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Career Path Leads Back to School

(Continued from 1)

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 life? At 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 weeks.

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 couldn’t 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 wasn’t 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 Major Lesson.

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