Career Path Leads Back to School
When I finished school I worked as a waitress for two
years in a job I hated.
Desperate to make a living wage, I started doing clerical
work for a temp agency. Apparently, typing 25 words
a minute and being able to turn on a computer were marketable
skills, and I eventually worked my way up to being a
secretary in the engineering department of my alma mater.
Though more financially stable, I was still asking my
college-days question: What do I want to do with my
best, I disliked clerical work, and often I hated it.
I bought books with titles like
How to Succeed Without a Career Path and I
Could Do Anything, If Only I Knew What it Was. At
25 years old, I was still searching, still asking, and
still agonizing. I longed for more, but I had no idea
what I wanted.
One day a co-worker of mine brought to work an ad for
EMT training she clipped from the newspaper. I had rambled
endlessly to anyone who stood still long enough about
my search for a calling and any ideas that came to mind,
and being an EMT was one of those ideas. I called the
number listed and got the details. The class was three
nights a week for three months and cost $400. I signed
up immediately, hopeful that this would be the start
of a true profession.
I was 27 years old and terrified to enter a class full
of strangers. The setting, a new volunteer fire station
whose classroom was not even completed yet, was not
intimidating, and neither were the people, but I had
never really advanced past the awkward teenage years,
where I felt conspicuous and out of place. However by
the end of the first night I was ecstatic. I loved the
subject matter, which was mostly medical, and loved
the instructor, who was intelligent and funny. The other
students were fun and forgiving, and I never felt out
of place with them. I sat beside a girl who would become
my best friend, and the entire class bonded within two
I looked forward to every class for the entire three
months. I studied constantly on our days off and made
the highest scores, something my classmates applauded.
I couldnt wait to work on an ambulance and respond
to emergencies. My flair for the dramatic found a new
focus. I passed the state board exam and went to work
in a small, bordering county for a service that saw
relatively little action. My enthusiasm waned once I
was out of the classroom and began to realize that an
EMT mostly drives the ambulance and helps lift up the
stretcher. The shifts were 24 hours on duty then 48
hours off, but due to the size of the town and the low
number of runs, most nights I spent on duty were restful
and I left with two full days off. Boredom and the $5.70
per hour wage drove me to moonlight. I decided to be
a nursing assistant at the university hospital, and
my EMT status earned me a position in the emergency
department, making a whopping $8.00 per hour. After
my usual panic over trying anything new, I fell in love
with the job, and left EMS for good. I became a full-time
nursing assistant, earning less than I did as a secretary
two years earlier.
Eventually the job grew tiresome, as had every job I
had ever worked. I felt the usual need for fulfillment
return. I longed again for something else, but my longing
this time seemed more focused. That is when my ever-reliable
car broke down twice, and I finally had an epiphany.
I knew that I could not continue making $8.00 an hour,
and decided, at the age of 29, to go back to school
and get a nursing degree.
Now I am 33 years old. I have worked as an RN for
two years, and I actually feel as if I belong in the
profession, so much so that I wonder how I overlooked
it all those years ago. But I know the answer - it wasnt
right for me when I was 18 or 21. As much as I wish
that I had started this path a long time ago and not
wasted so many years, I have to keep reminding
myself that some of us are just late bloomers. What
we have to remember is there is always hope - there
is no such thing as too late. In fact, there
are advantages to finding yourself later in life.
Becoming a nurse at the age of 30 gave me the benefit
of patience that only comes with age, combined with
freshness that diminishes after many years of nursing.
Also, when the job gets difficult and I hear the much
younger nurses complaining that they would rather flip
burgers for minimum wage than do our job, I feel blessed
to know how lucky we are, and how good we have it. Some
things are worth waiting for.
Jamie Enoch is a native of Kentucky who recently moved
to Alabama with her fiancé. She works as a registered
nurse in a university hospital, and in her spare time
enjoys reading, writing, and traveling.
See also Choosing
a Major and A
Online Nursing Degree Programs.