16/52 – Adversity&Determination

If the road is easy, chances are you’re going to wrong way. – Terry Goodkind

The road I’m currently on certainly isn’t an easy one. I feel like I keep stumbling over my own feet and walking right into spider webs. And I forgot to bring snacks!

Last Friday morning, I signed into my health insurance portal with the intent of making a payment to bring my account up to speed,  because I’d fallen a month behind. Once I signed in; however, I was greeted with a little message stating that I could not make an online payment due to a change in my account status. Well, that was unexpected. I did some snooping around in my account and discovered that my coverage was canceled as of March 31st of this year. Erm . . . what?

Immediately, I checked my bank history and saw the payments I’d been making.

Dismayed, I called the customer service number only to be told that the office wasn’t open until nine. Okay, that’s the same time I start work, but I’ll just take a long lunch and get this issue sorted out and my health insurance reinstated, because I can prove I’ve been making the payments, despite being a month behind. There’s such a thing as grace.

Lunch time, call in, speak to a very nice young man who places me on a brief hold and returns sounding genuinely sorry for me. “I’m sorry, ma’am. The cancellation wasn’t in error. You haven’t made the minimum required monthly payments at all this year.” He explained that I’d been paying roughly $90 a month, which was my bill amount last year, but my minimum payment had increased to roughly $91 at the start of the year.

I have no idea how I didn’t know that. I explained to him that I never received notice of paying the wrong amount and always just got emailed receipts that thanked me for paying. He couldn’t do anything else, though, except let me know that my $90 from April and May would be sent back to me via check within the next ten business days. He also transferred me to a not-so-nice woman who put in a ticket for a special enrollment period for me in an attempt to get it reinstated on the basis of my confusion over the total due. It will be thirty days before I know the outcome of that.

My first instinct was just to call it quits and curl into a little ball of self pity.

But I took a deep breath and took a step back and asked myself . . . what can I do?

Not in a sarcastic way, not in a self-defeating way, not as a throwaway, but really.

And I came up with a few options. All of which were better than nothing. I actually made a plan of action. Determined how I was going to handle this situation now that I was in it, instead of spending time dwelling on the problem itself. I looked for the solution.

First, I’m going to deposit the refunded money into my savings account. I’m going to add to that the amount that I’d planned to pay when I originally signed in. In thirty days, if my health insurance does not get reinstated, I will continue to deposit the $90 dollars I would have put towards it into my savings account, instead. I will not let it turn into Starbucks coffees or Redbox movie rentals or day trips to Daytona. I’ll have about $810 in savings at the end of the year, from putting my “health insurance” bill into it.

If my hasty research into the matter is correct, then that will be more than I need to cover the tax penalty I would be charged for not having insurance for nine months. If, that is, I actually get charged the tax penalty, which I may not. My income has dropped drastically, since I started school. I may qualify for hardship status. In either case – fine or no fine – I am prepared for the situation. If I don’t get fined, then I’ll be starting the new year with more in savings than I’ve ever had.

  • I won’t continue to pay my health insurance bill into my saving account after December, even though taxes are filed later than that, because I’ll get insurance again during open enrollment at the end of the year.

The true downside, of course, is that I won’t have health insurance during the next six months, if it doesn’t get reinstated. That sucks, for a couple of reasons. I have asthma and keep an emergency inhaler on hand for . . . well . . . emergencies. I have about a third of my current one left, which will last me – maybe – the next three months or so. I also; however, have two daily use inhalers saved from when I went to the doctor and he prescribed them. I don’t like taking them, which I know isn’t good, but if I do start taking them as I’m supposed to, they should be enough to keep my lungs and bronchi in good shape for the next three months, which saves my emergency inhaler for the last three months. I also have access to a nebulizer and albuterol, if needed.

I won’t die, essentially, from not having health insurance. Indeed, from the age of eighteen to twenty-four I did not have health insurance. I managed. Not always comfortably, but always adequately.

The other downside, the one I’m really upset about, is that if the insurance isn’t reinstated at the end of thirty days, I will have to confess to Him that I messed up and lost it. He isn’t going to be happy, because he will be concerned for my health. I will, at least, have a plan to present to him. I think he will appreciate that and the fact that I was able to think things through and not just freak out.

A few months ago, this situation would have derailed me for weeks. There would have been tears and panic and eventually acceptance, but no real solution formed. Now, I can deal with this bear in the middle of the road without losing my head. I’ll skirt around it and be more vigilant in the future. I won’t get eaten by it.

