would, even done things you said you’d never do, just know that you’re not alone. And as long as you’re happy with your choices, the rest of the world doesn’t matter. After all- no one else’s opinion is paying your bills or raising your children. No one else has to sleep with your conscience at night.
In conclusion, I never thought my life would lead me where it has now. Actually, maybe that’s being a bit more dramatic than is strictly necessary. But the point is, my life hasn’t followed the trajectory I would have predicted years ago, nor the trajectory many folks who knew me as a child or teenager might have predicted. But I am happy where I am, & I’m learning that the destination truly isn’t half as important as the journey along the way. I don’t say that to make excuses for bad decisions either. I say that because I’ve realized that it’s ok to change your goals, it’s ok to be something or someone different than you were in the past or than you pictured yourself becoming. If something you once thought would be mediocre (or even lame) makes you happy now, embrace it. True mediocrity, in my opinion, is refusing to be flexible, refusing to adapt to the stages of life. True mediocrity is not doing whatever makes you happiest & most fulfilled.
And based on that definition, I don’t think my life is mediocre at all.
And you never know- maybe I’ll run a book club someday & that will fulfill my fantasy of being an English/literature teacher without having to deal with “the system” & all the red tape it entails!