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.

6/52 – Clear Credit Cards

I waited longer than some people I know to get a credit card. In fact, I didn’t get my first until the beginning of last year, when I was twenty-four. I didn’t exactly do it through a conventional route, either. I opened a second bank account in order to get a secured card through that bank (which is a national chain, versus my usual state credit union that I use as my primary account and that I’ve banked with since I was seventeen).

That card has a limit of $300. Since it’s secured, I can raise it pretty much at will – up to $1,000 – but I haven’t felt the need to do so. My other card, I got just four months ago and it also has a $300 limit. This past Christmas, I nearly maxed both of those cards out, for the first time. It made me nervous, having them both full, so the first thing I did with my tax return was pay both of them off again.

The other money went straight to my SO, to make up for my portion of the bills, since I’ve been so slammed with school that I’m down to working just 20 hours a week.

I expected to feel relieved once the cards were paid off, and I do. I also feel somewhat accomplished, even though one of the cards has a regular bill paid with it every month and will get hit another $50 within the next couple of weeks.

I did not expect to feel so much temptation.

For instance, I badly want to purchase a new desk. A “big girl desk” that will replace the one that I’ve had for six years. The age of my current desk isn’t really my problem (even though it’s showing in some chipped and peeling paint). My problem is that the desk is simply too small to accommodate all of the stuff that has come with nursing school. At present, the binders I use on a daily basis live on the ottoman, along with my two clipboards, drug guide, backpack, and various office supplies.

My desk is at capacity with just my computer monitor, a lamp, and two letter trays on it.

It’s more of a writing desk that I have forced to be a computer desk, really.

The desk I have my eye on is currently on sale for $289 at Staples. It’s an L-shaped desk which is an instant upgrade, but it also has a hutch built in with ample storage for all of my office supplies, my school books, and even my SO’s desk clutter – bills, keys, ect.

I didn’t expect to want to put something on the credit card that would max it out right away and I’m struggling with the urge to get the desk now. The dilemma of it being on sale versus the fact that I just paid off the card is making me go in circles, trying to decide the smart course of action. Really, I know what that is . . . keep what I’ve got and don’t use what’s meant to be an emergency card on what is clearly not an emergency situation.

Adulting is hard, sometimes. Trying to balance wants and needs.

The desk is a want, clearly. Having the card available for emergencies is a need, clearly.

In eight more months, I will graduate and I will hopefully get a job that will pay me almost double what I make now. And then I will be able to afford to get a new desk, if I still want/need a new desk. Patience. It’s a virtue, apparently.

5/52 – Keep Calm and Make Dean’s List

The grading scale that the college uses for nursing students means that a 94% – 100% is an A, 85% – 93% is a B, 78% – 84% is a C, and anything less than 78% is a fail.

In order to make honor roll, one would have to get A’s and B’s in all the classes taken in a quarter. I’m three quarters in (and seven weeks into my fourth). During my first two quarters, I made honor roll. In the mail the other day, I received a large envelope and was happy, because I hadn’t really paid attention to my final grades last quarter and thought I was getting a third honor roll certificate. Wrong. It was a certificate for Dean’s List.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do a happy dance around the living room and rush to post the news on my FaceBook page. Making Dean’s List is something I wasn’t expecting and I’m glad that my work is paying off. That said, I’m on track to get Dean’s List for a second time in a row. Part of why this is such a big deal is that there’s a saying people use when discussing grades at my college. “C’s get degrees.”

The mentality being that you can still pass college, pass the NCLEX exam, and start practicing as a nurse, even if you never made a grade higher than a C. Lots of people do that, but I don’t know how to be one of those people. I was student of the month three times in kindergarten. I set my academic performance standards at a young age.

Now that I’ve made Dean’s List, I feel that I can relax a bit more. I’ve reached the highest goal I set for myself and when I graduate – as long as things don’t go awry – it should be magna cum laude. The thought of that is crazy.

Just less than a year ago, I wasn’t even really thinking about going to college.

Things can change pretty quickly, I guess.

4/52 – WAD and lots of Coffee

I don’t quite know what’s worse . . . mentally prepping yourself to jump out of a moving vehicle, or actually doing it. I was all prepared to jump out of the car going 80 on the interstate . . . but then I didn’t have to and I was almost disappointed.

Okay. Not “almost.” I was disappointed.

I managed to convince myself that being fired wasn’t bad . . . and even that it would be a positive thing, like an adventure. I’d be forced to change again, to learn something new.

(Granted I’m in college and learn new things literally every day, but you get the gist.)

Instead, I am still working at the call center. There is; however, a plus side.

Now, having been so wrung out and then excited at the prospect of being fired, I’ve lost my sense of WAD – Work Associated Dread. I no longer walk into the office each morning feeling like I’m lugging around a ball and chain of obligations and responsibilities.