Adversity is defined as difficulties or misfortune. Determine is a firmness of purpose, or resolve. I may face other adversity during the next six months as I continue along my Road to Elsewhere, but I am determined that I will make it to the end of the road.

At which time, I’m sure there will be other roads to explore.

15/52 – Pulse Check

“You know, the downward spiral is essentially a chain reaction.” – Jacob, from Ink

I can’t really grasp that it’s been three months since the last time I posted, but somehow or other that’s the amount of time that has slipped past. School, work, sleep, repeat.

It’s the first week of my two week break from college, but all that means is that I actually get to work 40 hours for the next two weeks. Which is great, really, though I’m daydreaming of a proper vacation. Disney, the Bahamas, New York City . . . away.

Things are more or less the same as they have been. Same friends, same anxieties, same dysfunctional family dynamic that always seems to work out in the end. I ended last quarter with an A and two B’s, which I’m okay with. I’m a little more nervous about this upcoming quarter. Nursing II and Maternal/Newborn are my only classes, but they each also have a clinical and lab component. I’ll be at the campus two full, eight-hour days during the first week. I’m fine with that, as long as it gives me a chance to get organized.

I’ve been thinking more about six months from now, when I graduate, but I need to remember that I still have a million and one little steps to take before I reach that point.

One of my many goals for these two weeks off include getting a schedule nailed down for this, my sadly neglected blog. I enjoy writing, as much as I enjoy reading, but I’ve gotten so caught up in school that the only of either I manage is related to . . . . well, school.

I also want to finish my competency Humanities course (which consists of three papers).

And it would be great if I could get around to deep cleaning the apartment . . .

12/52 –

All I wanted was a set of index cards with lines on both sides. That’s it. I’d even have been happy with wide-ruled ones. I just wanted to make pretty flashcards with witch to study for my upcoming pharmacology final exam.

But, alas, such things as index cards with lines on both sides don’t seem to exit. Not at Wal-Mart, or the Dollar Tree, or even Staples – that shining beacon of office supplies.

Unfortunately, while I’d accept defeat after going to Wal-Mart, my SO had not. It was starting to rain and we were in the Mustang with the leaks, but he wanted to make the effort to stop at Staples. I tried to bite my tongue. I’d already wasted more than an hour hunting for index cards that don’t exit. I wanted to give up and go home and study some other way, but my SO was convinced somewhere would have them.

Well, somewhere might, but not Staples. He had to ask an associate, to make sure. The associate nodded, somewhat sagely, and said, “Yeah. I haven’t seen those double-sided cards in like ten years. Must not have been too popular.”

Of course not. Why would I have the sense to want something that was popular?

The associate also; however, directed my SO to the computer system where he could search the 1.3 million products on the Staples website . . . something that I’d already done on my phone while they were talking.

I bit my tongue harder and followed my SO to the computer. I lost it, a little, when he started typing at what felt like snail’s pace. “Do you want me to do that?”

He said, “No. I want you to calm down.”

I lost it, a little more, “I just want to go home. They don’t have them. I already pulled it up. Even if they did, they wouldn’t ship here by tomorrow and they’d want ten dollars.”

He threw up his hands, started stalking towards the entrance . . . which you can’t use as an exit. I didn’t follow, waiting for him to realize the mistake. He did and came stalking back, toward the actual exit. He was angry and I was suddenly depressed, on top of being miserable from not being able to find the cards and from being so congested that I couldn’t breath through my nose.

Outside, I trailed after him. “I’m not trying to piss you off. If you’d just listen for a minute, you’d get what I’m trying to tell you. I -”

“Well, you’re doing a great job of it.” He cut me off, having only listened to the first part of what I said.

Instantly, the depression turned from something nebulous to something heavy in my chest. Two minutes later, at home, he started to pull up front and I pointed out, “Don’t you want to park in the garage?”

He said nothing, put it in park, handed me the house keys. I took them automatically, but must have looked as confused as I felt, because he said, “I told you! I have to park in the garage!” He rolled his eyes and I just sat there and blinked.

“You didn’t listen to what I just said, did you? I said, ‘Don’t we need to park in the garage?’ You didn’t say anything back. I was going to walk up with you.” I tried to keep the hurt from getting into my voice, but I didn’t totally manage it.

“No,” he said, sounding even more exasperated. “Walk up with me, if you want. I don’t care.” He waited, staring ahead.

No point in walking with him. No point in trying to communicate, right then.

