I would advise anyone approaching a birthday that makes them feel old, to rush to the nearest university and sign up to for an intense degree program. You’ll either discover that you still have it in you to learn new things, study late into the night, and find yourself daydreaming and planning how you are going to save the world or at least a few patients just like we used to do when we were 20….OR…. you’ll take one look at those 20 somethings with their quick recall, ability to party AND study, and their bodies that haven’t begun to fall apart and want to pack up your books and go home wondering what you were thinking when you decided to go to a one year nursing program.
I have been reflecting about this birthday for a while, and trying to figure out how I feel about this so called “big one.” (it’s 50, in case you didn’t know already) I have a few friends that have arrived here before me, most are way behind me, and one shares the same birthday and birthyear! (happy day to you, Glenda!) At first I rebelled; not against getting older but against how our society overvalues youth and makes fun of the old. I refused to wear makeup, I didn’t cover my gray hair, I talked about my age. I had decided I just wouldn’t give in to the youth culture. I found it is not so easy though. Every time I looked in the mirror some gray-haired woman was looking at me and she just didn’t look at all like I felt. I found myself looking at other women trying to decide if they were older than me or younger than me, were they already part of this club I was about to join, be it unwillingly? I have been in school at the local community colleges with people young enough to be my children and I have to admit that it unnerved me to be in a social culture that I couldn’t really relate to. Even though I have two teenagers, I couldn’t catch on to the lingo, I was confused by the phrases they used and the things they found funny. I felt ignored because I didn’t fit the category of “hot single babe, date material” so they didn’t talk to me. Now I am in a great nursing program with 47 other people just as excited as I am to be there and everyone talks to me, it is a great group of students.
I had dreamed that I would spend my 50th birthday at the beach, the place I like to spend all my birthdays, with my friends and my family, just having a relaxing time. Then I got into nursing school and it turned out that not only did I have to go to school on my birthday, but I had a test! I was sure I would be depressed about it, and that I would spend the day wishing I were anywhere else. But it didn’t turn out that way. I have had a huge turnaround. I changed my mind about the gray hair and had my hair highlighted. Am I succumbing to the youth culture or am I just wanting to have the outside of me look more like the inside of me feels? I don’t know. I do know that I woke up this morning, happy. I sang the whole way in to school, I wasn’t stressed about the exam, I felt relaxed. The happy, joyous feeling is coming from somewhere deeper than I have felt before, it is irrepressible. Nobody and nothing can spoil this day and maybe future days too! I am doing what I want with my life, I have renewed hope in the possibility that I can make an impact on the world. I really think it is that hope that is making me feel so good. I know that I have already done much in raising our kids, I have always said that raising the next generation of competent compassionate citizens is the best contribution anyone can make to the world. And we are doing that, our kids make us proud. But when they step out on their own, I want to continue to contribute and I really feel like nursing is a place for me to do that. So it makes me happy to be where I am, as I mark the end of my 50th trip around the sun I realize I am not sad or depressed to be getting older, I am happy to be here, grateful to be alive and able to move into the next phase of my life. I look in that mirror and it’s not a gray-haired old lady looking back at me, but it is the me I used to know, with an easy smile and eyes and heart full of hope. I vow to stop focusing on the time that is passing or the old age that is coming, but instead to revel in the moments I am experiencing right now. Is 50 over the hill? I don’t think so, what hill? No, 50 is just another step in the journey. I love my life, I am content, I am at peace.
Alhambra High School graduation. Here is Pat receiving his diploma, and it is actually in that folder because I went in to the office and paid his AP test fees today. We are all bursting with pride, he has done very well at AHS. He has been the kind of student that gets involved with classmates and faculty, he worked in leadership roles in Mock Trial as the pretrial attorney and in band as the Drum Major. This year the band got their brand new uniforms and Pat looked stunning in the white drum major garb and really got into the role of leading the band. He got to direct the band at the graduation ceremony too.
The weather was perfect for the evening, although some of the speeches were long and not too inspiring, two of the student speeches were outstanding, Mike’s and Kathleen’s.
Here is Pat with his friends (L to R) Nicole, Mike, Taylor, Pat, Michael, and Kathleen.
They all went back to the school from 10-4AM for the Grad Night party. They lock the kids in at the school and feed and entertain them. I hope he is having fun and can be sort of alert when we have our party tomorrow afternoon.
Pat will spend the summer as our own family taxi driver, ferrying Joe and Rose to their activities while I am in school. He doesn’t seem to mind being asked to do it though. Any chance to get behind the wheel.
At the end of August he will be off to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg VA to study Chemistry and Philosophy. Life doesn’t get much better, all those years raising him culminates in a moment of parental pride.
We are a couple of weeks into the program now and I am already feeling overwhelmed on many levels.
First there is the adjustment for my family. They have been used to having me available to them pretty much 24/7 so this is a drastic change to have me in class 10 hours a day and studying the rest of my waking hours. I can’t rescue them when they forget to take something to school, I can’t drive on field trips, I can’t drop in the classroom to hear their presentations, I can’t even pick them up at the end of the school day; they have to walk home or go to the after-school program. It has been the hardest for Rose, she is 11 and still wants me to be present at everything. Pat and Joe at 18 and 16, are liking the forced independence. And now that Brian is working 50 miles away, he is less available too. I am struggling with this part too, I feel guilty about being pulled away, I miss the hangout time with them. Then there are the logistics to adjust to, arranging rides (thankfully Pat has his license now) scheduling appointments for the few hours I have open, getting dinner on the table, the laundry done and the dog hair vacuumed. Even though the kids have always helped with chores, they are having to be more responsible. I know it is good for them but it is still hard. We set up a dinner schedule for the summer, each of us will make dinner one night a week during the week. We did this before and it worked pretty well. Rose is going to do all the laundry for the summer, (for pay) and Pat is going to do the schlepping of people to and from their activities. Joe is working off his new keyboard purchase by painting the remainder of the exterior of the house. Pat is also getting ready to go off to college in August so he has lots of organizing and sorting of a lifetime of possessions to do and packing.
Then there is the adjustment to the amount of work that is involved in a 1 year nursing program. We are in class many hours both lectures and labs, in a few weeks we will start clinical rotations, we have reading, homework assignments, papers, presentations, and practice to do. I took a few evenings off last week to attend Pat’s senior concert (he played a piano solo and I was so proud) and his senior awards ceremony (he received several) and Rose’s girl scout bridging ceremony and our mother daughter book club. It was worth going to all those events (I can’t give everything up) but I feel like I am already behind in the work. We have already had a test and we have another one tomorrow, they come fast and furious, thankfully I got an A on the first one!
Then the adjustment into our new role as nurses. I feel like we are being initiated into a club or society. There is new vocabulary of course, but there are also new ways of interacting with people. There is a whole socialization aspect to becoming a nurse that I hadn’t really thought about before. Also we are all feeling a little overwhelmed with the responsibility for our patients lives, especially now when we are so new to the work and are feeling pretty incompetent. Of course we are being supervised, but the reality of the seriousness and complexity of the job is beginning to dawn on us.
Well it is back to studying for tomorrow’s exam.