Limitations

Personal growth is a funny thing.

Trying to be mindful of it while it’s actually happening is akin to trying to watch grass grow. It doesn’t seem like anything is happening while it’s happening . . . but when you watch a time-lapse of it or see a before and after picture the changes are glaringly obvious. In the same way, it’s not by watching the second hand that we can see and appreciate the changes in ourselves, but in looking back across a span of time.

One of the features that FaceBook has rolled out in recent times is the presentation of FaceBook “memories” – posts that you made on the same date, in previous years. This feature has been met with some mixed reviews .After all, who honestly wants to be reminded of the exact day their dog died when they happen to be on a beach holiday? Or, on the other hand, who wants to see how thrilled they were in the early days of their relationship with the person they’re about to divorce?

Still, it can be interesting to look back at what you were posting about three, four, or even five years ago.

Two weeks ago, one of my “memories” was a post from five years ago. In it, I talked about being overwhelmed by the thought of working 45 hours in a week and related that my boss at the time must think of me as some sort of super-girl. I was stressed out.

Reading it when it popped up, I laughed, because I’d just worked six days straight for a total of about 65 hours. I pointed it out to my other, who I’d been with at the time. He laughed – both at the drama of the original post and at my own amusement with it.

Now, it’s Monday and I’m taking a day off from both of my current jobs. I wasn’t scheduled to work at the hospital, which means that I was scheduled to work at the call center. I texted my boss there and let her know that I wouldn’t be coming in due to general mental/physical/emotion exhaustion.

I worked seven days last week for a grand total of just over 75 hours – four days at the hospital doing 12.5 hour shifts and the others at the call center doing nearly the same.

This morning, I woke up with the intention of going to work, even though everyone – including my mother, co-workers at both places, and SO – told me to take the day off.

Then, I cried, because we’re out of peanut butter. And again, because I dropped a sock.

I recognized that I reached my limit, for the time being. I required time to recharge. I poured a bowl of Reece’s puffs and watched HGTV for a couple hours. I read a little. I cleared out my email and finally sorted through all of my hospital orientation paperwork. I ate some chocolate. I’m writing this blog post.

I thought, “The me of five years ago would have had a full blown anxiety attack at the mere mention of working 75 hours in a week. I pushed my limits by doing it, but I now know that I can do it, if I really need to. I also know that I don’t want to do it.”

Limitations are strange things. They can be shifted by choice, by chance, and by necessity . . . but it’s been my experience that most people wait until necessity demands.

Personal growth and shifting limitations are like two sides of the same coin . . . you don’t have one without embracing the other. Growth is change, but it’s a type of change that is almost unanimously seen as positive. Shifting limitations also denote change, but the connotation can range from wonderfully awe-inspiring to depressingly constrictive. One is upward and outward, but the other could be that or could be downward and inward.

I’d never gave these things much thought, until recently, but then I realized that I thought of limitations as being synonymous with boundaries. I also viewed both rather negatively. Not as obstacles that could be challenged or even overcome, but as virtually inescapable boxes that I found myself locked within. Other, stronger individuals might find it within themselves to beat against the boxes until they broke or more intelligent people could find ways to exploit weaknesses in the construction . . . but I, having a primarily docile and contented nature would merely daydream about what may be beyond the box and not about how to leave it.

In fact, while imagining what might exist beyond the box was as good a pass-time as any, the thought of actually leaving the box was nothing short of terrifying. Because, while I may think spectacular things were outside of it, there could also be incredibly dangerous things. Even the process of getting out of the box could be painful and exhausting.

However . . . at some point in the past month that belief has shifted. Almost entirely due to one question that I’ve found myself asked by my co-workers at the hospital.

“Why did you decide to choose working in a hospital?”

I answered without thinking, the first time.

“Because personal growth is a good thing,” I said.

Later, I wondered why I’d said that. I mean, yes, I thought it was true. Growth is good, after all. Personal growth must, by default, also be good. But . . . growth also means pushing limits and boundaries, right? Is that what I’m doing? Did I do that by becoming a nurse, even thought the thought of the responsibilities involved made me feel nauseous? Am I still doing that by deciding to work in a hospital, even though I’d probably feel more comfortable in a nice, quiet doctor’s office or clinic?

