I remember being young, maybe 6 or 7, and LOVING father-daughter work day. Do they still do those? They should. And here is why. My entire academic a professional career was determined on one of those days. I remember one time, on one of those exciting days, I was riding on my dads rolling briefcase. It was small, but not as small as a traditional briefcase. It was more like a fancy rolling filing box. He was a pharmaceutical sales rep, and I loved getting dressed up and going into the hospitals with him. I remember loving the smell of the alcohol, the sound of nursing shoes on the floors, and watching the groups of residents and fellows running around, half dead looking. The entire atmosphere was so exhilarating to me. Forget chuck-e-cheese, this was where I wanted to go for a good time! I was in awe of every person in the hospital, from the pharmacist working diligently in the basement, to the always kind nurses, all the way up to senior level physicians my dad would introduce me to. I wanted to be them. And I knew I would. And I knew I wanted to do it at the beautiful, marble clad campus of Emory University. It was the prettiest school I had ever seen, and was every bit a part of my dreams as was watching the magic happen in the halls of a busy cardiac unit of a major hospital. At a young age, on take your daughter to work day, I fell in love with everything medicine and discovered what I was going to be when I grew up.
Over the years, exactly in what capacity has changed a lot. One year I wanted to be a pharmacist. Then I wanted to be a researcher and find cures for diseases like AIDS. Then I wanted to be a nurse manger, able to bring change to the floors. Or a child life specialist, bringing joy back into the lives of scared children hooked up to endless amounts of tubings and monitors. Or a doctor – a cardiac surgeon to be exact. 😉 Or a nurse anesthetist. My point is, I knew I would be one of them, I just had no clue how, in what role, or what I would really be able to add.
But over the years, life takes you on its own journeys. It has a way of molding us, guiding us, without us knowing it’s happening. I fell in love with my husband when I was just 19 years old. I enrolled in a local college and pursued a nursing degree, accelerated course load of coarse – because I knew we were going to get married and start a family. But I would tell anyone who listened that I was going to get my RN, get two years experience in a CVICU, and become a CRNA. I was determined. Then, halfway through school, I spent 4 hours in a NICU. And just like that, life redirected my path without my consent, or my knowledge. I was going to be a NICU nurse, and nothing was going to get in my way.
I did my senior practicum in a NICU, graduated (and got married 7 days later!) and sent out TONS of applications to NICU’s all over the state. I was willing to move. I was willing to do nights. I was willing to do anything. But I didn’t get a single call back about any of my applications. I was so discouraged, and feared I was going to have to take a job I did not want and that would not make me happy. A few tearful conversations with a friend later, she told me to buck up and to not let others get between me and my dreams. That sometimes you have to MAKE them happen. So, I drove on ice-covered roads to a nearby hospital that I heard has an opening in their NICU. Yes, I applied online, but was not hearing back. All my new-grad nurses – ya’ll feel me. No one calls back. So I drove there. What should have been a 40 minute drive took me almost 2 hours because of the road conditions. But I was determined. I showed up to the NICU, asked to speak to the manager, and began to plead my case. I was passionate. I was hard-working. And I WANTED this job. It was the boldest thing I have ever done, and I left with a job offer 🙂
My first day at this new job, I met a neonatal nurse practitioner. I had no idea then how important of a role he would play in my future. But meeting him was life once again redirecting my path. I quickly grew aware of how much he knew, how great he was at his job, and knew I wanted that. I finally found my place – the way I was meant to fit into that picture that I saw when I was a little girl. I was going to be a nurse practitioner. So, I got my two years of experience (and had a beautiful baby boy!), I focused on skills, on learning as much as I could as often as I could. I started to fill out applications for pediatric nurse practitioner programs – there were no NNP programs in the state, but a lot of PNPs would work in the NICU, so I was ok with that. Then, once again, my path was redirected. I was told that come Fall, I would not be starting grad school to become a PNP, I would be recovering from brain surgery.
I was diagnosed with a brain tumor early spring. I spent all summer seeing different doctors and surgeons. Fall semester started, but I did not go to class. I went across the country to have this pesky tumor removed. While I was recovering, which took a few months longer than I had expected, it was announced that PNPs were no longer being hired into NICU settings, that those that were already working in the NICU needed to go back for their NNP. I was actually relieved my path had been redirected. I was not halfway into a program, and thousands of dollars in debt, for a degree that would not get me where I wanted to be. One year after my brain surgery, my husband had enrolled in college for engineering and, with a nervous stomach, I mailed my own application to Emory University – who had JUST announced opening a neonatal nurse practitioner program. My dream job. My dream school. Life had redirected me and led me right back to where it all began.
That night – I found out I was pregnant with baby number two! Turns out my upset stomach was from more than just nerves. 🙂 This was not a redirection. I knew I was going to go to Emory University in the Fall with a newborn baby and a two year old boy.
It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t always fun. But it was always, always amazing. Every day as I pulled into campus I was happy. I saw the marble buildings and was emerged in the environment I knew I would one day be a part of. I made great friends, was inspired daily, and had a truly exceptional education. It was the most exhausting, tiring, stressful, and happiest time of my life.
This week, the journey concluded. I walked across the stage in cap and gown at the gorgeous convocation ceremony at Emory University. My husband and family and friends were all there. It was a gorgeous, sunny day. And all I could think about was that little girl, riding on her daddies briefcase, watching proudly as all her dreams came true.
So trust the twists and turns life gives you. Don’t forget your dreams. And don’t ever forget that little girl – because she really did have it all figured out.