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
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
It seemed like I waited forever for my divorce to finalize.
When it did, I recovered my eligibility to receive my
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
The field of nursing had grown discouraging
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.