The second I stepped foot inside, the tears started. I didn’t try to stop them, like I usually do. I’m just too tired. I let them come and folded over the bed and bawled for about two minutes. Dried my eyes, splashed water on my face. Came into the living room as he did.

“What?” He demanded, as soon as he saw me.

“What, ‘what?'” I muttered.

“You’ve got that sad look on your face,” he grumbled, passing me and heading to the bedroom. Annoyed by the display of feelings that I hadn’t quite concealed.

No more words. Just sitting on the couch. A run through my notes. The ones I’d wanted to turn into pretty flashcards. Oh, well. Now I just want to get rid of this ache.

Fifteen minutes pass. My phone rings. Someone or other wanting money that I don’t have.

“Who is it?” He asks.

“No one. A fundraiser thing.”

“Oh. Why do you still look sad?”

“Because I am still sad. I didn’t mean to make you angry.” There’s no point in saying anything else, right now. It doesn’t matter. People have arguments. We’re both stressed out and taking it out on each other when we shouldn’t be. It happens. Life moves on.

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Last night, laying in bed, I asked, “Yours?”

“Of course, mine,” he said. “Why do you always worry?”

I didn’t say anything else. I could have. I could’ve explained that I worry, because I don’t really feel that I’m lovable.  I could’ve recounted that, when I was eleven, my dad and I had an argument that culminated in him saying that he guessed I didn’t have a soul. I could’ve said that I don’t tell him that I love him, but that asking, “Yours,” has become a stand-in for those other words that I don’t ever let myself say to him. I could’ve reminded him that he’s told me that he doesn’t love me, except as a “pet.” I could’ve told him that all of those things add up to create this fear that he’ll one day decide he doesn’t want me anymore and then I’ll have to relearn how to live, without him.

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It’s been about six hours since breakfast and he’s in the kitchen, getting ready to make something for lunch, but I’ve go no appetite. I remember him saying, the other day, that heartbreak is one of the fastest ways to loose weight.

We’d been talking about low carb diets and I steered the conversation back that way.

He was talking about before me, when he was with someone else, and she left him. He’d lost twenty pounds in two weeks. I didn’t want to talk about the “Heartbreak Diet” though, because I didn’t want him to realize that part of the reason I haven’t been eating much lately is due to that very issue. He’d just get angry again, and tell me to grow up.

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I think my mantra, since I was a kid, has been to “be better.”

Still feels like I’m best at fucking up though.

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Of course, I’ll feel better. This happens. I get over it. LIfe moves on.

Time to review my notes again. Respiratory, GI, and Cardiac, oh my. . .

 

 

8/52 – Anxiety v. Panic

I’m sure that a lot people – particularly people who write, it would seem – feel anxiety or panic on a fairly routine basis. Something about those “emotions” seems to drive people to write . . . either to reflect or as a distraction or whatever. I use the quotes there, around emotions, because I’ve never really considered my anxiety an emotion.

I tend to see it more as a conglomeration of things – feelings, thoughts, ambiguous fears.

Panic, on the other hand, I do think of as an emotion – the specific feeling of being both frantic and worried. It’s unpleasant, sure, but I have attacks of anxiety and not of panic, so I don’t take panic to be something complex or harmful, in itself.

This morning, for instance, I’m panicking a little. I realized as I wrote down my assignments for the next two weeks that I’ve made an error. We had to do two community education group projects this quarter – one for Pharmacology and one for Fundamentals. In my brain’s usual way, it blurred those two projects together and I thought they were one in the same. They’re not. I did the one for Pharmacology, but the one for Fundamentals isn’t actually due to be presented until this upcoming Wednesday.

Okay. Not awful. There’s time . . . but . . .

Now I’m at the mercy of my classmates, who apparently formed groups and picked out topics without my realizing they’d done it. I understand how this happened. One of my group members from the Pharmacology project was absent on the day the groups were formed. She was the leader of the group and the only one I know personally, so I just assumed that she knew what was going on. I didn’t worry about, because I thought we’d done. I’m an idiot, sometimes, but that’s part of being human.

I’m not anxious about this. But I’m slightly panicked, because if some group doesn’t take pity on me, this could fail me for this class. Not because my grade can’t take the hit of 30 points – it actually could do that comfortably, based on how it’s weighted – but because the actual presentation is part of our required clinical hours. *gulp*

I’ve sent out an S.O.S. on my class’s FaceBook page. And now I’m waiting and passing the time by blogging and obsessively checking my notifications.