. . . well . . . I guess I must be . . . right?

Right. Which means, in sum, that I am pushing my limits and finding new ones and becoming a “better” person for it all. It also means that, contrary to my usual way of thinking, limitations and boundaries aren’t boxes that I can never leave.

They are, actually, more like obstacles on a course. Or, in my nerdy brain, like quests in a video game. Both of which may be challenging to get through – maybe even brutal – but which lead to a two-fold outcome, most of the time. That outcome being 1) feelings of achievement/greater abilities/more experience and 2) the possibility of facing greater challenges/finding a new course or quest altogether.

My life doesn’t have to take place inside an indestructible box.

It can take place on a map and I can decide what turns to take and whether or not to abandon the path altogether for a time and if I want to stop to rest for a while.

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Selfish

Resolution has a couple of predominant meanings and associations. To be resolute is to have made a firm decision about something. To resolve something is to settle it. Interestingly enough, being resolute does not automatically resolve things.

My decision to accept the oncology nursing position is resolute.

The conflict that creates with my acquaintance is not resolved.

Per my last,  I was torn between accepting the oncology position and holding off in order to appease an acquaintance who was trying to get me a job at the hospital he works for. The real conflict was between career practicality and loyalty to someone I know.

In the end, the career practicality won out and I’ve decided that’s also being loyal to myself and what I want. It took a while to come to terms with that; however, because what I want is usually to do what other people want me to do. I am a go-with-the-flow person a large majority of the time. It’s hard for me to admit when I want to do something that isn’t in keeping with that aspect of my personality. Being “selfish” – or even just being viewed as being “selfish” – is something that I strive against, normally.

After all, I’m going into nursing, because I like to help others. It’s what I’ve always done. I know I will make a good nurse, because of that. But . . . my nursing school instructors all stressed the value of being a little selfish. If you only think of others, if you only act with their interests in mind, you’re limiting yourself to their ambitions for you.

For example, my acquaintance wants me to get hired at the hospital he works for, because he believes I can help to improve their image. He literally said, “When you get an interview, make sure to present yourself as energetic and excited to learn. We’re all so beat down every day that we thrive off of new  enthusiasm.”

I get that and I would love to be responsible for revitalizing an entire hospital system single-handedly, but . . . I’m not a cheerleader or mascot or a PR representative. By accepting that role, I would feel committed to it. I would burn out in trying to spark others. Or, even if I thrived, it would be at the expense of my other goals and wants.

In contrast, by being “selfish” through accepting the position I’m actually excited about, I am starting on a path of my own choosing. First, oncology nursing while I complete my bachelors and my master’s degrees. Say, three to five years there. In the meantime, my other half and I are saving like mad to buy land and build a house. Once those balls are rolling and I have my master’s, I go into teaching nursing while still working PRN at the hospital. Or, I decide to do travel nursing for a while to pay off everything rapidly. Eventually, when I’m done with working in the hospital, I switch to working at Hospice while I teach. Some day, I’ll be able to comfortably retire.

That’s the story I want to write. It’s why I can say that I’m resolute regarding my choice, even though the conflict regarding it isn’t resolved. Even if things change completely, because life is unpredictable like that, I’ll at least be comfortable with my reasoning. I’ll know I did make a choice that was good for me – selfish, maybe, but not in a bad way.

And, even though I’m still sick with a combination of the flu and a cold, I’m happy right now and looking forward to the future with a real sense of curiosity.

If that’s not a good way to live, then I don’t know what is.

Tacos are Simpler

Conflict . . . a struggle between two opposing forces.

Or, the thing that drives the plot.

An individual life, much like an individual story, is built upon conflict and the reaction to it. Page turners are those books that build up the suspense surrounding a conflict. Most of us are familiar with the concept of “binge watching” a TV show for the same reason.

Conflicts create questions. So. Many. Questions.

Who will get what they want? What will they do to get it? How will things be affected?

A couple days ago, I posted about how I got an amazing job offer after my very first interview in the field. It’s the hours I want, more money than I’d hoped for, and on an oncology unit of a well-respected hospital. The elation was tangible.

Enter, conflict.

I have a friend – an acquaintance, really – who works at a competing hospital that is literally right across the street from the one I was offered a job at.

