Community College Dropout

It’s a beautiful thing to wake up and believe that you’re exactly in the place that you need to be. Even if it’s not the place you plan on staying. For me, figuring out where to go or what to pursue next has always heavily involved where not to go and what not to do next. I’ve made some decisions in the recent two months that go in a very opposite direction from what I had planned. You know what they say: Man Plans, God Laughs. I suppose this is my official (and late) letter of resignation to Delgado Community College. Unless of course the writing doesn’t work out, in which case I’ll need Anatomy and Physiology II in the Fall and in the afternoon, please.

Bye Bye Delgado. It's Been Real.

I’m often surprised how hard it is for me to admit that I am sick. All my friends would tell you differently because they’ve all heard me say a million times “Sorry can’t make it. Feel like death again,” or something similar and I operate an entire blog centered around my stupid health! But it hasn’t always been this way. And in my instances of pain I have no hesitation in admitting that I feel awful and to just go ahead and count me out of whatever activity they’re planning. But for some reason, in a larger context, in the long term, I’ve never really considered myself sick or disabled or incapable. That’s why when my best friend Jess and I talked about nursing school this summer, I jumped on board immediately. I was feeling better, (as in, I could walk with ease now) and I wanted to be working towards something. This was in July so I had been away from my job since February and was really feeling the void of not doing anything. I was writing, true, but no one takes a jobless “writer” seriously. I didn’t even take myself seriously! Everyone is writing a book. Everyone has a brother in a band.

Anyway, I have always had a passion for nursing. My mom was a nurse, and since I was young I would dress up in her lab coat, wear the stethoscope around my neck, and walk around the house pretending to conduct my highly important work of tending to the sick. I’d also beg people to let me give them an exam, which usually ended up in me asking my Grandma questions like “And how often do you take fiber?” and listening to our dog Bacchus’s heartbeat. When it came to choosing a major in college, I chose Journalism for two reasons. 1. I’m an inherently curious person and 2. It came easy. My writing classes were easy A’s for me. Math and science meant a lot more work on my part. So I chose what came natural, and that was the right decision.

But now this nursing idea was popping up again, so I jumped on board. It was something I had interest in anyway, and I only needed a few pre-reqs in order to be admitted, so I went for it. I signed up for 3 classes, passed the entrance exam, and decided to start a silly blog to accompany me on my sickly journey to nursedom. Oh how the tides would turn. Funny that I didn’t really stop and consider that the whole reason I even had time to consider going back to school was because I was sick and physically unable to keep up with the pace of the rest of the world. Nope..never thought of that…

Even after the blog went viral and other opportunities began presenting themselves, I finally sat down one morning and really thought about nursing school. I started thinking about how I handled my three classes at Community College. Usually, I went, so that was a start and my grades were fine. But nursing school is very intensive. Sometimes the hours are very long and I don’t think it’s one of those jobs that would be very forgiving about me calling in once a week or letting me come in late when I had a migraine. I know a few people attending nursing school now, and when I would see them after a full day and how tired they were, I knew deep down I wouldn’t be able to do it physically. Didn’t I know that before? And yet something made me go after it in August. Unfortunately I think it was ego. Something in me wanted to prove I could do what other people could do. I could be normal. And if I couldn’t make it through, I’d just give up. And that’s not really a responsible or wise decision on my part, but since it only began with 3 classes, I think those near and dear to me wished me luck and quietly thought ‘What the hell is that girl doing? She can’t even prepare her own meals!’ It was also not a wise decision because it was this kind of thinking that kept me at a job so long that I was incapable of keeping up with. It was ruining any shot at me getting better, and this would have done the same.

Luckily, I didn’t get far enough into nursing school to have to quit or give up halfway through. Three days before my last final, the blog went viral and new, more feasible opportunities presented themselves under the same heading: Writing. Remember? The thing you’re decent at and enjoy doing that comes naturally and doesn’t require you to use your feeble little body? DUH. Like Nepo says “When we stop struggling, we float.” Once I stopped trying to prove what I could do, I stopped having to try so hard, and was left with the gift I had all along.

What I’ve been considering lately is that my motive for going into nursing in the first place was very basic: to help sick people. And somehow, now, I am inadvertently given that same opportunity, just through different means; my words. I’ve received quite a number of emails from people with many types of health issues who say this site helps them feel less alone and less crazy, and makes them laugh, too. It’s a beautiful gift to be able to reach people that way. The internet rocks. It’s like I’m an internet nurse!

So I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has written, commented, or laughed, and to everyone who has found comfort, hope, or joy here. One of the biggest realizations I’ve had in all of this is that it’s entirely possible to be sick and still laugh, love, dance, and have a happy life. So don’t ever start becoming comfortable with the perspective that you’re sick and being sick sucks and thus, you’re life is going to suck. Being sick does suck, but you’re life doesn’t have to. Mine isn’t completely where I’d like it to be, but  it’s getting there, and I believe more than ever in the prospect of true happiness. This realization is of course coming after a year of a lot of mental and physical pain and breakdowns and loss and lessons. But hopefully it can offer some comfort to anyone out there without them having to go through a year of pain and breakdowns and loss. Tolle says this: “I am not what has happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” I think I know what I’m meant to do now.

Health, Happiness, and Mom I’ll Pay You Back for That Semester at Community College Soon I Promise.