To contrast this panic that I’m currently feeling, I did actually have an anxiety attack both yesterday and two days before. They both started at about 1:00 P.M. and they both lasted about an hour. Sometimes the anxiety is like clockwork, sometimes it’s not. It’s always a surprise. On Wednesday, it was during my afternoon lecture; on Friday, it was at work.

Both of the attacks were quiet, because I’ve learned how to utterly fall apart without making a single sound. Twinlee (not her real name, obviously) noticed that something was wrong, because I wasn’t taking notes and was starring off into space. She uses aroma therapy oils and insisted I use one she calls “Chillaxin’.” I did and was amazed, because five minutes later I felt better. Way better. I’ll have to find out what’s in it.

Unfortunately, at work, I did not have the benefit of aroma therapy. Instead, I just forced myself to work through it. It let up gradually, realizing, maybe, that I wasn’t going to feed into it. I was fine the rest of the day.

Anxiety and I have a strange relationship. I used to medicate with Xanax, but I haven’t had a Xanax in almost six years – not since I was twenty. I’m proud of that, because at one point I was taking triple my prescribed dose, just to try to take the edge off enough for me to go grocery shopping. Now, I still have attacks, but I’ve gotten to the point that they only truly get the better of me once in a blue moon.

Sometimes, I go weeks between attacks and that’s lovely.

Other times, I have them every couple of days . . . not so lovely.

(Also, side note, why is “sometimes” one word, but “other times” is two?)

My SO has awoken. Coffee is poured. The game plan for today is laundry and – hopefully – working on this group project that I went brain-missing for. Also, sex, if my SO has his way. It’s not that I’m not interested in having sex – I like sex, honestly – but there are other things that I would rather be doing, usually. Like watching Let’s Play videos on YouTube, or eating mac n’ cheese, or going for a walk.

Is that odd of me? Maybe.

But really good mac n’ cheese is practically sex on a fork anyway.

7/52 – Friday Morning Blurbs

  • The alarm went off at 5:15, because I forgot to reset it.
  • Not fifteen minutes later, the upstairs neighbors began having a screaming match that included such gems as, “Get out of my apartment you fuckwad,” and, “Bitch, I’m taking the VCR back!” He rumbled off on his Harley about ten minutes after that exchange and not five minutes after that, the woop-woop of a cop car made me get out of bed while my SO snored on.
  • Made some coffee before the sun came up, which always makes me feel like an adult.
  • Started watching Game of Throne reruns and finished some remedial work for a school exam that will take place on next Thursday.
  • Had to tell my SO to put on some clothes five times in twenty minutes, because he kept getting sucked into FaceBook and stopping midway through putting on pants.

Hopefully the rest of the day isn’t quite so discombobulated.

3/52

Sometimes you have to rip off the band-aid.

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For the majority of the past ten months, I have spent a lot of time worrying about my job security. I started school in April and I’m set to graduate as an RN this December (on the 17th, to be specific). At first, it was just leaving work an hour early on Friday. Then it was leaving work five hours early on Thursday. And then it was being at the campus for a total of what would have been about eight work hours. Now . . . it’s more like the equivalent of 20 work hours. And they’re unpredictable.

The joys of clinical hours . . . not.

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My boss of almost three years had me fill out a calendar on Wednesday and she firmly told me that she won’t approve any time that’s not on the calendar. I reiterated that I don’t know what days I might have clinical or when exams will be, but she shrugged.

I understand. I really do. She is trying to manage an office full of people that have unique needs regarding scheduling, she’s dealing with a demanding supervisor, and she’s got personal issues of her own. I can’t expect her to continue to accommodate my life.

In that spirit, I just messaged her and explained the situation. I asked, bluntly, if I need to come in tomorrow, or if I should spend the day job hunting. I didn’t mean the question to read sarcastic or rhetorical and it doesn’t. I apologized for the situation, but explained that I can’t just leave the program at this point. I can’t even offer her a proper two week’s notice, because I can only give her information as I get it from the school.

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This is a rambling post. It’s past my bedtime. My SO is already snoring in bed. I’ve also just found out that one of my friends from high-school (who I’ve known for more than ten years) just had to get a medically necessary abortion due to pre-eclampsia. She was given the choice: try to carry to term and die (leaving her three year old daughter motherless), have the baby early and watch it die (she was only eight weeks pregnant), or abort it and donate it to research to try to find a cure (this is her second case of pre-eclampsia).

That puts my problem with work/being fired to shame. Perspective is important.

