Just about a year ago, I was working my waitering job and started chatting with a woman who was seated at the bar having a drink and eating dinner. It turned out that she was just finishing the first year of the same two-year nursing program that I'd just found out that I'd been accepted into. She told me that she was preparing for a test students take in that program at the end of the first year; if they don't make a certain grade on that test, they must take a summer school course.
The woman, Elena, had advice for me-- primarily not to buy the overpriced book package that Beck's books and the school offered. She asked me to email her the book list and she would tell me which I needed immediately, which I did not need immediately and which I really didn't need at all. I took her advice and over the past year, she was 100% accurate.
A few weeks later, I saw Elena again in the restaurant. I asked her about the test, called the "HESI" test; she had passed, avoiding mandatory summer school.
Over the past year, I've run into Elena many times at school. And all of a sudden, I'm sitting where she was a year ago, and she's about to graduate. The last time I saw her, it reminded me of just how fast this year has gone, and how fast the second year will go. In about four weeks, she'll be done with nursing school and I'll be taking the HESI test.
On one hand, it's been a rough ride; my wife was laid off from work last June and didn't find work again until November. She was recently laid off again. Financially, we're hanging on by the skin of our teeth.
On the other hand, I have thoroughly enjoyed the nursing program in a way I had no idea I would. It's nice to be heading into a profession where your critical-thinking and people skills are appreciated, not resented. It's exciting to realize that with the profession I'm heading into, the sky is the limit-- that the learning never ends, and that you can keep moving forward and upward as long as you want.
I also realize that like my first round of college, 25 years ago, I've acquired a set of friends and allies for life. The people I met my first semester, who I learned the basics with, who I sweated tests with, worked with my first patients with, are going to be friends for life. This has become quite clear this week.
Since all the first year students have class at the same time, 9:00 am to 10:50 am on Mondays and Wednesdays, my old classmates, who were able to get Mrs. Murphy as an instructor again, stay for 10 or 15 minutes most days in the hallway kibbutzing. What they've told me this semester was distressing. There is a big divide in the class. A group that had another instructor last semester has become very openly hostile to Mrs. Murphy. The other instructor is the instructor I have this semester. While her style is definitely different from Mrs. Murphy's, I find both instructors to be excellent. In talking to my old classmates, we came to the conclusion that this is not Mrs. Murphy's problem (though it is, they tell me, definitely upsetting to her), it is the problem off the dissenting students; they've failed at a basic adult skill-- knowing that you work the hand dealt you. If they think they can find custom-fit instructors, wait until they get into the work world and discover that you don't find custom-fit bosses.
Two weeks ago, we discovered the Mrs. Murphy's husband had passed away. He had not been feeling well, and went to the hospital, where he had a fatal heart attack.
Immediately, the people who she gave so much to-- us-- huddled together to give back. My friend Bisrat, who is still in her class, organized flowers and a card. Most of the group in the picture above, including those who are no longer in her class, contributed and expressed support. To our disgust, the little group of dissenters in her class this semester refused to support her.
As my mother says, "This too shall pass."
As this first year of nursing school winds to a close, I can't help thinking of how grateful I am that I made the decision I made last year to apply to nursing school, and for how grateful I am that thusfar the first steps of the journey have been wonderful. A couple of months ago, Paul, one of my teacher friends mentioned that the principal who laid me off, precipitating my exit from education, is retiring. I laughed, thinking that it's good that this woman will finally stop inflicting herself on the education system. And I told him to tell her I said thank you-- that I'm enjoying the hell out of myself.