I remember her … the naïve 18 year old girl, fearless and feisty, yet unsettled by what the future would bring after high school. One by one her friends received university acceptance letters; invitations to become who they thought they were meant to be. Uncertain what would incite her already restless spirit, she applied to a 2 year nursing diploma program. With her signature ponytail swinging with each bounce of her step, she entered class on a clear August morning, blind to how her life was about to change.
I still know her. I see her every day in the mirror – the same saucy ponytail … but a lot less naïve. In the 33 years since that first day in nursing school, I have lived a life that may seem incomprehensible to others. How else could you describe a career that pushes you to grow by pulling you into life’s most intimate moments; combines humility and hilarity in the same breath; builds camaraderie while creating isolation; lifts you to the highest heights before you fall to the lowest lows; and delivers endless opportunity as long as you are courageous enough to grasp it?
I did not know at 18 what my life was to become but I see now it could be nothing else. Shaped by context and circumstance, my nursing story has been cultivated over time by nature and nurture, exposure and experience, instinct and intuition, and culture and captivity. The privilege of caring for others has not been taken lightly for it is their narratives that have moulded who I have become. When they could not stand up, I stood up for them; when they could not find their voice, I spoke for them; and when they feared being alone, I stayed at their side. I led, I fought, I cried, I laughed, I loved, I lost, I won, and I cared.
If someone had told me on my first day of nursing school that I would have endless learning opportunities, live on the cutting edge of technology, witness revolutionary medical discoveries, advise government, write policy, expand minds in academia, improve access to health care, translate nursing research into practice, and serve those who are most vulnerable … I would have never believed it. I may not have known why I went into nursing back then …. but I know now!