Finding Courage: Why I Left Nursing to Pursue My Writing Career
by Misty Browne
I remember the day I graduated from nursing school vividly: my family was beaming with pride. I felt such joy, realizing that I was finally going to contribute to this world. I was going to be someone critical.
And I was. For the next several years I worked as a nurse, nurturing and caring for patients and their families, with a sense of love that rivaled that of when I first became a mother. When higher education opportunities arose, I looked the other way and pretended they didn’t exist. I felt comfortable and safe – yet not quite happy – exactly where I was in my career. I couldn’t put my finger on why I had begun to feel nauseated every time I thought about being a nurse for the next twenty years.
Yet I still wanted to be important, and at some point, watching everyone else walk away with advanced degrees made me feel smaller. I wanted to be better, feel better about my career choice and recapture the sense of pride I had the first day I started the licensed vocational nursing program.
I chose to become an LVN rather than a registered nurse mainly because the program took less time to complete. While the scope of practice varies slightly in responsibilities, in the state of Texas I was allowed to perform almost all of the same duties as an RN. I wasn’t becoming a nurse for the money, so the difference in pay between the two didn’t matter to me.
Feeling important at that time in my life was crucial to how I viewed my self-worth. Nursing brought that feeling back tenfold. Yet I was constantly being told by my superiors and nursing friends that if I didn’t pursue higher degrees in the nursing field, I wasn’t living up to my true potential.
So I enrolled in classes to work toward becoming a registered nurse.
The first semester of prerequisites went by quickly and I found myself feeling pretty good about my decision. Until the day I sat at the back of my English composition classroom packing my bag as the other students left. That was the day my professor handed back my final essay for the semester and asked me a question that I never expected. A question that made me flinch.
She questioned my happiness with being a nurse.
Sure, I was happy, I responded quietly. I watched her walk away and flipped to the essay I’d written about my childhood. There was an “A” in red sitting at the top, and a note at the bottom, scrawled in her familiar handwriting: “The message in this essay evokes memories of my own childhood happiness. Perhaps you should pursue your writing. Go see the journalism department.”
I nearly laughed out loud. Was she crazy? I had considered my passion for writing and where it fit in my life, but writing was not where I felt most important. Some of my friends who were writers had often talked about publishing the next great literary read. I had as well, but when I mentioned this to friends and family, they would laugh it off as a hobby I might pursue, but certainly never a career. The fact that I had even had a dream of writing a bestselling novel seemed ludicrous to them all.
That night in bed, I imagined every possible way this could go wrong. How would my co-workers react if I gave up nursing and chased after an impossible dream? What would my family think? How would I…survive?
I was a grown woman trying to decide if I wanted to trim the sails of my ship for a new direction, away from where I was currently drifting. But I could not shake the feeling that I’d been drifting about in someone else’s boat. How had I gotten there? How do any of us get to that place?
The next semester, I found myself standing in front of the print journalism professor’s door. Unfortunately, after one and half semesters of journalism classes with one of the best professors I’ve ever had, I found juggling a full time job and a full course load too much to handle. I dropped out.
Over the next few years, I often wondered what I would have been doing if I‘d found a way to finish what I started. But it didn’t really matter; I was back to caring for the sick, back to feeling important. Everything was familiar and safe, despite the nauseating waves that washed through me when I tried to fall asleep. Some nights I stared at my ceiling feeling insignificant, no matter how many people I helped save that day.
It wasn’t that I’d given up writing entirely – I had a blog and wrote occasionally for other websites, even making a little money. But the real pay came when my readers left comments telling me they could relate to my words. I was humbled. And when the comments weren’t so great I found myself even more determined – maybe those were the people I was really helping. Some days I went to bed thinking that I may have helped someone question their beliefs or helped them think about life in a different way.
To watch an infectious wound heal from the inside out is amazing, but to watch a mind change, a viewpoint jumping from inside the box to the outside – that’s miraculous. And after almost nine years of nursing, the act of writing itself became a cool compress for my exhausted and confused spirit. My writing had liberated me from the bonds of a despair I hadn’t really acknowledged existed.
One month ago, I quit. I gave up the red tape and the bureaucracy and the stress of nursing. I’ve leapt off the cliff of creativity and I plan on keeping my muse comfortable and pain-free for as long as this world will let me.
For me, writing was the scalpel that cut open the delicate skin of life and allowed me to emerge like a butterfly from a cocoon. I was finally able to heal my own wounds with words.
But as one emerging into an entirely new and furiously bright world, I am terrified. However, I’m no longer as fearful as I might have been if I’d stayed, working twelve-hour shifts, attending to everyone else’s needs while ignoring my own. I can no longer walk that road dictated by others. The pressure of feeling like I had to follow the path that everyone expected me to take has lifted.
Looking back, I see that my own definition of importance was twisted. I wasn’t looking inside of myself deep enough or trusting my own judgement of who I really wanted to be. The opportunity to see that the courage to take our own road in life is all we need at times to feel empowered and confident.
And I’m still important. Some nights I stare at my ceiling, feeling as if every wonderful thing I’ve ever dreamed of might come to fruition.
Imagine a world where we all choose the path that our souls have been yearning to tread
Misty Browne is a writer who recently left the nursing profession to pursue her writing career. She resides in Texas. You can visit her website at www.rusticmusingsofascatteredmind.com.