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27 thoughts on “Community College Dropout

  1. I was once where you are now. I didn’t have a diagnosis but I experienced the same things. Music was a lot of work and I couldn’t keep up with the demands so I quit. It took 5 years but I made my way back to college and became a paramedic, then a nurse. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change a thing. I took the time and got better and then moved forward. It’s a cycle. Now, I have diagnosis and I am again taking the time to get better before moving on.

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  2. a. I went to Egypt to learn Arabic and found I loved writing in English more than anything else.

    b. I was throwing a pity party for myself today and inviting others to join but now I think I’m going to suck it up.

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  3. Wonderful post, good luck with the writing. Your posts are great, I really enjoy them alot. I don’t have a chronic illness myself, but I am a young single Mum to a chronically ill Autistic boy…over the past year I have had to reassess my goals and choices and the reasons I’ve made them too. I am heading back to Uni this year, to study psychology part-time. Unsure where that will lead, my writing, art, etc, will be pushing for time, energy and headspace…what’s left after single-handedly raising two kids! lol! I may just end up doing a semester too…who knows. sometimes we just have to find out ourselves I guess. Excited to see what you do next…

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  4. I enjoy your blog as I have lived much the same life as you. I was diagnosed with Fibro when I was 14 and have always struggled to admit that I am “ill” because I continuously overwork myself. Best of luck to you!

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  5. This is a weird post for me to read. I graduated with a BA in journalism for the SAME reasons that you listed above. I’ve been toying with the idea of going back to school for nursing — but I don’t have the money, and I’m going through some physical issues as well…my mom keeps asking me if I think I can handle it, and of course I’m like “YES”.
    Hmmm…

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  6. I know people tell you this all the time, but you really are an inspiration. Every single time one of your posts pops up, I get so excited because I know that it will bring me some hope and put me in a better mood! You have definitely found your calling in life.

    I especially liked that quote by Tolle, my new favorite quote! How extremely applicable that is to our situations.

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  7. I really enjoy your blog. You’re funny and smart, but, more than that, you really express the frustrations of illness while showing how they illuminate the truly important things in our lives. I was diagnosed with narcolepsy & fibromyalgia over 20 years ago, and yet I’m still struggling with the same issues you’re encountering… so consider yourself ahead of the game! I especially appreciate the point you make about letting ego decide we can do more than we actually can~ when was the last time I incurred an injury in that vain pursuit? Erm…. a week ago?
    Thank you! Keep writing!

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  8. So do we get to read about the opportunities that have come your way since the blog went viral?! Curious and happy for you!

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  9. Mary,

    I think you should blog for a living and turn these posts into a book of your wisdom. You are truly gifted. I would be interested in advertising on your site, just to support you, if I can afford it. If that’s an option, please shoot me an e-mail at Sonja@SonjasInk.com.

    Keep being you!

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  10. Excellent post. I admire your honesty very much. I agree with your decision about nursing school. Besides the program being brutal, most nurses work 10-12 hour shifts. My mother is an RN and is constantly exhausted. It’s a very demanding job where you’re on your feet and moving around all day. You definitely have a talent for writing and I hope you are able to do great things with that talent.

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  11. I am in the same place. I’m finishing my prereqs and waiting on my acceptance letter to the nursing school and wondering the whole time if I’m going to be able to handle it all when I’m in pain and fatigued with just the low activity level I have now. But I know this is what I want to do, so I’m going to try and hope I keep up somehow!

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  12. Excellently written, as usual. Yes, you are an internet nurse. You probably don’t realize just how many people you help with your writing. Keep it up!!

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  13. It’s interesting because when I came across your site and saw you were in nursing school I thought “omg, that’s just what I did….best of luck damn it” I also lasted a semester in school and about 4 months as a CNA/GNA before I realized that it wasn’t realistic for me. Another opportunity presented itself though and I went on to work on in administrative patient care capacities directly with wounded soldiers. It was amazing, but after a few years I could no longer even do that. I have a blog project that’s fallen to the wayside, but you just might inspire me to pick it back up, for my own therapy, because I’m in one of those ruts where I am finding it difficult to accept ill be sick for the rest of my life as well. Good to know I’m not alone in the process we all seem to have to go through to cope

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  14. Totally understand, Mary! Have had CFS/Fibromyalgia forever now, yet not a semi-good day goes by when I don’t think, “I should be a flight attendant!”. Yep, like that’s gonna happen… My family look at me, puzzled, like, “Uh, really?”… I just think in the desperation of wanting to get well and lead a regular life, it’s actually easy to sometimes forget when you’re feeling at least 50% OK, what the reality of a situation is. It only takes one (rare) good day for me to make leaping decisions. Then the next day I’m stuck cancelling and rearranging left, right and center.

    Ah well – at least I can see the funny side!

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  15. I always love your posts, they make me feel a lot less alone, so keep it up!

    I can also relate to the struggle with actually admitting to yourself that you may be sick, or disabled, I am still struggling to keep up with the world, and although I often don’t quite manage, at least I can feel that I have achieved something. It is wonderful that you have found a passion to persue which doesn’t have to be taxing on your health!

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  16. Brutally honest Mr. Gelpi. As usual superbly written and deeply moving. Profound and yes, I was always worried about the hectic schedule and demanding nature of the nursing career and classes. Hope you make the right choices. Best of luck and health.

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