During my first year of grad school, while working at my CVSICU job, I was approached by a fellow nurse who was considering CRNA school. he asked me if I thought it was beneficial going to grad school sans husband and children. He had a wife and two babies himself and was concerned about neglecting them during school if he were to attend. I quickly thanked him for not automatically assuming it was easy for me because I am single and I expressed to him that grad school is hard for everyone, just in different ways. He opted to look at having his wife and babies as a support system and a benefit, just as I try to note the benefits of being single.
My situation is unique to most of my classmates, but some of us do share similarities. For one, my very small cohort and I selected one of the most difficult acute care nurse practitioner programs in the country. When we graduate, we will have achieved doctoral degrees and be dually boarded as clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners. Our school prides itself on expertly preparing us to work in acute care when we graduate, but now, two years in and two years to go, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t struggle with the idea of quitting. Also, financially, the burden of a doctoral degree far exceeds that of a master’s and my student loans are constantly clouding my mind. However, this was my decision, I stand by it, and when I graduate, it will be the biggest accomplishment of my life.
My life. I have heard countless comments about how much easier existence is for me than others. I have had classmates flip through my day planner and express how they wish they had my life. I do, wake up every day and attempt to express some sort of gratitude for my life because I am fully aware of how fortunate I am, but my life is not easy. Newsflash, no ones life is easy.
Prior to starting school, I divorced my husband after a ten-year relationship and had to reroute the plan I had for my entire life. Not only did I lose him, but I lost the connection with his parents as well, which might as well have been my own parents. Shortly after I started living on my own, working 4-5 ICU shifts per week, I fell head over heels for someone and had to leave him for a number of reasons, the main one being that I wasn’t ready for a relationship after my previous emotional trauma. I then, packed my things, and moved across the country alone, to attend school because I wanted to better myself and experience life. I started another new job in arguably one of the toughest CVSICU’s in the entire country. After that, my father in law died and I didn’t find out until months later. He was one of the closest relationships I have ever had from a father figure and I knew him long before I knew my ex-husband. Then, I lost my best friend of nearly my entire life after disagreements related to my marriage. Throw in five different apartments, two crazy roommates, countless hang-ups, three different jobs which all require different trainings, staff meetings etc., a knee surgery, the fact that I don’t live near any of my family, worry about my parents every, single day, oh yea, and I’m going to school, sometimes, life is pretty lonely.
Dating, let’s not talk about dating… okay, lets talk about dating. I do try to date, but rarely does the person understand my schedule, commitments, jobs etc. Connecting with someone is a crisis because of time constraints and the dating pool in general. So, I’m fairly certain my ability to have a relationship is on hold until I graduate. While I am perfectly happy alone, I am human and would not mind a connection if it fell into my lap, but school plus work makes meeting people tough. I may meet someone; I may not. I may have children; I may not. I have to prepare myself to be satisfied with any of these possible outcomes. This is not a concern for people who are married and/or have children.
When you are single, working, and going to school at the same time, you are fully reliant upon yourself. I have a single-income, no one to take my car to the shop when it breaks, no one to cook or clean for me, no one to take my dog to the vet when he is sick, no one to wait for the Comcast guy etc. So, every change to your day is fully reliant upon you. Therefore, since I am working and going to class six days per week and studying at night, this does not leave much time to solve issues of daily life. Additionally, this forces me to make friends and form a network, because without it, I wouldn’t make it.
So, here’s the deal. I’m truthfully not complaining about my life. I’m laying out all of my baggage for all of the single people working and going to grad school simultaneously because it’s tough. I’m not saying my situation is harder than everyone else because I am 100% aware that many people have a much more difficult time than me. However, I’m just expressing that everyone fights a different battle and deals with that battle in a different way. Getting out of bed every day, being happy, and pursuing my dreams takes conscious effort and is an active choice. I create my happiness, which in itself, is not easy.
This brings me to the real reason I’m writing this post. Comparing lives is not an effective coping mechanism for any of us. However, validation might be. All anyone actually wants is validation. I want validation that my situation can be difficult at times, but I also validate that each and every one of my classmates and coworkers deals with silent battles as well. Attempting to one-up each other instead of having empathy doesn’t get us anywhere. Therefore, next time someone in your life is having a hard time, listen to them talk and validate their feelings instead of judging.
Related, from my favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird, when Atticus is talking to Scout he says: “First of all… if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
This may be one of my favorite life lessons. Listen, don’t judge, validate, love and you’ll get along better with all kinds of folks. Life is complicated for everyone these days, single or married, kids or no kids, grad student or not. So be nice and save the envy for another day.