I had it all figured out: I would stay here in Rochester, work part-time at Mayo, and work on getting my Master's in Nursing degree (Nursing Education Specialist focus). That would hold me for another three years. The feeling of having finally, finally made a decision was exhilarating.
And yet literally one day after that decision was made, I was thrust back into a tailspin of indecision, second-guessing, and doubt. Once again I am in the purgatory of trying to figure out what to do with my life.
What caused the internal change? A talk with Sarah, although Roo I hope you know that I do not blame you in the slightest--you just happened to be the catalyst this time. Sarah told me how she is enrolled in a master's program online; she told me how excited she is to take classes like "Holistic Mission;" she told me how this is such a perfect fit. And it IS a good fit for her...only I want it to be a good fit for me too. Not that program in particular but more just the whole public health and development idea.
What kills me is that I feel like I'm settling, somehow, by getting a MSN. It's easier, certainly cheaper, and much more practical. It's also one enormous gauntlet to run--it will get me where I want to go, but I have to submit to a whole lot of ugliness in between. Two entire years, in fact, of awful classes which happen to be the very core of academic nursing: nursing theory, health policy and finance, advanced pathophysiology, research, advanced pharmacology, etc. Talk about soul-killing. Does it seem too much to ask that I actually be interested in the subject matter I'm studying for a master's degree? At least I know what I could do with a MSN--unlike the MPH, where the potential careers are vaguely defined at best.
But the MPH route is much more exotic, more unknown/exciting, and definitely more global and broad-minded. There are some hard questions to be asked, though: at the end of the day, am I going to live overseas and work for an NGO or government humanitarian organization? It seems unlikely. Am I going to live stateside, working for some big beaureaucratic machine like the UN or USAID, probably in DC or wherever those kind of organizations are centered? Again, unlikely.
Ultimately I am frustrated at the narrowness of nursing as I know it, and I do realize that the nursing I know is only a small slice of the whole continuum. In the hospital setting nursing is so very reactionary, both in my day-to-day work and also in the larger sense of dealing with exacerbations of chronic illness. There is little to no place to see growth or change on a large scale--success is by definition getting someone mostly back up to par so they can go back home and make the same poor choices again. Or success is finally getting someone placed in a nursing home.
Being frustrated with nursing makes me more than just a little wary of getting a master's degree in it. It also makes me second-guess having gotten a bachelor's degree in it, which is both disheartening and futile. I will choose NOT to regret that decision, not after five years of bitterly hard work.
I feel like I need to step back and get some perspective but am not sure how to go about it. I also think I need to let go of the idea that the MPH would be a good fit for me, almost in the same way that as an undergraduate I let go of the idea of being a literature major. I need to let go of an idealized, romanticized picture of what my life could be in order to joyfully, willingly accept the idea of what my life SHOULD be.
It makes me think of an Emily Dickinson poem I read in high school. I understand parts of it, but not all of it. Here it is nonetheless:
Renunciation—is a piercing Virtue—
The letting go
A Presence—for an Expectation—
The putting out of Eyes—
Day's Great Progenitor—
Renunciation—is the Choosing
Itself to justify
When larger function—
Make that appear—
Smaller— that Covered Vision— Here—