Twenty years ago I was 17, a senior in high school, and driving 120 miles round trip to a community college every day to take college level courses. I am from a very small farming community, and the state had a program that paid for high school students to attend college if AP programs weren’t available. Being that my graduating class had eleven people in it, it’s safe the say there weren’t many advance classes for me to take.
My introduction to college opened my eyes as it was the first time I really fell in love with learning. I felt smart. I found myself surrounded by people who were really striving to learn, to soak up the lessons, and the professors were professional and knew what they were doing. (a pretty stark contrast to the teachers and organization of my high school…)
The name of this program was “Running Start” and the idea was you could jump start your college career and enter the work force up to two years early. I loved that it was free college. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to major in, but free is free.
It’s been twenty years since then, and I’m just now on a real, set path for a career. I’ve worn many different hats since that fall way back then; I was a full time college student, worked at Disney World, lived by myself in a few different cities, backpacked through Europe one glorious summer, tried working at an office for a miserable six months, joined the airline world, got married, had kids … it’s been a full and varied life.
But even as a flight attendant I had a want to do more, to be better. My college degree is in English Literature, a major I chose out of necessity not passion. I changed majors a lot during my undergrad career, wanting to work in Hotel Management, then Nursing, then Teaching.
Ultimately I wasn’t mature enough to focus on the heavy workload of nursing, plus I was working 40+ hours a week to support myself. At the time, partying was priority over intense studying. Teaching did not pan out well, with me failing my first teaching class and just not feeling inspired or motivated by the idea of making lesson plans and unit studies for the rest of my life.
I liked reading, I was decent at writing essays, and I was on my fifth year of college, so English Lit was it!
It was about 6 years ago that I started needing more beyond the demands of flying. Being a flight attendant made me very happy, and I loved it, but I had a pull for something a little more stimulating, a little more respected. I’ll never forget a passenger I had one red eye flight, a woman who was a recent grad of an accelerated nursing course designed for college graduates with a non-science degree. She told me about the prerequisites, she told me about her experience, and she encouraged me to look into it.
I did. I signed up a few weeks later for the first of my prerequisite requirements, Statistics, and took that book with me on every layover and studied with my one son next to me every chance I could. The next year we had our daughter, but I still took an online psychology course as I took care of my expanded family. The next year another baby came around and I started taking the science courses, chemistry and the first anatomy course. It was steady progress, once course at a time.
Eventually we moved to a new state, I finished the requirements, and decided to pursue a nursing degree from the local community college. It just made better sense for me, for my family, and financially as well, since accelerated degrees are pretty expensive.
So, this all brings us to here, at this moment in my life. This fall, 20 years since my first fall enrolled in college classes, I started the nursing school. The world is completely different from that moment, and even from the world we all had last fall. I’m mostly learning remotely, and I’m learning in the same room that my kindergartener is in. She’s learning her ABCs and I’m learning about ADPIE and vital signs and Med Calculations.
This moment is one I’ve been working towards for years, and I’m excited but also terrified. The course load is immense, and I’m trying to find a way to handle the stress in a graceful way. I’m trying to stay mindful of my moods and work on not snapping at my kids or husband too much. I’m trying to remember self-care, by carving out spaces of time to work out and walk our puppy. But it’s easy to feel like I’m drowning. My amazing professor keeps encouraging us, promising it’s just 15 weeks, we’ve got this, millions of nurses have done this before … and I’m all in. I’m ready to finally get my grown up job!