Three years ago, Carolyn had left her husband, was living on her own with her two children and going to school at night to get the math credit she needed to get into college which for her, was scarier than becoming a parent. Today, she’s in the second year of an associate’s degree nursing program and president of the student nurses association. When I interviewed Carolyn the first time she was desperately trying to figure out how to live and as a high school drop out, never pictured herself in a leadership role. Here’s what she says about her transformation:
When I started at college, I didn’t know if I belonged there at all. Then I started getting the A’s and then I got into the nursing program, but I thought maybe I was just lucky. I was working hard and that first semester, I got an A when the average in our class was in the 70’s, and these are smart girls. These are girls that have already taken anatomy and physiology and gotten through those already hard classes. That made me feel much better about belonging there and less like I had something to prove academically.
I got to know the then current student nurse association president, and I got to watch him running his meetings. It was really cool and I felt that “maybe I could do that.” Although I had proved something to myself academically, I still do feel I’ve got other stuff to prove to myself. I felt like it would coming full circle, to go from high school dropout to getting into the nursing program and being an A student, and then to be excelling in student government.
It would be the last thing I needed to prove to myself that I was not who I used to be, that I had done all these amazing things. It seemed like it would be so cool, and I felt like I wanted to do it. Although it sounds impressive, the reality is a lot of the other students didn’t even want the job. It wasn’t like there was a lot of competition because we’re all so overworked already. I had very little competition.
There were just a few of us who felt we were ready to take on the added work and responsibility of running the student nurses association anyway, but still, I’m really proud of myself and it’s really cool. It’s a lot of extra stress. Even over the summer, I’m doing meetings and I’m constantly emailing back and forth with people because I’m the contact between all the faculty and the student nurses.
For the scholarships, it’s been really helpful. I got an outstanding freshman award from my school this fall for $1,000 and I just heard a couple of weeks ago that I’m getting a scholarship from the hospital in my town. I heard back from another charitable society here in town that’s also giving me a scholarship.
I think it’s good to be able to get good grades, but it’s also good to show that I’m participating in the community, doing volunteer work and doing the student leadership. When it comes time to apply for jobs in this market, even with a nursing degree, it can be competitive, even for entry-level jobs. They’re looking for people who are going to participate and serve on committees and…
The Divorce Coach Says
When I hear this, I imagine Carolyn as a chrysalis, breaking out of her cocoon. I’m guessing she always had the potential to do this but the conditions just weren’t right before. In one of the upcoming posts, Carolyn reflects back on her marriage and her growth over the three years and I think you’ll agree that her marriage was not the fertile environment needed. Carolyn also acknowledges that shared custody does have advantages.
I want to add that you don’t have to take leadership positions to flourish. What’s important is to recognize what you want to do and to choose an activity you know you’re going to enjoy.
When my kids were younger, I wanted to volunteer at their school and make my contribution. Since I’d worked full-time up until my youngest was in third grade, I’d never had the time before and I thought that volunteering would help me understand more not only about their school but also about the American education system which I didn’t go through. At the same time however I knew I could not be one of the moms that organized the Halloween or Valentine’s Day class party. I would be frazzled and cranky and it would show. Nor were my kids very excited about me chaperoning field trips in middle school. However, I could volunteer in the office and I could help with the record-keeping for a fundraiser and those were ways for me to be involved that were winners for everyone.
It’s also important to recognize when the time is not right for these extra activities. If you’re in the early days of separation, chances are you have more than enough to focus on with adjusting to living singly and helping your children adjust to their new family life. Not only should you not be taking on new commitments, it may be smart for you to look at commitments that you can drop, at least temporarily so you give yourself some extra time. Remember, your well-being has to be a priority.
Photo credit: cj berry