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As I was channel surfing, looking for something to distract me, I came across the animated version of Anastasia. So much nostalgia. I had two different barbie versions of her (in her “street” wear and her yellow ball gown). My top three favorite movies as a child were Anastasia, My Neighbor Totoro, and Mulan. I’m all about some girl power.

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And she’s sent me six messages. But I don’t want to open them.

I feel like I’m about to have a heart attack over this. I don’t even like this job.

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*Ten minutes later*

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Checked the messages. I’m not fired. How am I not fired? I don’t understand.

 

2/52

As someone who usually likes to keep things neat – if not, precisely, organized – I was alarmed to realize that it’s somehow already the 22nd of January. I’ve been marking off days in my planner, but I’m only writing down my assignments the Sunday of the week they’re due and it’s created a strange sense of time being on a standstill. I’m literally looking at my days as a series of tasks, rather than a compilation of hours, and it seems surreal that it’s already just a few days before February.

(Speaking of which, I am one of those strange people who doesn’t mind seeing all the Valentine’s day stuff already in stock at my local Wal-Mart. Why? Because I absolutely adore giant stuffed animals. Seeing them always cheers me up and I have high hopes of getting one from Him this year. Plus, I like chocolate. And Valentine’s day is second only to Hall-o-Ween in terms of yummy chocolate goodness being available in bulk.)

I digress . . .

I’d intended to write weekly, this year, but I’m slightly behind on that. Still, I’m considering this 2/52 and as long as I make it to 52/52 posts by the end of the year, I’ll consider myself successful. I also have managed to stick $5 into my saving account from each paycheck. Granted, this only brings me to a measly $30 in savings (literally), but it’s still progress. My bills are all paid or on track to be paid on time as well . . . which I’m impressed by, because I’ve only worked a total of about 40 hours so far this month.

Ah. The demands of nursing school. I am a part of my graduating class’s Facebook group. It’s a convenient way to keep in touch with my classmates about what assignments we’re working on, who’s in which group for projects, and the occasional bit of humor.

Two things on the page made me laugh, this week.

The first was one of the e-cards that keep popping up. It showed a cartoon nurse and read, “I don’t post on Facebook when I eat dessert, because it didn’t happen, if it’s not documented.” The second was a picture of some male celebrity (Ryan Reynolds, maybe?) looked both skeptical and uncomfortable. It was captioned, “When people ask my why I chose nursing . . . It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

The first one made me laugh, because all of the instructors are stressing the importance of documenting – our actions, our findings, our plans. We’re told to keep in mind that not documenting can lead to medical errors and patient endangerment and the loss of our licence. Which, ten months and several thousand dollars into the program, is one of our biggest fears, because it makes it all for naught, in the end.

The second one made me laugh, because it’s so brutally true. I can think back and remember all of my reasons for deciding to choose nursing. The money, flexible hours, having a friend in the program, the money, the job prospects, the benefits, the money . . . and, of course, getting to help people in a tangible way. Now, after three quarters and a lot of stress, it’s easy to lose track of why it is I’m actually putting myself through this madness and mayhem. As others noted on the post . . . it feels like we’re drowning and we’ve lost sight of the island paradise we were initially swimming towards.

There’s a few reasons for that. The stress of having two lectures, two labs, and two clinical portions . . . and all the associated homework, exams, and hands on experiences. Trying to still find time to work enough hours to make ends meet. Needing to also arrange time for all the “other” stuff – sleep, meals, family, blogging. Twenty-four hours doesn’t seem like enough time to fit in everything.

Even now, as I type, it’s ten in the morning and I’ve already finished two online quizzes, written in my assignments for the week, and had “breakfast” (a can of Vienna sausages and half a tube of Principles – don’t judge me). I still need to get a lot of other stuff done though. Which means . . . it’s time for . . . a list!

To Do List for 1.22.17

  • Write a two page paper about patient safety using three peer reviewed articles, an approved organization, and APA formatting.
  • Clean the apartment – at least do dishes, take out trash, and tidy up in general.
  • Make lunch for he and I . . . probably pasta salad.
  • Return our latest Redbox rental movie.
  • Print out flashcards for my Pharmacology exam.
  • Make flashcards for my Fundamentals exam.
  • Study both sets of said flashcards.
  • Make sure my school uniform is clean and pressed, and pack for clinical.

It doesn’t seem so daunting, like that. Which is good. Inaccurate, but good.