I did also, in fact, apply at this other hospital, at the same time. But, two weeks later, I still have not gotten so much as a, “Thank you for your application,” memo.  That’s okay.

But . . . I posted on a certain social media site that the interview went well and the aforementioned acquaintance responded that he hoped he’d be called for a reference. Wanting to be tactful, I sent him a private message explaining that the position was at the other hospital, but that I appreciated his congratulations nonetheless.

He replied and asked me to hold off on accepting the position until he could get me an interview. He asked my top three unit choices. He wanted to know how much I was offered. He said he could get me what I wanted, no problem.

I gave him the information. As my other half put it, I didn’t really need to give the other hospital my answer right away. A bid war could be a good thing, for me. And there is a certain appeal in the thought of working at a somewhat lesser hospital, because maybe I could make a positive change there. Plus, it’s the one I was literally born at! And he is a friend . . . in a manner of speaking . . . I can hold off . . .

Well. I did. But –

Enter, more conflict.

I received an email this morning from the oncology unit’s HR rep. Asking me to please respond to the offer letter that I was sent to verify that I do, in fact, accept it. I need to do this by then end of the business day in order to reserve my slot for the upcoming orientation cycle and set the ball rolling with the other paper work.

Alrighty, then. A bird in hand is better than two in the bush, as my mother says.

Still, as a courtesy, I let the acquaintance know. I messaged him and explained that they needed my response. The call he assured me I’d get yesterday never came. The neurology position he told me about isn’t listed in the application portal. Still no word from the application I did submit. I let him know I truly do appreciate his efforts and told him I’d still consider the hospital in the future or if something caused this offer to fall through.

He sent back, “Hold off for a second.”

Commence nail biting.

I sent back that I will. I also pointed out – politely – that none of my other classmates who applied for the same hospital have heard back either. I noted that his own wife, who became a nurse two years ago, ended up getting a job elsewhere due to the same issues. I admitted that it concerns me, because I’m worried it indicates a company-wide problem that hasn’t been corrected in the two years since she had the problem herself.

He hasn’t seen the message, yet. It’s been about forty-five minutes . . . .

Stay tuned, for what happens next!

… … …

And, now, back from the break!

Nothing. Still no word.

There are different things that different people do when confronted with a conflict. Some people take a “hero’s” approach and confront the problem head-on. Others, take the “coward’s” path and avoid the issue in hopes it will in turn avoid them or disappear.

A lot of people, if not most people, do a bit of both.

The point is, there are options.

In fact, for some, this particular situation may not even constitute a conflict. There may be no struggle in choosing a path to follow. Their motives or values may be such that the way forward is clear to them.

One person may go, “I’ve given this person a chance to follow-through with getting me in at Hospital B, but they haven’t, so I’ll go with Hospital A.” This is a practical choice.

A different person may go, “I know this person, so I’ll trust their judgement and pass on the offer from Hospital A.” This is more of a loyalist choice.

Some other person may go, “I think I’ll have a taco while I wait a while longer for something to happen, one way or another.” This is a hungry procrastinator’s choice.

Currently, my conflict is that I’m torn between option one and option two. If I’m being perfectly honest, I would love to just accept the original offer. I want to make it official on that social media site everyone shares too much on. I’m ready to make it real. On the other hand, I don’t want to ignore the effort that the acquaintance is making on my behalf. As some people who have maybe read my other posts know, I’m a submissive individual in about every sense. It kinda ups the ante when it comes to the loyalty I feel towards people I know . . . even when they’re people I don’t like particularly well.

No matter how I look at it, personally, I feel the right choice is to thank him again for his effort and then sign my name to the acceptance letter. Despite my feelings of owing him for his time and help – neither of which I actually asked for.

The conclusion.

If this were a movie, you’d get a close up of me typing my name in the “sign here” field. You’d see me take a deep, bracing breath. And then you’d see me hit the “submit” button and collapse backwards onto the couch as if I’d just run a mile.

If this were a book, the chapter might end with a cheeky little, “Well, now that’s done . . . but how will I avoid Mr. M for the next few decades worth of fourth of July barbecues?”

This is neither; however, and I’m going to go ahead and have some tacos.

