I was smack dab in the middle of 5 years of nonstop nursing school. Or rather 5 years of nonstop frantically-trying-not-to-drown-from-the-pressure-because-they’re-cramming-so-much-into-your-head-that-it-feels-like-you’re-drinking-from-a-firehose-that-never-turns-off. And it won’t stop until you pass your boards. That’s exactly the place where I was that day.
Anyways, my husband had many tricks for supportively distracting me during my long, 5-year absence away from our life and family. He knew I needed breaks. He also knew that I probably wouldn’t take them.
So about once a week, he would force my nose out of those giant textbooks and get me out of the house. And it usually involved food. Food always works for Debi. Even not-so-great food.
We were out on one of those breaks one Saturday afternoon, eating lunch at Burger King (no judgers, please). I don’t remember at all what I ate, but I sure remember what happened afterwards. I doubt I’ll ever forget it.
Well, I hope I don’t.
I was in the restroom washing my hands when an older lady came up to the sink next to mine and started washing hers. I had nodded hello when she first walked up, but I was distracted – just washing my hands – thinking about all the studying I had to do when we got back home.
I could feel this lady watching me in the mirror the whole time, though, and finally she asked me if I taught nursing school. When I looked back at her, I saw her nodding towards my UCF College of Nursing t-shirt, and I knew then not only what had triggered her question, but I also could pretty much predict where this conversation was heading.
Or, so I thought.
I actually got asked this question all the time, so I was used to it. Every clinical rotation I had been on … any time I was out in my uniform … it never failed. Someone would always think I was the professor because I was a little *ahem* older than most nursing students. And I also think it might’ve been because I’m tall? And maybe my hairdo, too?
Usually when I would reply to this question with my smile and well-used answer of, “No I’m actually a student!”, I would hear, “Wow, I could never go back to school at this age!” or “I’ve always wanted to be a nurse, but it’s just too hard”, or “Good for you – we need more good nurses!”
But not this lady.
She had no praise or encouragement. And she had not a single problem whatsoever in telling me that I was making a huge mistake. One that I would surely regret.
I was just too old.
Too old to handle the pressures of the education.
Too old to pass my boards.
Too old to be able to land a decent job afterwards.
And way too old to practice nursing.
She actually said that I would be a danger to both myself and to my patients.
Well, the funny thing is, I was not shocked by her statements. I was hurt, deflated, and humiliated, but not shocked.
I had been internally struggling with each of these same thoughts since the day I first turned to the Nursing section in the university course catalog. Believe me.
What DID shock me, though, was that this person – whom I had never met before, was not a college professor, had not even attempted college at an advanced age, and had never, ever considered becoming a nurse – would have the gumption to walk up to me and spew her venom all over my already overly-fragile-and-extremely-exhausted psyche at that particular moment in time.
Right in the bathroom of our local Burger King.
Even more shocking to me was the fact that she obviously thought this was the right thing to do. That it was okay to just come up and pour out her cynical and hopeless pessimism all over someone who was simply trying to make it through her day. And to enjoy a short study break from learning how to possibly save this lady’s very own life one day.
Well, I have a name for these types of people: I call them “poopers.”
I know, I know … how ridiculously eloquent of me. I guess instead we could call them party poopers. Optimism poopers. Confidence poopers. Or happy- study-break poopers.
But my favorite is just poopers. My apologies to all my English professors who had such high hopes for my vocabulary. It just fits.
So instead of continuing to expose you to anymore of my unfortunate rant, let me just stop right here and skip ahead to my reply back to her. (You’re welcome.)
This is what I told her that day and myself every, single day since I first started on this journey:
Nursing was a path that I felt very strongly called toward.
Yes … even at my age.
I knew that God had something very important for me to do and learn, and this was the time that He had perfectly ordained for it to happen. And he had also already perfectly planned for the ending. And when He finally revealed that to me, I would be okay with that.
I was not making a mistake.
I was walking in faith towards a God who had never given me reason to doubt Him. He had proven to me over and over again throughout my own hard-headed life that His way was not only the best way, but the only way to travel.
There was no way was I going to say, “No thank you” when He spoke the words “Come, follow me” so clearly to my heart. I had learned before what happens when you do that.
And no … I had no idea how long this career would last, but I would be thankful for every day … for all the amazing things I experienced … all the incredible people I was blessed to meet and work with … and for every, single patient and family member who ever trusted me enough to let me into their lives – even just for a few hours.
I would not trade a stress-filled second of any of it.
Would I have still gone back to school if I had known I would be dealing with my own disease before I even started my first job? I’m honestly not sure.
Common sense would say, “Of course I wouldn’t have.” But this Jesus lover has her doubts about the certainty of that. I simply would’ve prayed a lot and followed His lead.
Did it last as long as I’d hope? No … it definitely did not.
And here’s the big question:
Am I really as okay with that as I’ve been confidently telling everyone for ten years now that I would be?
Well … it depends on when you ask me. Believe me, I have my moments in both directions. But God’s working me through it.
I definitely loved my job as a bedside nurse. I loved that crazy, stress-filled nightmare of a workplace … my patients … my colleagues … and yes, even the perpetual chaos of all those scary unknowns. I miss it all.
But I can tell you this with the utmost certainty: oh, how much more I love the same God who initially called me to care for his people, but then loved me enough to tell me that it’s now time to stop.
Right now, Debi.
So I do admit that I struggle sometimes. But I also rest in His perfect timing and sovereignty.
I’m thankful for Him loving me enough to keep me safe. I’m thankful that He allowed me to have all those amazing experiences. And whether I’m actively practicing or not, I get to keep those experiences in my heart. They’re mine.
I’m also thankful for what seemed like an unfortunate encounter that day in the Burger King bathroom. The funny thing about it is that the memory in my mind has since become more about my response of preaching God’s calling and faithfulness to her, instead of her ugliness towards me.
And I’m on-my-face thankful for God’s unwavering love and grace that forgives my ugly moments of whiney questions and doubts, and simply responds to me, “You’re mine, child. No matter what happens, nothing will EVER separate you from my love.”
That’s all that matters, my friends. The gift of being called His.
And oh … how I pray that every one of you reading these words today knows the peace of having that gift given to you.
Thanks for growing with me. ❤
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38)
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5)