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Tapenga's Tales
Part 2 - Back to School

(For Part 1 of Tapenga's Tale, click here.)

Time went on and I decided that I wanted a better school district for my children before they were in high school. We had talked about him getting a better job, or maybe going to school to improve our financial situation and allow us to move to a better neighborhood.

There were always endless reasons why he could not do anything, but mostly because he would not make an effort. When the youngest child started kindergarten and the oldest was soon to enter middle school I decided it was time for me to take things into my own hands, and I decided to go back to school.

I had a year of college just out of high school, but that was 11 years ago and I had not gotten very good grades. The program I chose would take 3 years to complete, the last 1&1/2 would be full time. I could not quit my part time job because it was a union job and paid well for not having an education and included health insurance.

There was also a good possibility in my mind that I would fail and could not afford to not have that job waiting if I was not successful. So that meant I would be going to school, working about 25 hours a week, raising 3 children, couldn't back out of the president of the PTA position I had recently accepted, and trying to appease my insecure, berating husband. What was I thinking!

The first class I took was basic psychology. It was a 7 AM class so that I would be able to be done and home before the kids left for school. As I previously mentioned I did not get very good grades in my younger years, and when I went back to college it was with the idea that after so many years I would just be happy if I got a D and passed.

Imagine my surprise when I got an A, and really felt that I had not worked that hard at it. The next semester would be a huge challenge. I was taking Anatomy and Physiology, and Chemistry. Mind you that high school Chemistry was a "squeak through with a D" class for me. I remember a particular lab when the TA was asking an application question that all the "regular" college students weren't able to answer. I thought that I knew the answer, but I was so nervous that I could hardly speak up. When I finally got the nerve to open my mouth and take the chance, and actually turned out to be right...I think I beamed for a week!

I turned out to be one of the top students in my quiz group, and found the beginnings of some self confidence when I finished the semester with a 4.0!

I had managed to work, and all in all the PTA was going well. Fund raisers were profitable, and somehow I faked my way through the monthly meetings. My husband at this point was playing the roll of supportive, proud, partner, and all seemed to be holding together.

The next semester would be a bigger challenge because the actual nursing classes were beginning at the hospital as well as a few intermingled classes at the university. I had originally thought of going to business school, but when I friend pointed out to me that Nursing was a relatively short educational process, was always going to be in demand, paid well, and offered flexibility in scheduling, it sounded like everything I needed so I changed career paths.

The entrance exam for nursing school consisted of a spelling, reading comprehension, and math test. Now I am close to the world's worst speller, and could have predicted failed the spelling section of the test.

I did not give up, but got books out of the library on the most common misspelled words and practiced spelling until I could have puked! On the retest I only missed one word, mausoleum, and can honestly say that in my 11 years of nursing I have never had a need to spell that word!

I had a complete misconception of what nurses did. I thought they just gave shots and did what doctors told them to do. Nothing could be further from the truth!

I continued to do well in school. The other students and even the staff seemed to like me and my self confidence grew in leaps and bounds. I was scared of every aspect of patient care. I remember my instructor telling me that I was too gentle with my patients, that they would not break and that it was healthy for them to be washed and change positions and not necessarily be treated like they would break if you touched them.

I made up my mind to do just that with my patient that day and went in with a lot of self confidence and gave him a good head to toe scrubbing, and positioned him when I was done so that he was well propped on his side. The same instructor called me out into the hall soon after that and told me that there had been new information brought to light on this patient, that he was much sicker than previously thought and that I was being assigned to a new patient because they thought this gentleman was soon to pass away!

This had nothing to do with the manner I had cared for the patient, but sure made me wonder about my instructor's perspective on what was good for a patient. I cried when my fellow students lifted a confused woman from the bed to the chair in a Hoyer Lift and I could see in here eyes how scared she was.

I learned that my previous belief that life should be held onto with every ounce of strength you have was not correct, and that sometimes it is ok, in fact better, to be allowed to let go.

At the end of the first year I was still holding a 4.0, PTA term was successfully completed, job intact, kids doing well, but husband beginning to see my new found self confidence and possible success as a threat.

Part 3 - Moving On

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