Change of plans

I’m a planner. I always have been. In fact when I look back, I had my entire life planned out by the age of thirteen, in more detail than was really ever necessary.

I suppose it had a little bit to do with ‘finding myself’ at the time. As any thirteen-year-old does, I was trying to establish my identity. Trying to figure out what made me, me and what on earth I was trying to accomplish in this lifetime.

I remember comprising a documents folder on the family computer entitled ‘My Life’, and filled it with pictures of the things I thought would make my adult life complete. It was a photo-list of goals for that miraculous day I no longer had to to school, and got to be a real person.

I look back now, and I have nothing of what I put in that little photo folder. But that’s mostly because the things I thought I wanted at thirteen have somewhat changed (although, I do think a front garden entirely covered in purple orchids, and mermaid blue hair would have made for an interesting life thats for sure).

The point was however, that no matter how crazy my thirteen year old whims were – I had made a life plan.

From there I became a little older and thankfully, my taste in lifestyle ambitions altered. By the time I was fifteen, I had developed a much more sensible plan that mostly focussed on work and study goals (how boring, right?).

It was about this age that I really started to hone in on the idea of being a nurse. It was something I always thought I would be good at from the time I used my friends t-shirt and her hair tie to make a sling for her broken arm in PE in grade six. The ambulance officers were so impressed at my make-shift first aid appliance that they gave me a whole jar of jellybeans and well, that sold me on the career itself.

I remember so clearly the feeling I got that day, how rewarding it had been to just help out in the rush of the moment. Everyone had made me feel like a hero. I knew I wasn’t, but there was nothing quite like it. The feeling of helping someone out when they needed it most, it was addictive.

So when I was asked in my year nine class three years later what it was that I wanted to do when I got older, I really never gave it a second thought. Nursing had always been at the forefront, and it never really budged.

I researched nursing for almost two weeks straight. I wanted to know everything about it and exactly what I needed to do to get there. I liked the idea of midwifery in particular after talking to my cousin who was one, and it set a plan into motion.

I mapped out everything on a giant poster that required to fold outwards three times to sufficiently store the information. I knew what classes I needed to take in high school the following year, I knew what score I would need in grade twelve to be excepted into university, and I knew exactly what course I would need to take once I got there. Like I said, I’m a planner.

Well, my little five year plan worked to a T. Life seemed to find harmony with my oversized poster and before I knew it, I had graduated as a registered nurse and it was time for phase two. You see, the way it worked at my university was that I needed to complete my Bachelor in Nursing, then work for a year as a RN before I could apply to study a Masters of Midwifery.

With the securing of a Grad Position as an RN, I was ecstatic to only be 12 months away from actually achieving everything I planned. Then life decided differently.

They closed the option to study a Masters in Midwifery at my university halfway through my Grad Year. Now it was only open for people that were already qualified as a midwife. The next closest university that offered the course was at least an hour and half away, and with my shiny new graduate position, I just couldn’t see the long distance travel thing working.

And I remember that moment, because it was the first time that something didn’t go to plan for me. I remember feeling like someone had taken the wind out from my sails, not really knowing what I should do next. I wasn’t used to having to start from scratch. After all, this was my life plan and I’d been following it for the past seven years. Now I needed a new one.

When I went back to the drawing board, there was a lot of options. To study to be a doctor was the first one I fell in love with. So that’s what I set out to do, as most of you will already know. But halfway through this year, I guess I’ve had a change of heart.

I’ve been watching the surgical interns so closely at my work. Trying to see myself as one of them, and I can. But I’m not sure that I would want to once I would find myself in their shoes. If you were to ever ask any one of them whether they loved what they do, they would say no. They are worked so hard and given so little in return.

If I was to become one of them, it’s not the seven long years of study on minimal income that bothers me. It would be studying seven long years to end up in a job that pays less than what I’m earning now, examinations every single weekend to keep up with the internship, being yelled at rudely by the consultant for not having the ability to be in three places at the one time and having hardly any time to myself just to breathe.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised I preferred a quality of life. Realistically, in the next five years, my plan incorporates a family (with any luck). And I just couldn’t have that being a doctor.

So again, my plan changed and I’ve really never felt so fickle in my life!

I decided once I had finished my second degree in nursing that I wanted to be a Nurse Practitioner. Almost like a doctor, but without having to say goodbye to every other aspect of my life in order to achieve it (I think I’m allowed to be a little selfish in that regard).

However in July, when I went to apply to study, I was met with some pretty stiff prerequisites and I must admit I was a little disheartened.

  1. Must be a registered nurse for a minimum of five years – well, I’ve barely scratched the surface of my third, so I have somewhat a way to go.
  2. Must have worked in an advanced role position for a minimum of two years – well, I’ve been acting as a CN, but as you know I missed that train with the permanent position just last month.
  3. Must work in a specialised sector of the healthcare system for a minimum of one year – well, generalised surgical nursing really can’t be classified as a “Specialised” sector, hence the title “general”.

So, here I am. Facing a brick wall head-on, and trying to figure my way over it. It’s been the first time that I’ve felt like even with so many options, I’m stuck in a wading pool waiting for the waves.

I’m in the making of a new plan, but this one is taking it’s time to map out. And there’s no  elaborate poster yet. For now, a nurse practitioner is still the direction I’m going in. But the next two years aren’t looking as on track as I would have really liked them to have been.

Perhaps I’m expecting too much of myself? I mean, most people don’t become nurse practitioners until they are well into their mid-life crisis, and here I am at 23 wanting to click my fingers and have it all fall into place.

Perhaps I was a bit naive in thinking it would happen just because that was my plan. Maybe not getting the CN position was the world’s way of letting me know I need to slow down. Let myself grow, and not force it?

I guess I am slowly learning that things don’t always go to plan, and that it’s okay when they don’t. Because I think that sometimes you have to make adjustments to the plan in order to reevaluate whether you’re following a poster plan, or following your heart.

I’m not used to things not following the plan, but I know I’ll get better at it. Because sometimes, that’s just how it’s going to be. And I’ll learn from that as I go.

All you can do, is just keep moving forward. Chip away at the brick wall, find your way through it. My life plan hasn’t played out exactly like I thought it might have, but thats all part and parcel of what it means to survive in this world.

Plan 2.0 is in the making, and it starts with a move to the brand new hospital next year. But at the end of the day, if life takes me elsewhere, I know I’ll be okay. I land on my feet.

d x

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