Thirty-four years ago, I was 18, in my senior year of high school, and looking forward to starting college at the University of Northern Colorado in the fall. It was one of those perfect times in my life. Senior year in high school, surrounded by a group of good friends, and the promise of freedom in just a few short months.
I knew exactly what I wanted to study in college. Nursing. I knew this was what I wanted to be because my best friend, Kathy, was going to be a nurse, too. And we were going to get our RN's, then move to Boston where I imagined we would live in a Mary-Tyler-Moore-style apartment by the ocean. I also knew I wanted to be a nurse because I had read the entire Cherry Ames series growing up. The only thing left to decide was, would I be Cherry Ames, Flight Nurse? Cherry Ames, Visiting Nurse? Cherry Ames, Cruise Nurse; or Cherry Ames, Department Store Nurse? (Deparment Store Nurse?) I knew that given we were living in Boston Cherry Ames, Country Doctor's Nurse was out.
In the first two years, I studied my way through three levels of Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology and Pharmacology. I can't say that I loved science, but I did love going to class and living the life of a student. All the while, looking forward to the day I could wear the pale blue student nurse uniform along with our school's nursing cap, white stockings and white shoes. And a stethoscope around my neck. It was all about the accessories.
There were clues along the way, that perhaps I wasn't cut out for this. The guys that lived in our dorm thought that since my roomate and I were nursing students, that qualified us to pierce their ears, since we knew sterile technique. Mary always handled the needle and cork, and I held the alcohol and cotton balls. And found myself looking the other way at the moment the needle penetrated the earlobe. I also found that during pharmacology lab, while the other students were fighting over who would get to "stick" the rat with a needle, I was happy to just keep a tight grip on the rat and hold him while he got poked, a job no one wanted because the critters were apt to bite.
It finally became clear to me, on the day I was required to give my first shot, that all the white shoes and crisp, starched caps in the world, were not going make the hospital odors and jabbing people with sharp objects any easier. And besides, sick people could be so cranky! Not like rats, who never complained. So, much to Kathy's dismay, since it meant we would have to put our Boston dreams on hold, I gave up nursing.
But I wouldn't give up college. . .