1/52

There are all kinds of inspirational quotes to be found online regarding staring new and exciting things at the beginning of a new year. Some of them are wise, some of them are trash, most of them are somewhere in between. I, personally, don’t have any.

I feel like I stumbled into the new year, rather than stepped into it.

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I would recap the end of last year – it’s been a month (or two) since my last post – but I really don’t want to. I am so overwhelmed by what’s happening right now that I can’t afford to pause and reflect on the things that have already passed. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing, or not, but it is what it is.

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I have just three New Year’s Resolutions, this year.

The first is simple: Write at least one post a week here on this blog. Hence the whole 1/52 title. If I can make it to 52/52 . . . that’s great! If I don’t . . . well, that’s less great.

The second is also simple: Put at least $5.00 a week into savings. This should be doable. In the end, I’ll have $250 in saving . . . . Not a lot, by some standards, but more than I’ve had.

The third is not so simple: Get my associate’s degree in nursing and pass the NCLEX.

I have successfully completed three quarters of school and started the fourth on Monday. I have never felt so terrified in my life. Well, not true. I have felt more terrified numerous times. But! I have never felt more pressure before. This quarter, I am taking just two courses . . . Fundamentals of Professional Nursing and Pharmacology. Each of those courses; however, have three components – Lecture, Lab, and Clinical.

It is – where I am – almost 8:00P.M. on Sunday night. I have managed to complete all of my assignments for the week. I think.This is the first quarter I’ve had that everything is campus based, rather than online. I’m not completing confident that I’ve remembered everything I needed to complete, but I think I have.

Everything that could go wrong this week, has gone wrong.

I didn’t get my official schedule sorted out until the day the quarter started, my SO got sick and now I’m coming down with what he has, the ball python we rescued last month died, my best friend of twelve years said she’s thinking about moving halfway across the country, and my laptop keeps crashing in the middle of my note-taking.

That said . . . I believe in looking for the good in things, too. So here are five things that have gone right or been positive or made me smile within the past week.

  1. My boss at the call center has assured me I won’t be fired due to my schedule.
  2. A Starbucks with a drive-thru opened that’s en route to both campus and work.
  3. The first grade I got of this quarter was a 100%.
  4. My favorite YouTubers both uploaded new content.
  5. I was able to use my new planner for the first time.

Sometimes it’s the little things that are good that make the big things that are bad seem less unmanageable or scary. “Don’t hold your head so low that you can’t see the sky . . .”

Lone Wolf + Teamwork = Disaster?

For most people, our first involvement in peer group activities occurs in preschool or kindergarten. We learn how to work together to clean up the classroom or we sing a song about the months of the year as a group. Maybe we even participate in junior versions of sports where teams are formed or work on mini-projects with each other. From early on, we’re encouraged by society to be able to “play nice” with each other.

And it makes sense, really. Groups frequently get more done than individuals can. Groups are more efficient, oftentimes. They can provide safety and security. We can sometimes learn more about ourselves by looking at the groups we associate ourselves with.

That said, much like definitions, groups can also be confining. If you don’t want to go with the majority, it can lead to strife or even chaos. You can become the outcast, black sheep, or lone wolf of the group. Or, conversely, you might realistically be able to accomplish more as an individual, because you’re not trying to deal with a committee or democracy.

Now, in some instances we – as people – may have the ability to choose who we want to work with or what group we’re a part of. But by and large, I’ve found that the groups we’re in tend to be determined by default characteristics or happenstance, rather than deliberate action or inaction. Your family, for instance. Or your coworkers. Or the people of the religion you were born to. You may have minimal things in common, but you share the sense of belonging to a certain mini-culture. And it does have an effect on most people.

This is something that’s on my mind, because this is the second week of my third quarter in nursing school. And the thing that I was informed of – or warned of, you could say – during the nursing orientation session way back in April  has come to pass.

“You will have to collaborate. Nursing is not a one-woman or a one-man show. It’s a circus in which even the bit-players do have their importance.” The dean of nursing said that and I winced on the inside, because even in kindergarten, I would have preferred to spend two hours picking up blocks and books and crayons by myself, rather than spend fifteen minutes doing it with a group. Because (horror of horrors) what if one of the other kids didn’t realize that all the red crayons should go together? What if they tried to but the picture books with the story-time books? What if they didn’t stack the blocks in the box so that the lid would go on right? My five-year-old heart couldn’t handle the stress.

