Keeping my smile

I was asked today what it was like to be a graduate student. The actual question was: “I could never go back to school. I’m too old. How do you do it all and still keep a smile on your face?”

Actually, if they could see the jelly of uncertainty, the butterflies of “Just what have I gotten myself into” under the skin, they would wonder that I could ambulate and make any kind of sense come out my mouth.

But in all honesty, despite the struggle I and every other full-time student goes through, I would not miss the opportunities that this experience is giving me. I bite my nails until the final grades come down; I try to balance family, work and school; I’m in a perpetual state of “am I really getting it?” My job has increased hours recently beyond my normal full-time; I carry a full load as a graduate student; my grandchildren want time with Nana; my children, though grown and parents themselves crave my time, my compassion and my advice; co-workers who suddenly change attitude after 18 months and a husband who requires some snuggle time. I have projects on my ToDo list. Yikes! How do I even find time to breathe?

I laugh. I laugh a lot. There is humor and joy mixed in with the struggle and sorrow of everyday life. I immerse myself in the positives. The dog that looks at me like I am crazy when I say “No!” The cat who seems to believe if he climbs onto my shoulder from behind I won’t notice his 17 pound weight. The grandchild who exclaims, “Nana, Nana, come look at this!” The inmate who laughs and becomes more at ease when I take their SPO2 reading on their middle finger, telling them, “This is the only time you can flip me off and not get into trouble.” Or the matriarch of her family (and a bit of a growly bear to the other nurses), well into her ninth decade responding with a laugh and “I’ve never heard that before!” when I told her I hadn’t met anyone with her last name I didn’t like.

Some moments are not humorous, but filled with honor and privilege. The gentleman, dying of lung cancer, struggling for breath as I support his body against mine with his barely whispered “Thank you,” before he falls asleep for 10 minutes, his head cradled on my shoulder.  

I bring all that positive energy into the job that I love, the knowledge I am acquiring and the interactions between myself, my family, my colleagues and my patients. I am working my future and I cannot help but smile.

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