Epilogue.

Technically, I’m giving him until lunch.

So he’s got another hour and twenty minutes to reply to me.

I’ll post the exciting conclusion in a sequel post, so look forward to that, ya’ll.

Sunday Morning Questions

I was up before the sun, but not before the birds.

As I stirred, my other rolled over and asked, “What’s wrong?”

Because, surely, something must be wrong in order for me to wake so early.

Today is Sunday, the only day I’m able to sleep in, this week.

“Can’t sleep,” I answered, stretching.

Time to make coffee.

 

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I perform a few of the same actions every morning, no matter what day of the week it is.

Brush my teeth, use a face cleanser, open the blinds, start the coffee, put on the TV for some background noise, spend some time browsing FaceBook and Pinterest.

This morning, on Pinterest, I found a list of thirty one questions to ask yourself in January. They’re meant to be journal prompts or things to blog about, I believe. I don’t technically journal anymore, though I have on and off since I was very young. Now, I blog. Even though it’s almost the end of January, I thought I’d have some personal reflection time this morning.

I’m not religious, but I do appreciate the quiet stillness of Sunday morning. Soon enough, my other will wake up and I’ll have to begin being productive in a more typical sense.

In the interest of not creating a ridiculously long blog post, I’m going to select just five questions – one for each week of the month. The questions I pick out will be the ones I find the most pertinent to January and my life in general.

 

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Question 1: What is your number one goal this year?

I have a lot of goals for this year, but they all hinge on one thing . . . money. I know, I know, money is the root of all evil and it can’t buy happiness and you can’t take it with you when you die. All those familiar expressions that get thrown around. Well, you know what? I don’t believe it. And my number one goal this year is to become financially stable. I want to have more than 0.02 cents in my saving account and I don’t want to have both my credit cards maxed out all of the time. I want to be able to order a coffee while I’m out, or buy a new pair of sneakers, or get real deli meat/cheese without freaking out.

Question 2: Can people change?

I was going to type, “Well, I certainly hope so,” but that’s not an honest statement. More accurate would be, “I know people can change, but I’m not sure if I can.” People around me tell me that I’ve changed drastically in the past eighteen months of nursing school. They say I’m more confident, more assertive, more poised . . . but I still feel like I’m faking those things. I’m terrified of making mistakes, still prefer to defer to others, and feel like I’m stumbling over myself more often than not. I think, really, the only thing that’s really changed is my reaction to those things. I try harder, now, to continue despite them. Instead of walking (or running) from a challenge, I’m more likely to approach it.

Question 3: What are you grateful for?

My sister – who is forever being patient and supportive. My other – who pushes me to believe that anything is possible. My parents – who raised me to be a free thinker. My boss – who let me continue working while in school. My coworkers – who provided encouragement and perspective during the school/work juggle.

Question 4: What are you looking for from life?

This question stymied me, so I ran a search with it in the field. Three main things came up – a sense of purpose, a relationship with God, and tacos.

I’m not convinced that we are all born with a specific purpose written somewhere in the codes of our DNA, I’m a self-proclaimed atheist, and I don’t particularly like tacos. That said, I do kinda see a common thread between those three things – yes, even the tacos. Finding a sense of purpose, building/maintaining a relationship (with anyone/thing/idea), and eating the perfect taco all seem to lend themselves towards a sense of fulfillment – psychological, emotional, or physical. I can get behind that idea.

I’m looking to find fulfillment during my lifetime. Peace, happiness, success. Too much to ask, probably, but definitely a worthy goal to strive towards, I suppose.

Question 5: What did you get done?

There’s no time-frame associated with this question, but I’m gonna stick to the past week.

I scheduled my first interview for a nursing position, in the oncology department of a large hospital. I completed all of my NCLEX study guide questions. I went grocery shopping and didn’t forget anything on my list. I made it through my first Renaissance Fair without suffering from an anxiety attack. I created a Pinterest board dedicated to clothes, so that I’ll have something to present to my next Stitch Fix stylist. I interviewed someone for a position in the office and encouraged my manager to hire her. I scheduled an appointment to have my taxes done. I made sure my other/myself ate well.

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All in all, not too shabby.

And, conveniently, he’s now awake.

