Timelines have always made me crazy. Maybe it’s because I have never lived on a timeline, or that I don’t do things because I am or was supposed to like society says graduate high school, go to college and so on. My first marriage was in 2003 at 23. Which wasn’t totally normal, it definitely was in earlier generations and times so I guess since I didn’t have plans to go to college, my plans were to get married, buy a home and be a stay at home mom and raise my kids. That was my plan and goal, I was well on that plan, until life happened and through life happening it made me aware of things I didn’t have a purpose for once that all of a sudden I did.
I dabbled in community college after my GED in 2000, but at that point I was working in Early Childhood Education and so I took classes aligned to that, especially since they also worked for the continuing education required yearly. I had no real plan or goal, just took classes. My goal was to continue working in ECE- Early Childhood Education and become a mom that stayed home most the time. I became a mom May 13, 2005 and that’s when my whole world and purpose changed.
I am 25 at that point, almost 26. My son being born severely sick meant months in the hospital and NICU. This was like home for us for months. Daily, for more than 8 hours a day I was in the neonatal intensive care unit with my son. Of course I hated being there with him, but I also didn’t mind it. I was intrigued. I learned a lot. This led me to getting a job at that same hospital in the ER as a Health Unit Coordinator, or HUC or Unit Secretary. It was such a fun job and I was learning so much. I also decided I wanted to be a NICU nurse so at the same time, January of 2006 I started working in the Emergency Room, and began taking nursing pre requisites at the local community college. My son would be hospitalized a few times during this time and I would go to the pediatric ward he was in to be with him, and would do my homework there. I would still work but I picked when I worked, when they had a need so it all worked out.
Looking back on it all, learning more about being an enneagram 7, I see now that I probably also did all this to avoid. That is very common with 7s, to avoid things that cause you pain. I avoided a lot I am sure by keeping busy, at least I did it in a productive way for my life in my work and schooling.
I graduated with my associates degree in 2007. I still worked at the hospital in the ER and would also pick up shifts in labor and delivery, post partum and pediatrics. I worked PRN (as needed) in all those departments so it worked. I applied to 10 nursing schools throughout Oregon and in Vancouver Washington. It was cutthroat, so many applicants and not enough spots for them all in 2007 & 2008. I had a 3.6 GPA, I had got a few Bs in Anatomy, which it was a point system when applying so having Bs you got less points than As. I did not get in my first year of applying. It didn’t matter my experience either, most schools just looked at your points. I was crushed, all my hard work and I didn’t get into any of the schools, most were community colleges with the opportunity to get your bachelors in nursing after the first 2 years through the OCNE program. I had student loans and couldn’t just be done with school, so I applied to PSU and got in. They didn’t have a nursing program but I had planned to retake some of my pre requisites and work on a bachelors while I tried. I applied to a few more associate programs and OCNE programs my second year but never got into nursing school.
I ended up at PSU from 2008-2012, I graduated with two bachelors degrees, one in Health Sciences due to all my sciences through my nursing pre reqs and I decided on Community Health Education as my major since I used to love teaching and it was related Public Health Education, so I thought it was a good fit.
In college I volunteered for a local syringe exchange doing harm reduction, this was a passion as I had family who had utilized services once and I was grateful for that. They never got a disease and are alive and utilized programs like that as an addict. I don’t think addiction is great, but I fully believe in access to healthcare and safe resources even if doing something not safe. Addicts need to much like therapy, rehab, counseling, safe places to go and places to obtain resources and clean supplies. If I could prevent someone from sharing needles or reusing them, then you are preventing less risk of communicable diseases. We also had resources for treatments, information and referrals.
I also interned at Planned Parenthood in the Sexual Health Education program. We went into schools and taught sexual health education in partnership with teen leaders who were trained and taught by us as part of our Teen Council program. I loved it. I actually spent my 30th birthday with the teen leaders of the program at a retreat we had for them right before the school year began, it happened to be over my 30th birthday. Teaching comprehensive sexual health education was important to me. I didn’t ever feel like I had great sexual health education myself and was lucky to not come out of my mistakes from my teens with a disease or unwanted child, so it became a purpose for me to teach our youth about sexual health education, not to scare them or show them its wrong, but to teach safe practices and educate them correctly.
I graduated college in August of 2012. I immediately began an Americorps service. It was local in Salem about an hour from home. You were awarded a stipend for your service monthly, it was not much like $1000 a month and when completed you would get an educational stipend which after recently graduating this seemed smart, like a good way to get real world experience and with some money incentive. The program I applied for and was accepted into was Healthy Options through Prevention & Education and it was the state sexual health education program called My Future My Choice, funny my son has had that same sex Ed program in school through them.
I also got divorced in 2013, remarried in 2017. I only ever had and will have one kid. I never got my Masters degree like I had hoped for, I have 18 credits of graduate level education in Public Health, but my traumatic brain injury happened and therefore more life plans didn’t go as planned. That’s ok. I have realized a new purpose through this all, and the thing that matters most is I am still here.
If I would have died on 5/16/18 what would have any of this education or experience mattered? The timelines in life wouldn’t have mattered and honestly don’t matter. I have learned to find gratitude in each day, be a good person and do whatever you need to do to be happy and fulfilled. To each there own when they decide or don’t decide to do something. Just live a life that makes you happy whatever that is and do it on your own timeline not other peoples.
Societal expectations and norms, other people’s expectations and wishes and wants for you, none of it matters. Do what you want and what truly makes you happy and find happiness in it all. I give mad credit to those who decide not to have children, not get married, those who do things off the beaten path. Whatever it is you want to do, that will make you happy and live a happy and fulfilled life. That’s what matters. And asking someone when they are having kids just isn’t appropriate to me. You never know someone’s struggles and that may be one of them and it’s hurtful. My gravestone would never talk about my accomplishments, it would talk about who I am as a person. The credentials on my gravestone, all the things I once thought would be so important really aren’t. Happy is important, healthy and being a good human.
As I wrote this I can reflect back on things like not getting into nursing school and I am so thankful I never did. I would not be able to work as a nurse today with my brain injury. So I can reflect back and see purpose in all that, I can continue to provide health education and find resources for people with my brain injury, I provided care to a lot of stroke survivors before my brain injury and thankfully I still can, the difference now is my empathy and true understanding for what someone is going through with a brain injury. How lucky am I that my education and degrees can easily work with my new purpose in life.