Eventually – after my second or third time out for disrupting the “tidy time” by throwing tantrums over these sorts of things – I realized that I would not always be able to convince the other five-year-old kids to clean up properly. Sometimes they wouldn’t put the red crayons with the red crayons, no matter how much more sense it made. It took me even longer – maybe the second or third grade – to realize that it wasn’t because they didn’t know any better . . . they just didn’t care about the same things I did. Once in a while, sure, I’d find another odd-ball kid who realized that it made sense to be organized and neat, but by and large the other kids just didn’t give a damn about making sure the vocab cards got sorted alphabetically.

I’d hoped that things would change as I got older. I imagined that groups were something that would settle down as we all got older. I was very wrong about that, of course.

When I entered high-school after being home-schooled for years, I quickly came to dread group projects. Inevitably, there was someone (or multiple someones) who didn’t care about the group, who didn’t want to work together, or who simply didn’t understand what we were meant to do and instead just sat there and doodled. I couldn’t stand the thought of getting bad grades and I still can’t. Part of my submissive nature makes me want to please authority figures and teachers definitively fall into that category for me. I want to get good grades, because it makes people happy.

Well, not my peers so much, but other people.

And a big thing about me is that I’ve never really cared for the majority of my peers.

Which is why, when two classes this week forced me into a group with others, I instantly started trying to think of an out. It was a reflexive thing. I’m going to end up paying $40,000 over the course of eighteen months or so to get my associates in nursing from this school. I decided on that, because it’s the best school in my area for this thing. But I don’t want to waste a single instant in my classes, because I’m paying an enormous amount of money (for me anyway), to be in them.

In Health Assessment – which is a class with an accompanying lab, where we learn some “basics” of the nursing process – I am going to be working with two other girls on a project that’s due in week 9. It’s a fifteen minute Power Point presentation on a specific culture and how their believes may be influential within the health care setting. We ended up grouping together, because we sit at the same table and it was simple. I’m the oldest of the three of us, even though I’m only twenty-four. I’m also the only one without any experience in the medical field. 21 is an LPN in a pediatric unit and 22 is a med-tech in an out-patient cardiology office. That worries me, somewhat.

I am normally the quiet one, the follower, the one that goes with the flow.

I can’t be that in this group. We’d never get anything done.

I had to prompt them to select a culture. And then had to make them specify, because “Native American culture” is a very broad thing. After some more prodding, we ended up with “Cherokee culture,” because all three of us have Cherokee blood. We’ll see how they do with the sections they’re supposed to be working on.

In Microbiology – which also has both a lecture and a lab component – we work in groups of four. Myself and another member of my group (we’ll call her Fish) were together last semester in A&P II and I thought of her as something of a go-getter in that class, but I already know that won’t be the case this time. The first thing she said was, “I don’t care about all these little microbes. It’s like Chinese to me.I don’t understand any of this.” Another woman in our group agreed wholeheartedly and spent the instruction’s introductory lecture eye-rolling and giggling. Then, the fourth member of our group came in, ten minutes late . . . and it was 21, from my other group.

After the introductory lecture and the instructions on the board for that lesson had been gone over, the instructor told us to get to it. We were meant to make a wet mount slide using L. acidophilus and a drop of water, to substitute for the fresh yogurt sample we were meant to compare to the prepared yogurt sample, because we didn’t actually have fresh yogurt. It wasn’t going to be a difficult thing – there was a capsule of L. acidophilus in our lab box in the center of the table and slides and slipcovers on the counter.

“So, what are we supposed to do?” – Fish

“I don’t know. Look at the fresh yogurt?” – 21

“Well, where is it? I don’t see any yogurt. . . ” The Eye-Roller

I looked from one of them to another, hoping they really hadn’t been that oblivious.

“Hang on, I’ll ask, ” 21 stood up and summoned the instructor over as I’m going, “Guys, there’s no fresh yogurt. We make the substitute with the L. aciophilus powder.”

The instructor comes over. My lab partners explain that there’s no yogurt. The lab instructor waits for the punchline. Asks them, “Did you read the board?”

They say, yeah. But then they say it doesn’t say anything about the yogurt.

But it does. On the second bullet point.

We made it through the lab, but just barely. And by the end of it, they were all saying, “Well it’s not like we need to pass with more than a D in this class. And it’s all easy.”

Yeah. Okay. Whatever you say.

*facepalm*

Third Quarter Jitters

In the United States, there’s arguably always been a “pioneer” mentality. For all that America is a melting pot of people from different cultures, we’re known collectively as individuals who value foresight, innovation, and the willingness to take a risk . . . or several. Personally, I’ve always been more of a reflector and – while I do appreciate innovation- I tend to take comfort in the familiar.