Time to embark on the rest of the day’s stuff!

 

Mini Success Stories

This year, my only New Year’s Resolution was not to make any New Year’s Resolutions.

Instead, I made a commitment to take the time to find ways to be successful. Success, much like health, is a highly individualized thing. When I think of success, I think of freedom and self-confidence and accomplishments. I don’t picture any one particular end-goal or person, but rather a full package of characteristics.

I started to have an anxiety attack at around 5:00 PM yesterday. I didn’t want to be having an anxiety attack – in fact, I’ve never wanted to have an anxiety attack. In an effort to distract myself, I decided to write positive things I’ve done so far this year. Mini-success stories to a) distract myself, b) honor my commitment, and c) see what positives I could come up with when I really looked for them.

The list I made follows.

  • Started blogging again.
  • Looked at some potential properties.
  • Tried Stitch Fix for the first time (review to follow soon!)
  • Dyed/cut my hair.
  • Went back to working full-time.
  • Kept the kitchen clean.
  • Refilled my inhaler prescription.
  • Had breakfast every day.
  • Paid off a loan.
  • Watched some of the Winter Olympic trials.

Yesterday, when I stopped and started at this list, I started wondering what the hell I was doing with my life. Not in an existential crisis sort of way. Just in a why-do-these-things-matter kind of way. So I decided to take it a step further and write out the reasons why these seemingly small and inconsequential things do matter.

  • I love to write. Love, love, love it. I’ve had a writer’s bump on my finger since I was five and now I have typist callouses on my fingertips. That said, I haven’t written anything aside from homework assignments in six months and it’s not for lack of an urge. Blogging again acknowledges the urge and reminded me that I can still be an author, even though I’m also going to be a nurse. I’ll just have other things to write!
  • Now that my income will be doubling within a matter of months, my other half and I have been talking about the THREE YEAR PLAN. The plan includes saving money up for either a home or a property upon which to build one. We saw one in particular over the weekend that we both fell in love with and it renewed my desire to start saving/looking into home-buyer’s programs.
  • I tried Stitch Fix on a whim, because I had the $20 to spare and wanted to do something as a just-for-me indulgence. As a submissive in a BDSM relationship, I don’t do that very often. My other half fully supported the splurge and it was fun.
  • I know it’s cliche to change your hair as a sign of a new stage in life, but I did it anyway. I had eight inches cut off my hair (it’s not quite a pixie cut, but not far from it). It was scary, but I now love it and can’t really imagine growing it out in the near future. It suits me and actually makes me feel more girly than I did with the long hair that I only even wore up in a messy after-thought bun.
  • Working full-time, ah, how I missed thee. I like being able to pull my own weight, financially. My other half paid most of the bills during my last six months of school, because I was only earning enough for my phone, our car insurance, and my health insurance. I also got a $1.00 raise at the end of last year, so I’m looking forward to seeing it manifest on my next checks.
  • Breathing is expensive, when you aren’t born with fully functional lungs. For four years I didn’t have health insurance and was never sure how I was going to keep getting my inhalers – I relied on charity sometimes, sometimes on generic nebulizer treatments, sometimes on ER visits. Having health insurance is still something that I’m bemused by, because it turns a $230 a month thing into a $30 a month thing.
  • Keeping the kitchen clean may seem insignificant to some. For me, it’s a sign that I’m moving beyond my upbringing. I grew up with a month’s worth of dishes sitting in a sink at any given moment. Keeping my own dishes washed has been a challenge for me and making a concentrated effort to do them makes me feel more like a well-adjusted and functional adult.
  • Having struggled on and off with anorexia, eating breakfast every day for ten days is also a huge accomplishment. Breakfast is the most easy meal for me to brush off, still, becauseit’s the only one I don’t eat with someone else during the week. Lunch is eaten with my co-workers, dinner with my other half. Breakfast is all on me.
  • The loan was only $60 that I borrowed from a friend when we went Christmas shopping and I thought I forgot my wallet – I didn’t, it was just buried in my backpack. She had already forgotten about it when I stopped by her work to drop it off, but it’s nice not to owe money.
  • I had to really stop and wonder why I included watching some of the winter Olympics as an accomplishment. I came up with two reasons. The first is that my other half knows one of the women who competed in the speed-skating events. She’s from our home town and a good friend of his. It was cool to see her out there, living her own success story.  The second reason is that I’ve always enjoyed the winter Olympics, but haven’t always had the time to watch them.