Interesting, this has resulted in an marked increase in my productivity. I’m no longer so freaked out over the thought of making mistakes and getting fired that I now complete work more quickly. And it’s actually higher quality work, because part of what can be considered a “mistake” at my office is taking more than five minutes on any one call. Now that I don’t pay attention to the clock, I’m finding that I finish calls in that window, but I check them over more thoroughly before I send them off.

It’s odd, but I’m not unhappy about it.

This week at the office has been long and I’m glad that it’s Friday. I’ve been at the campus for a total of 12 hours, at a clinical site for another 8 1/2, and at work for 21 1/4 hours.So, it’s Friday morning and I’ve put in 41.75 hours between school and work. Today will be another 7.50, which means I’ve had a fifty hour “work week.”

It’s not as bad as it could be and I keep reminding myself of that.

Still, it takes lots of coffee.

*Also, that owl is the front of my coffee cup. It’s quirky.

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.

_________________________________________________________________

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.

_________________________________________________________________

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.

_________________________________________________________________

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.

_________________________________________________________________

*Ten minutes later*

_________________________________________________________________

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.

_________________________________________________________________

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 . . .”

“Happy” Birthday to Me.

Birthdays are an interesting part of American culture. You have your first one before you’re even old enough to properly blow out candles and some people say their first birthday is one of their earliest memories. (I don’t personally remember mine, but there’s a picture of me as a baby looking somewhat perturbed by my cake – a two-tiered, white iced thing, with plastic clowns on it . . . I’m not sure what my mother was thinking.)

Birthdays can serve as milestones. Turning thirteen, having a sweet sixteen, getting a license at sixteen. Buying a lotto ticket at 18. Drinking legally at 21. There are all sorts of expectations for birthdays. They’re s meant to be special. A sort of congratulatory party, because you made it through another year of life. Cake, singing, presents . . . and so many cards from so many coworkers who you ordinarily don’t really speak to.

This year – today, actually – I am twenty-five. A quarter of a century old.

I don’t know if I’m supposed to feel mature and responsible, or young and carefree.

Right now I just feel sort of worried.

Last night, I confessed to my boss that I don’t think I’ll be transferred into online courses this semester, which puts me at missing about ten hours of work a week – not counting my exams that also have to be proctored at the campus. I was nervous about telling her and tried to test the waters by noting that my SO had asked, “Will you be fired, if you can’t transfer to online courses?” He didn’t ask that, actually, because he’s not worried.

She immediately assured me, “Oh, no! Little muffin, I wouldn’t do that. We’ll work it out. Life happens sometimes, to all of us.”

I felt like a fifty-pound weight was off my chest . . . but then . . .

I messaged her this morning with the confirmation of the bad news. I can’t transfer to online courses. Essentially, I received a, “Because reasons,” answer from the school on it. I let her know and crossed my fingers that she wouldn’t be angry or upset.

What I get is, “Okay. When you get in, tell me what hours you’ll be out again. I’ll have to let Roger and Jose know. I won’t be able to do anything until after that.”

Wait, what? Last night it was, “Don’t worry, we’ll work through it.”

This morning it’s, “Well, no promises.”

It would be a hell of a birthday present to be fired, I suppose. I’d have the rest of the day off, so I could job hunt. Maybe I’d even get a sympathy hire??? Technically, I do have an in at Dunkin’ Donuts, working the midnight to five shift. I’d be a decorator. And I’d be making $2.00 less and working 15 hours less. Not ideal, no. But better than nothing.

On top of this worry about my job stability (which, ironically, is a worry I’ve had since I first started working when I was nineteen), I’m worried about breaking the bad news to my SO that my tuition costs this semester weren’t properly showing up. Instead of getting back roughly $2,000 next week, I’ll owe $530 by the end of this quarter. On top of still having to pay off the credit card balance of $1,400 from last quarter.

So. This is what student debt feels like.

My birthday is not entirely without bright spots. They’re balancing the negatives (sorta).

Last night, my SO picked up my present, which he’d had on layaway . . . a brand new PS 4, complete with Call of Duty III. I didn’t set it up last night, because a) it wasn’t technically my birthday and b) I had to complete a Health Assessment assignment that took the better part of three hours to finish, because of how detailed it was.

Tonight, my SO and I will hang out at the house, maybe watch the presidential debate, while I study for a quiz tomorrow. I have my fingers crossed that he’ll set up the PS 4 while I’m at work, so that I can play some during study breaks. I also have a birthday dinner with my family on Sunday, so that’s something to look forward to as well.

Falling asleep, last night, I kept telling myself, “This will all be okay. It will all work out.”

My SO – who was really more my Owner, in this context – stroked my hair and “Mmhmm’d” at me, but he didn’t realize that I wasn’t just talking about one thing. I was trying to assure myself that everything will work out . . . school, work, us, me, life.

I don’t know if it will, actually. I feel sometimes that I’ve only stumbled through the past twenty-five years, rather than really living them. But, twenty-five years is more than a lot of people get, which makes me lucky. And here, where I’m at, the weather is great.

So, if I do get fired, at least I’ll be able to walk home while enjoying the day.

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.