I was sixteen years old working two jobs, getting there with the car my dad could no longer drive because of his illness (Langerhans Histiocytosis X, diagnosed at age 37). I was in school full-time, played high school sports, and usually maintained at least one part-time job. Same with my Irish Twin, my big sister, who is ten months and twenty-two days older than I am.
I remember getting my first waitressing job. I was so excited to be able to bring home cash tips. I remember my first night off training. I received a $20 tip from my only table I had that night. They knew they were my first table and they’d be my first tip-givers. It’s funny how I still remember, even 17 years later. I took that $20 and headed straight to Kwik Trip when my shift was over. My dad’s car wasn’t running on an empty tank, but I put $10 of gas in anyway. I was becoming independent. It was rewarding.
My dad and our family relied heavily on my mom in multiple ways. We had a home-cooked most nights, always at the dinner table. Our splurge nights involved moving the table over a few feet so we could see the TV for dinner and a movie. The “easy” meal nights were soup and grilled cheese or pizza from Jimmy’s in St. Charles. But they were still warm meals that we ate together as a family at the family dinner table.
Mom had become the sole money-maker because of my dad’s illness. She worked at minimum 40 hours a week, I'm sure easily up to 60 with overtime and on-call shifts. Dad eventually went on disability. Mom had become his full-time caregiver, on top of being my and my sister’s caregiver. Where did that leave her to have time for herself?
After multiple part-time jobs and full-time jobs, I supplied my own finances for college as I could but still had to take out multiple student loans. And after going to college, still working part-time, I finally had a career: nursing. Once I nailed down my full-time job at the clinic I work at now, I finished my bachelor’s degree in nursing. In fact, I started the BSN program the same week my son was born. After finishing my degree though, I had the feeling of, Now what? (I think many nurses can relate to this after finishing nursing school!) Perhaps it was simply because of how busy nursing school keeps students, it feels weird being not-so-busy. But I’m sure it was also because my mom never got a break. It’s what my sister and I were used to seeing growing up. She never got to relax after her 40+ hour work-week, so I didn’t want to either.
I had been considering going back to school to get a master’s degree, but I couldn’t decide for what. Nursing informatics? Nursing leadership? Certified Nurse Practitioner? That would have been the responsible choice: I was itching for something more, so why not continue school? I didn’t mind it. I liked the paperwork, bookwork, studying, and learning because it was rewarding. I was accomplishing more. And, knowledge is power. I had started looking into colleges to continue my education online.
But then I was raped.
I stared down the barrel of a 9mm hand gun, and survived. And despite the fact that I wouldn’t have minded going to school again, I had an epiphany of what was actually important to me. As cliché as this sounds, it was like my whole life flashed before my eyes, between me and the gun, and my childhood dreams came back to me. It was a goal I suppressed because it didn’t seem realistic and financially stable: to become a writer. I also knew it was “in me” to be an advocate because of the people that were close to me that I would have done anything to stand up for, such as my sister. All of my childhood ambitions came rushing back to me and I am now honoring and respecting that little girl’s dreams.
My high school guidance counselor asked me, “What do you want to do? What do you want to go to college to be?” I had no idea.
From what I recall, my reply was, “A cheerleading coach.”
Part of me is embarrassed by this. But part of me thinks, Well, that coincides with what I do now – I’m a charge nurse of about 53 nurses. It’s a leadership role, it's just conveniently in a stable healthcare field. And I get to do paperwork! I love it! I love my work family. But why didn’t I say that I wanted to be a writer too? Could I have chosen to do both - have a stable career in the medical field and become a writer? Could I have written as a hobby? Could I have started writing a book at that time? What were my options?
Maybe we need more leaders promoting things like advocacy and writing and giving back to our communities. What if I had a local author to look up to when I was younger? What if I had someone telling me, You can do it, in regards to writing a book? I wish I had given more of my time to my community back when I was younger (you know, when I had time - hah!). I know I wouldn’t be where I am now, and I love where I am now – with my amazing co-workers, family, and friends - if writing had been the only thing I focused on. But, young adults, know that you don’t have to take the round-about way to get to where you want to be. Don't let your life flash before your eyes before doing what you love. You can do anything you want to do. Just go for it.
Find someone to inspire you.
Find inspiration within yourself.
Life is too short and too delicate to always follow the norm and choose the safe option. What if when I was younger and working two part-time jobs, I had taken up writing instead of one of those jobs? Maybe I'd already have dozens of published books by now. Who knows?
Don't hesitate to take the stable career path, but I urge you to also not forget about your childhood dreams too. You can do both. Life is beautiful and full of endless possibilities and opportunities.
You never get more than what you ask for. So ask yourself, What is your dream?
I asked myself that same question: What is my dream? What was my dream - the one(s) I had suppressed because they didn't fit into the safe, financially stable, within-reach career path? The ones perhaps I didn't even know I had?
1. Writing a book. (Four published and two more on the way... check).
2. Advocating. (Ongoing... check. But also... see below).
3. Helping people. (Nursing... check. But also... see below).
On March 3rd, 2022 I started (after a year of planning!) a nonprofit organization called WISH: We Inspire Survivor Healing Inc.! I'm pleased to say that this organization is pending approval with the IRS as a 501(c)3 but is now able to accept donations to help those affected by sexual violence.
I am my mother's daughter, and I will continue to push forward in hopes to better myself, my family, other survivors and families, and my community.
Click the logo below for more information!