I’m glad, in a way, that I had the anxiety attack. It also gave me a chance to write a mini success story. I didn’t have to leave work early due to it. I stayed the full day and then came home to eat dinner, have some playtime with my other half, and fall asleep watching Food Network. Because of the anxiety attack – or my response to it – I was able to include a little mental-health exercise in my day. I do, sometimes, have existential crisis moments and looking for purpose is something that’s always been a big deal to me. Bringing my focus small enough to see that something as simple as eating breakfast can have meaning as a personal level actually gave me some breathing room.

That said . . . it’s time to go do the dishes and eat breakfast, before work!

This morning, Annie’s Frosted Flakes are on the menu.

Also! I’m curious . . . what mini success stories have you created, this year?

 

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.

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*

The Concept of a Definition

Concept [noun]: An idea of what something is or how it works.

Definition [noun]: A statement that describes what something is. OR The quality that makes it possible to clearly see the shape, outline, and details of something.

In a sentence: Most people have a positive concept of definitions, but I’m not most people.

I’ve always been somewhat fascinated by the idea of defining something. As a result, I spent a lot of time driving my parents and teachers crazy when I was little. “What color is that?” I’d ask, pointing at a balloon. “Red,” my dad would say. “Why is it called red?” “Because that’s what color it is.” “Why is that color called red?” “Because that’s what it’s called.” Before I could get out another, “But why is it called that?” my dad (or mom, or teacher, or stranger in line at the supermarket) would steer the conversation away.

By the time I was ten I became caught up in learning about ancient languages and ancient civilizations. Etymology was my favorite thing to talk about – with Greek gods, tribes in the Amazon, and Star Trek being the runners-up.

Now, at almost twenty-five (I will be twenty-five in ten days, I’ve just realized), I’ve never really lost my desire to know how definitions form and come to be applied. In fact, with being in college to become a nurse, I now find myself inundated with definitions. I am at the end of my first week of the third quarter and already have five pages filled with vocabulary terms. And I’ve noticed something both frustrating and interesting about them. Even within the same curriculum – that is, the associate’s nursing program at my college – the same word is ascribed slightly different meanings depending on which class I’m actually defining it for.

A good example of this is the word digestion. Fairly simple, right? We digest the food we eat. We break it down. When that process doesn’t go well, we can get gas or throw-up.

Well, according to my Nutritional Principles in Nursing class, digestion is more correctly defined as: The process of breaking down food to release nutrients.

But, according to my Anatomy and Physiology II course (which I passed with an A last quarter), digestion is: A mechanical and chemical process involving multiple steps that occur throughout the alimentary canal.

Now, that is only one example from a few that I’ve come across, but I think it does a fair job of highlighting my childhood frustrations with definitions. Of course the shiny, pretty balloon is red, but how is the ugly, scratchy sweater that I have to wear on picture day also red? Of course, in the course of growing up, I came to understand that context – while important – doesn’t always influence a person’s perception . . . or how they define things.

A person can understand that there’s a difference between the nice red of an apple and the often unsettling red of blood, but can still use the term red to describe them both. In the case of my vocab words for school, I can understand that, from the point of view of my nutrition class, the important thing about digestion is that it releases nutrients. And I can also acknowledge that, from the point of view of my A&PII class, the important thing about digestion is that it’s a mechanical and chemical process that takes place in an individual’s alimentary canal.

What’s actually more interesting to me is the way that people use words – or definitions, because words are chosen based on how we define them as individuals or societies – to describe themselves or others. For instance, my mother will happily describe both my sister and I as good. In my case, she’s referring to my tendency toward generosity, diplomacy, and compassion. In my sister’s case, she’s speaking of her cheerfulness, her dislike of violence, and her willingness to help others. The same word, used by the same person to describe people she’s close to,  yet used with different intentions and nuance.

