I saw my doctor this morning and got a note to finally return to work. I told her I needed to work full-time, because our expenses are greatly outnumbering our income. My husband's paycheck covers the mortgage, the electrical bill, and maybe a little gas. That leaves groceries, the phone/DSL, diapers, car insurance, life insurance, health and dental insurance, and more gas for the cars. I recently had to explain to my toddler that he could not watch "Caillou" on Netflix because mommy's credit card is maxed out. Yeah. Not good.
So, I'm going back to work. This is good, right? No more eating rice and beans constantly (for a while, anyway). No more seemingly unending state of financial disaster looming over our heads. I know I need to do it, but when I lay down in bed and think about it I have to stifle the tears insisting their way out of my closed eyelids. I keep telling myself, it's really not that bad. I love the night nurses in the ICU. I love working with patients on vents. I love their complex situations and scrolling lists of comorbidities.
Still, I dread the idea of staying up all night and potentially doing this for years until I finish my pre-reqs. I'm tired of bringing people ginger ale and cleaning up their fecal incontinence. I'm tired of placating disgruntled patients, giving bed baths, and spending hours stocking random supplies in room, after room, after room.
I know. It really doesn't sound that bad. I'm sure tons of people aren't happy with their careers. Still, it's driving me apeshit. I hate that I can practically feel my brain start to atrophy when I go to work. I want to do something that isn't just a check mark on a list.
I don't know if I have ever written about my sequence of events after Oberlin, but during my last year there, I applied to masters programs in opera and post-bac pre-med programs. I got into both and ultimately decided to give up the singing to pursue medicine. I was supposed to start my post-bac program in the fall of 2007, but was terrified by the interest on the loans (by the time I finished med school, the interest would have quadrupled the cost of my post-bac program). My parents urged me to stay home and save some money, and this seemed like a reasonable idea to me, so I deferred from the program until the next year, lived at home with my parents, got a job as a caregiver at a nearby nursing home, and stowed away my earnings like a chipmunk.
Meanwhile, I'd been fooling around with this nurse at work. He was nice, real easygoing -- not really my type (loose definition of my type: bookish socially inept Caltech students who could ALWAYS help me with my calculus problem sets), but interesting. He had really amazing taste in music, but it was none of the stuff I normally listened to. Still, he was really not my type. He had a huge tattoo covering his entire back and he liked to wear camouflage pants on his days off. He was devilishly intelligent but had a complete disregard for the educational system and had dropped out of highschool as a teenager. He was really rustic. He lived in a cabin in the woods, he had a huge dog, and he used to have his own sawmill before he became a nurse. He wasn't my type, but he was hot and magnetic.
Historically, I had always put my education before guys. I highly valued my independence. I had convinced myself that I was my own star leading my way; that I was content with myself and my academic pursuits; that I didn't need a boyfriend or a husband to find happiness, and that I would never be blinded by love (or lust) and let a guy screw up my plans -- I had worked too hard for that.
So, what did I do? You guessed it. I became hopelessly enamored with this rustic man-nurse and let him screw up my plans. Idiot. Idiot. Idiot. Still, I don't really regret that part (most days, anyway). Then I got knocked up. When I found out, the idea was so ridiculous that I laughed. Me? Kids? What? I didn't like children; I didn't think they were cute; I'd never even babysat a kid.
I had always thought maybe I would have kids, but not until I was around forty or fifty...or sixty. Maybe I'd adopt. Pregnancy and childbirth seemed sort of overrated. I always thought that if for any reason I needed an abortion, that it would not be a difficult decision to make. Things were becoming complex, though. I had been working at this nursing home eighty hours a week wiping butts and playing scrabble, I was emotionally exhausted and confused about my interest in healthcare, and had all these weird pregnancy hormones surging through my body. I was depressed and was worried that if I aborted this little dude we had been calling "Cletus the Fetus," that I would crawl into a hole and never come out. My rustic-man nurse was about fifteen years older than me and ready to have a family. I knew he'd be an awesome dad. He was totally willing to play stay-at-home dad while I went to school. In some ways, it was like I had found the perfect guy. And so, even though kids have sticky fingers and dirty diapers and boogers and destroy everything, the idea of one seemed kind of happy. This is how I became a mother.
When I told my parents, the shame was pretty much equivalent to getting pregnant at age 12 by some five foot tall eighth-grader with a gameboy. My dad banished me from the family for three years.
I got over it and started taking my post-bac classes one at a time while working full-time as an EKG tech. The day that MiniMan was born, I went to work and I went to a class afterwards and took an exam. I was having contractions but just wanted to get the exam over with. I had studied well and I didn't want to have to study for it again (especially with a newborn). By the time I got home it was pretty much time to turn around and go back to the hospital. MiniMan was born about an hour and a half later. All the nurses said "if it were that easy for me, I'd have another one." All I knew was that it felt like squeezing a TV out of my nostril.
Things were okay at the hospital, but then I came home. I realized this crying, pooping, never sleeping torture device had taken over my life. I knew it would be bad, but it was worse. "What was I thinking," I asked a few days after he was born, bawling hysterically to my midwife. "I've given up my entire life." Somehow she was able to console me, and things did gradually get easier. Still, the snaillike pace of my coursework was driving me up the wall.
About a year later, I started applying to programs again. I applied to post-bac programs and for second bachelor's degrees. I looked into taking courses "a la carte" and just taking what I needed. I seemed to have researched every school within a 2-hour radius and how much it would cost. I got into a wad of programs. I could have done a post-bac program again and I could have gotten another degree with a full scholarship. I opted to take my courses at the big state school as a non-matriculated student. It seemed like the most practical use of my time (I wouldn't have to take two years worth of extra courses to fulfill a degree requirement), and it was still one of the less expensive options.
Anyway, you get the point. Then I went to school and went to work, and went back to school, and never slept and eventually flipped out. I guess my point is, I feel like I've been putting off the remainder of my post-bac courses forever. I'm becoming so impatient with and practically intolerant of my menial job (which pays less than half what I made singing with opera companies). I chose to be in this situation, but I never anticipated that this period would last so long.
I think I just need to suck it up, but really, I need to have some kind of end in sight. I have a really hard time dealing with the idea of being a hospital aide for the next five years. I'm not planning to take classes again until next fall. If I work and take one class at a time, though, it would take four years for me to finish these. It really horrifies me. I don't know what to do.