New beginnings at the end of the road

Recently, I was moved by the successful start of a very special persons nursing career. In the short time working with her, I hope Laken was able to learn as much from me as I did from her. I always tell students that I enjoy them shadowing me because I remember the mental conflicts I often had as a nursing student, not just in applying the psychomotor skills we learn in lab, but also in the behind the scenes practical logic that they dont teach you in a class room, learning answers to questions you never thought of, and the confidence to know the right kind of short cuts, and when you should take them. I’ve been a personal cheerleader for Laken this summer, encouraging her self esteem and confidence with the best guidance, constructive criticism and positive support I knew how to offer. Now my baby bird has passed her boards, and about to start her first job as an RN, a real nurse. And it would not be beyond reason for her to have her own reservations and anxieties, being nervous about moving into this phase of her life and career. But she knows well that, as her mentor, I will always be a source of encouragement and support in her times of doubt. I have heard myself say many times “dont be scared, you are going to be great.” Strangely, this is encouragement that I have not only been giving, but receiving more and more myself recently. As my own impending graduation date grows frightfully close, I have found my own fears and reservations becoming more apparent in my plans leading up to, and after December 15 2012. The question crosses my path far too often; “where are you going to go after you graduate?” My generic response  is “I just want to graduate.” But as we move at high speed to that sanctioned date, I’m starting to find myself feeling it becoming less of an exciting milestone, and more of a sobering obligation. In undergrad, I used to say “for high school graduation you say ‘congratulations’; For college graduations, you say ‘my condolences'”. Without a doubt college is the best 4 years of our lives, you are a college kid, not a “real grown up.” Who would want that to end? For some, we continue on to grad school, telling ourselves that we are determined and ambitious, advancing our degrees and our education to improve our careers and professional opportunities. I dont doubt that this is the primary intention for everyone that goes straight into grad school. But recently, I have noticed additional characteristics that make me feel sadness over graduating. Its not so much a fear of the unknown, about not passing my boards or not getting a job (well yes, these are some fears), but it is also a fear of losing a part of my identity. I have always been a student, and the last 6 and a half years especially, I have been consistent, eager, and hardworking towards my degrees. I have learned ways to use my brain to learn in ways I never imagined. In grad school, studying often became a hobby (as evidenced by this blog). Its not that I believe that graduating is going to stop me from learning. I learn something new everyday, through academics or otherwise. But being a student was like having a security blanket from reality. A sort of limbo excusing you from the realities of life. Getting married, having kids, settling down, finding a permanent job, etc. (not that these things are something people dont do as students). But being a student, particularly going directly into grad school gives sort of an excuse to delay some of pressures of real life. There is always a goal, an objective, a reason to wait until after graduation to think of these things. After spending so much time and effort investing in this goal, how do you proceed once you have achieved it? Sure, getting my masters is by no means the end of the road for nursing. We had a great assignment for class where we describe where we see ourselves in 1, 5, 10, 20 years; the typical pregraduation assignment. I started with typical ambitious responses, but then it started beginning alot more sobering than I anticipated. There are so many paths to choose: DNP? PhD? Practice? Research? Legislation? With so many possibles, it is overwhelming to think of starting over with a new set of lifetime goals. Until now, my immediate goals of graduating allowed me to put these ideas off while I focused on the first step. But the pressure is on. Whats next? And my answer is not just to avoid further overwhelming discussion about my future, but Im also tring to convince my self that “I just want to graduate.”

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