Or, more personally, I would describe myself as submissive. I don’t like conflict, I tend to be more comfortable following orders, and I am naturally inclined to recognize authority. That said, I don’t consider my sister to be submissive, even though all of those statements are also true of her. The difference? I’m not even sure. I just know that, if someone asked me if my sister was also submissive, I would laugh and ask them if they’re crazy. She won’t hesitate to stand up for herself and she’s perfectly capable of saying, “No.

Actually, now that I’m thinking on it, I guess that’s why I don’t think of her as submissive.

Another good, if personal, example of this strange use of words and applications of definitions is my anxiety. I say I have anxiety. I know I have anxiety. My definition of anxiety is not the same definition of anxiety that my co-workers use so liberally. I don’t say, “I’m anxious,” unless I’m huddled on the floor, sobbing, because I think I’m going to spontaneously die of a brain aneurysm and the chemicals in my body are going haywire. My co-workers will say, “I’m anxious,” if they have to call back a customer known to be a jerk to us. It’s a matter of degrees, I suppose, in that case. All of us use the word anxiety to describe an unpleasant state, but our idea of the level of unpleasantness covered by the word varies greatly.

I get accused of arguing semantics, when I bring things like this up during the few conflicts I have. I’ll tell my owner, for example, that I would like to leave early for work. He’ll say okay. We’ll leave just five minutes earlier than we usually do – technically, he’s right and it is earlier . . . but it doesn’t adhere to my concept of the definition of earlier.

(For the record, that’s at least fifteen minutes.)

With so much room for error, as it were, it’s actually impressive that us humans communicate as well as we do, isn’t it? The image in this post is actually of something I stumbled across the other day and I made the decision within seconds of seeing it that it would be my next tattoo. It includes all the letters and numbers of the English alphabet. Every book, every song, every phone number. It’s all in that one image.

And if that’s not a mind-expanding concept, then I don’t know what is.

What It’s All About

Another pin in my Map to ELSEWHERE has been added. This one is centered over a little place called College Orientation (Nursing Edition). It’s small, but not so small as the Nursing Information Session was. And it came with its own realizations and quirks.

I felt kinda like a kid being dropped off at my first day or school, because of the fact that my mother gave me a ride to the campus for the orientation – and even provided me with snacks (a bottle of water and a little bag of pistachios). I met up with D at the entrance and he exchanged pleasantries with her before we had to run to sign-in.

There was a pot-hole, right away, for me. D signed in, was assigned to Room 204, and immediately took off down the hall. I signed in and was told to go to Room 205.

Wait, what? Don’t we do this together? Why are we in different places???

I didn’t question the smiling receptionist. I took off down the hall after D. But Room 205 was on my right within a few steps and he was standing at the VERY END of the hall. There were so many people there to be orientated that we had been divided into three groups. And he and I were – by virtue of the alphabet – in different rooms. I had not anticipated getting separated from him, but I was somehow standing in Room 205. I put on the little name-tag sticker that was already filled out with my name and signed another roster sheet. And then found my way to a seat in the second row from the front.

Orientation itself went well. I think. I’m fairly sure that it was standard – though I have no experience in these things.

The Dean of Nursing gave a small speech about how we (those of us in the room who were coming in as freshmen) are embarking on a journey. I understood this, because I’m using a similar analogy in my use of the Map to Elsewhere. She also showed us a list that was created by a class of senior nursing students during their very last class. It was a list of things that they felt had helped them through the most difficult challenges on their journey. The words that struck me the most were Determination and Dedication.

You can be determined to do something. But you should also be dedicated to doing it.

She then asked us all what we thought we were going to school to do. Most of us answered that we were there to learn. When prompted to be more specific, we said we wanted to learn to help people – to make them better, or at least less bad. She then asked us what we thought we needed to be taught. Again, she got a few different answers – how to give medications, how to respond in an emergency, how to think critically. She was satisfied with all of those responses, but she pointed out that the last one was the one she was really looking for.

Thinking critically, she said, is one of the hardest things to teach. And it is one of the most essential things for a nurse. The NCLEX exam – which is the final step in becoming an R.N. – has questions that are intentionally phrased in such a way that every answer is right . . . but only one is technically correct, based on a full and proper evaluation of the information presented in the question. We all got what she meant, because some of the questions on the TEAS exam (our entrance exam at the school) were formed that way.

