I was working my shift at a hospital when a class of nursing students came on the floor with their teacher – a lady with white hair, clearly older with an authoritative air. But, my mistake. The lady with white hair was not the teacher, she was a student – a woman in her mid-50’s who had gone back to school for her nursing degree.
I can’t even begin to tell you how impressed I was! Career-wise, I came from a different mindset. My parents started and retired from their careers as educators in the local school system. My mother actually did forge a new career as a community activist, but going back to school to learn new skills wasn’t something that either one of them did – and when I was younger I thought I had to follow that route. And I didn’t want to.
Trying different paths in life has always been my goal. I wanted to forge a life that worked for me, rather than exist in one that other people expected. Of course when I was younger, it wasn’t so clear to me exactly what my reasons were, I just knew that taking the road-most-travelled route: college, then 30-year career would probably have resulted in me losing my mind up in a tower picking off people with an AK-47. For me, the road-less-travelled route has helped me to keep growing.
I’m not proud to say I dropped out of college. The fact that I didn’t finish is still a thorn in my side. But I am proud to say that nixing college has never stopped me from growing:
- Writing: I started writing letters to the editor and used those clips to land my first job as a journalist and photographer at a local newspaper. When I moved and starting writing for the AFRO American Newspaper in Baltimore, I honed my writing and photography skills covering health and community stories; I was a pool reporter for an execution, met and interviewed celebrities, and won two awards.
- Volunteering: I served as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) working with children in the court system for abuse or neglect; I worked on a suicide hotline and with the House of Ruth domestic violence hotline.
- Healthcare: I’ve been a certified nursing assistant for over 20 years working in nursing homes, hospitals and private duty home health care.
While I haven’t stayed with one career, I have stuck with the jobs that require me to focus on helping people, which is what I love. Within each of these experiences, I’ve pushed myself to learn more than what was required and each have kept my life interesting and helped me to continue growing as I learn new technical skills and the diversity I need to work with various cultures.
Continuing to grow I believe is an important part of living, and not just with careers.
Growing means that we change the way we eat when we realize that the wrong foods are causing health issues.
Growing means that it’s never too late to start exercising our bodies for maximum health.
Growing means that we realize that we have the freedom to experience a whole world of different cultures, different foods, different activities; that there’s life beyond our reality shows and the confines our own backyards.
As I move closer to my 60’s, I still grapple with the idea of going back to school – even if for no other reason than to earn a degree and close that door.
But even if I choose not to, my life will continue to grow.
Peace and blessings