I’ve never been someone who could be accused of being an adrenaline junkie and “play it safe,” could be my catch phrase. The things I enjoy that some people may consider unnecessarily risky – like riding motorcycles in my “vanilla” life, or breath play in my kinky life – are things that I don’t actually view as dangerous.

I’ve been in only one motorcycle accident, but three car wrecks.

And I’ve never felt my life was at stake during breath play.

Realistically, I can count the number of risks I’ve taken on one hand. And I’m not talking about small scale stuff like eating raw cookie dough or getting an asymmetrical hair cut. I’m talking about the big, life-changing stuff. The stuff that you can’t sleep on, because the opportunity won’t be around come sunrise. The stuff that’s now or never.

I consider one of those risks my decision to go into school for nursing. For someone else, that type of decision might not have been a big deal, or they might have felt that they had plenty of time to consider the option. Hell, they might’ve not even lost any sleep over it.

For me, it was like deciding to jump out of a tree without knowing whether or not I’d fall or fly. I threw myself out into open space and couldn’t consider the possibility that I might not succeed, because the other alternative was splat.

Even now, two quarters (or six months) into school, I still feel like I might just be floating on a thermal. I haven’t looked down for fear of the height I’m at. All I can do is keep my eyes closed and hope that my flailing is actually doing something. I know I’ll have to come back to Earth eventually, but the question of whether or not it’s a graceful landing or one that’s disastrous is yet to be determined. I don’t even have a parachute, or plan b.

So far, I’ve taken some standard prerequisite courses and some career specifics courses. I’ve passed Structure and Function, Human Growth and Development, Dimensions of Nursing Practice,  Anatomy I and II (and the accompanying labs), Algebra, and English. I haven’t gotten anything lower than a B, overall. But I’m still finding myself nervous about this next quarter. And I’m not quite sure why.

This quarter, I’m scheduled to take Conflict Resolution, Introduction to Microbiology (and the lab), Nutritional Principles in Nursing, and Allied Health (and the lab). It’s a total of 13 credit hours – plus the Conflict Resolution course, which is competency based and technically counts as an additional 4 credits. My scrubs came in the mail on Friday and so did my brand new “nursing” shoes. (Sketchers: Slip-Resistant Relaxed Fit women’s shoes in white – AKA: The Most Expensive Shoes I’ve Ever Bought.)

I think the fact that this is the first quarter I’ll have to wear my scrubs is making this “real” to me. Prior to this – despite having taken Dimensions of Nursing Practice – it just felt like school. It didn’t feel directionless necessarily, but it didn’t feel like the end goal of becoming a nurse was something tangible. Now it is and that’s a little terrifying.

Also, in that same fashion, this is the first quarter in which I will have classes at the campus, beyond just my labs for anatomy. I’m not sure why, but having a lab at the campus feels different than having an actual class there. Possibly, that’s because the labs weren’t overseen by an actual teacher, in the stricter sense of the word. They were merely supervised by someone who was there largely just to prevent us from damaging campus property and/or improperly handling the dead cats we used for our dissections.

Another reason I’m more worried about this quarter than the other quarters might have to do with the fact that D – who was the one who largely encouraged me to start school – has intentionally flunked himself out. He couldn’t handle balancing work and school, he got placed on academic probation, and he just didn’t bother showing up for his final exams or last week of classes. He still intends to finish school . . . but he doesn’t plan to start back up until next fall – at which time I’ll (presumably) be just a quarter away from graduating.

The prospect of graduating is an interesting one as well – seeing as I left high school to get my GED at the start of my senior year of high school. And, given that graduating school is only part of what it takes to actually become a nurse, I’m even more nervous.

Overall, I’m not sure what to expect from the next week. I won’t have a campus class until Thursday. I don’t even know which of the two campuses in town I’ll be going to. I’m not sure how my boss will respond when I actually am out for a cumulative day (between Thursday and Friday). I don’t know what the first day of classes will be like. A part of me is hoping that it will be like high school, where day one is just a day to introduce yourself and get the list of what you’ll need for the other weeks of the class. That’s a little nerve wracking too though, because I’m not one that’s ever found making friends to be easier and I never know what to saw during the introduction phase of things.

I’m trying to not over think things.

I don’t want to get so caught up in looking for potential hurdles that I end up tripping over my own shoe-laces.