But then she went on to a topic that I knew right away I’d want to put down on paper (or into cyber-space), because it’s something that I had on my mind, though not so well-worded as she presented it. She started talking about how we’ll learn attitudes, too.

Some of them, she said, will be things we already have – hopefully.

Thinking compassionately, acting with integrity, being professional.

But some of them, she noted, we might have to work to acquire. Like teamwork.

Ick. Teamwork.Working with a team. And not one that I carefully selected in order to ensure comparability and  a positive outcome . . . one that will be arranged by my instructors and (later) my employers with little to no regard to my own preferences.

That’s one of only a few things that have made me hesitant about choosing this career. I tend to be a loner. I prefer to work on my own for reasons of convenience and comfort. I don’t like the potential for conflict that seems inherent in teamwork situation (except in some situations and circumstances). I don’t like unknown variables or sudden changes.

I’d been ignoring this – both my dislike of teamwork and my dislike of unpredictability. I didn’t want to consider anything that would be an obstacle in my following this map that I found. When there’s  treasure at the end and who cares about quicksand and pirates?

But the Dean introduced a new concept to me. And it was another light-bulb moment.

Working well in a team and handling sudden changes are both attitudes and attitudes can be learned. Just because someone is like me and doesn’t do well with those two things, doesn’t preclude that person from ever becoming someone who is able to do well with them. Not at all. A person can learn to adopt a different attitude.

The professional slacker turning into the business professional.

The awkward loaner turning to the motivational speaker.

Me turning into a registered nurse.

As long as there is a true desire for change, change can be enacted. As long as I am willing to make an effort to move beyond my comfort zone. As long as I am willing to learn something new. As long as I’m willing to ask questions to answers I don’t know.

It’s ironic, a bit, because this blog is called Chaotic Metanoia.

I knew there’d be change. I just didn’t expect to be doing so much of it – even though it feels like getting the answer to a question that I’ve been asking myself since I was twelve.

What Ails You?

My mother is sort of uncomplicated in a lot of ways. She has her routines and her opinions and nothing ever truly causes her to alter them. Her outfits are mostly ones that she’s had since I was young and she often says the same things in the same situations.

These last are what I think of as her persistent phrases. A lot of people have a few of them and go through phases of them, but my mother has had the same ones for as long as I can remember. She seldom deviates from her own internal script.

For instance, if she sees something surprising, she will say, “Holy cow, Batman!” (My mother is a child at heart and her favorite super hero is Batman.)

If she’s upset with you, you’ll be called a “son-of-a-gun.” If she loves you, you are her “precious darling.” When it’s raining really hard, it is “pouring like piss out of a boot” – I’m not exactly sure where she got that one.

Understand, these are not sometimes expressions. These are her defaults and have been for basically the entirety of her adult life.

Among these phrases is the question, “What ails you?”

In my case, it is usually, “What ails you, my precious darling daughter?” The question is asked in any number of contexts. It can be concerned or mischievous or even exasperated. Most of the time – though not always – it is said with love and patience.

Today, and for the past few days, I’ve been impatient with myself, because I’m ill and being unproductive and generally lackluster. I haven’t been slacking off, necessarily, but there’s no pep in my step. It’s much more of a shuffle.

This morning I woke up and looked in the mirror and had to ask myself, “What ails you?” Even though I am physically unwell – I have an infection and there is water in my ears – I am feeling almost inordinately passive, with regards to being unwell.

It’s not bothering me that I’m missing work and lounging around the house and going to bed at eight.

I know what is physically ailing me. But what is ailing me mentally?

I am in a state of change, but the changes are of my own design and I’m being the author of my own future rather than just the narrator – an important distinction. A lot is going on, because of my choice to start school, but a lot of the process is simply waiting around for papers to be stamped and filed.

I’m not one of those people who get into the car and ask, “Are we there yet?” . . . but I also don’t like to make pit stops once I’m on the road. And right now it feels like I’m on a bus that stops at every gas station and rest stop. For valid reasons, of course, but I really wish this route was a non-stop line.

So, I suppose that my mental ailment is impatience. I am sitting on the bus, straining forward, but being forced to endure a mandatory stop to smell the flowers.

And the flowers are great and all, but I’m craving the sense of arrival.