I often wonder about engineers. My best friend’s dad is an engineer and on the whole is a quiet, almost-passive guy. I picture engineers huddled around a white board, markers poised, ready to draw out the next huge layout for something useful. The image my mind creates is comical and sound because I know that engineers are engineers because they like it or it interests them. Why else would somebody go to school and do hard, complicated math and graduate just to do hard, complicated math in “real life”?
Then my mind stumbles upon those who do their jobs because they must. They have bills to pay and/or mouths to feed and need the money. They are not at a spot in life to be able to do what makes them happy. These are people working at jobs that we take for granted. Like being a cashier or a janitor or a construction worker. All of these jobs are vital for our society but not many of us do them.
I got lucky. Since I was 14 years old I have been telling people “I want to be a nurse when I get older” and be a nurse is what I’ve been doing. I didn’t get my degree in nursing because it was a smart career move. I didn’t become a nurse overnight, either. Within eight years the forces of the earth have sculpted me into a finished product called Nurse. The earth threw in assertiveness, efficiency, an interest in science and a deep compassion for people to make me the nurse that I am.
My mother-in-love put it better: “For me, being a nurse is to get paid for being who I am.” I wholeheartedly agree. Nurses are a breed. We function on reasonable explanations and “if A then B” rationalizations. (Or at least, I do… I’ve met a couple of bad nurses in my life but I digress.) We get satisfaction out of making it “all better” and helping someone to be more comfortable. We are teachers, scientists, pharmacists and caregivers all rolled into one cookie.
A little known fact about myself: I was two seconds away from being a cosmetology student. I had all of the La’James paperwork in my backseat two summers ago when I felt a … something. Something in me said “become a nurse, it’s what you truly want to do” and so I did. I decided not to pursue cosmetology at this point in my life. My grandparents were pleased when I told them “I wouldn’t have health insurance as a cosmetologist”. My grandma, especially, did not want me to pursue “hair dressing”; she told me so many times. She knew I had it in me to be a medical professional and her faith in me was like flame to a paper. I recycled the La’James forms as soon as my heart changed my mind.
An even less known fact about myself: I was sworn into the United States Air Force in late Spring, 2005. I had intended to use the military as an accelerator pedal to becoming a nurse, fast tracking experience and education all at once. I had some moderate health issues at the time and ultimately withdrew. It was a blessing in disguise because I’ve learned more about life in the last 4 years of my life than I possibly could have while being government property.
I am so passionate about my career that I even weird myself out about it. I can talk and talk about why I love nursing, how it has helped me be a better person, what I want to learn, what I want to specialize in and on and on and on. Then images of that cashier at HyVee or the housekeeper at work or the guy fixing the street flash through my head. I think to myself “I’m lucky to have a job that I love. I’m lucky that I can call my job a career.” Especially with our economy. Especially because I’m so young.
I want my actions to reflect my gratitude for people who serve my burger, bag my groceries, mop the floors of the stores in which I shop… They might not have the luxury of doing what they love and if not, I don’t want to make their daily routine a hassle.
I also want to tip my hat to the brave men and women serving our country. I could have been right beside some of them, in an uncomfortable tent overseas. However, I was whisked down a different path and now live in a quiet apartment in Iowa City and work as a nurse. Thank you for allowing me to have this amenity.
I applaud those of you who wake up, tie your shoes and put on a smile all while maybe daydreaming about that some-place-else you’d rather be. And thank you for trusting your grandmas and grandpas to me. I take care of them as if they are my own.
**Please note that for the sake of this post I present a rather stereotypical view of blue-collar workers. It has, in fact, occurred to me that just because somebody is a janitor doesn’t mean they hate their life.