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Fran HansenForty-Nine and Back to School

by Fran Hansen

There I was, lined up like a soldier, sitting in one of those little classroom desks with pen poised and glasses perched on my nose. The desk, the pen, and the glasses were familiar; however, the setting seemed odd. The instructor had one thing in common with my oldest child - they were both in their early twenties. Many of my classmates sported tattoos on their arms or ankles, or piercing somewhere on their face. In fact, most of them were my youngest child's age, hovering around nineteen.

A few years ago if someone had asked me if I'd be in such a place twenty-six years after I graduated from college, I might have laughed them off. But my sheltered world in the role as wife and mother of small children was behind me. That became evident when one teacher gave us the name of Paris Hilton as one of our writing choices. I had never heard of her. After my research on "Paris the Heiress," I almost felt like an expert on the subject! I ended up with an A on the paper.

I chose graphic design for my major. Soon I was having a blast in Photoshop class, creating a tabloid in which I replaced Nicole Kidman's head with mine. And there, staring back from the paper, was a picture of me posing with Tom Cruise! I was off and running in my new career endeavor. Well, at the age of forty-nine, maybe a little slower than twenty-six years ago.

It seemed like I waited forever for my divorce to finalize. When it did, I recovered my eligibility to receive my VA benefits as a widow of my first husband. That included forty-four months of educational benefits. All three of my children left the nest within a year and I was faced with a lot of changes and what seemed like a lot of time on my hands. As a registered nurse, I already had my Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing. If the opportunity
to go back to school had come ten years ago, I would have pursued my masters or become a Nurse Practitioner. But, with the advent of the empty nest, things were different.

The field of nursing had grown discouraging to me. I've been a nurse for twenty-eight years and worked in lots of areas, from orthopedics to burn units, and from acute care to home care. Unfortunately, in today's world, service to others seems to have taken a back step to business. There's no time for the bedside manner of yesteryear and nursing has become more task-oriented with "hurry up and get it done" pressure. There are not enough nurses to go around and patients are more acutely ill. I'm not twenty-two anymore and the physical demands are taking their toll.

I decided to use my benefits before I got much older. I had always wanted to have a second career, just in case I couldn't do nursing someday. I love to write and found freelance writing to be very rewarding. When I write I know I'm doing something I love. I discovered there are abundant needs for freelance writers and graphic designers. I also found that in today's media age if people are talented and trained in more than one area, they can wed the two into a profitable career. As a nurse, I could write and design pamphlets in the realm of health care. The two complimented each other. Still, I was torn about which direction to take.

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