I’ve never really done anything in my life that truly scared me, except going to nursing school. I already had a bachelor’s degree in a completely unrelated field, so it’s not like I had never done college before. I was stuck in a dead-end marketing job (not career) that was literally going nowhere. No raises, no real chance for growth and upward mobility, it was just the place I went from 8 to 5, Monday to Friday. And I did that for nearly 10 years. Ok, ok, so the first few years weren’t that bad. I was pretty new to the adult workforce (I’m not counting the jobs I held from 13 years old until about 20), and it was something fun and new. That new job smell wore off after about 4 years. As bosses and duties changed, my job lost its sparkle and I started thinking about other possibilities. Jobs in the field of healthcare had never really been in my mind until I had a long conversation with a high school friend at a wedding shower. She was a former interior designer that went back to school when her ID career started losing its sparkle for her. Shortly after that, I started researching the possibility of going back to school. I had a few prerequisite science classes to get out of the way before I could apply to nursing school. My parents laughed at me initially, because I wasn’t a big fan of anything medical related. I hated hospitals, blood, poop, pee, and basically anything gross that I would absolutely encounter as a nurse. But still, this felt like the right move. My (very generous) parents agreed to pay for me to go back to school, prerequisites and all. About a month into taking my prereqs, I was fired from my job. I totally knew it was coming; I actually had my computer cleared of any personal stuff and I’d already begun to take personal stuff home. It was no surprise at all when it happened. My boss had been avoiding me for a month. And I’m not stupid…I knew she wanted me gone because I butted heads with her constantly. She was not terribly creative and not good at understanding computer stuff and the limits of what could be done with basic computer programs. For a food marketing company, she wanted Starbucks marketing on a Mr. Billy Bob’s Coffee, Bait, and Tackle Shop budget. I had to constantly try to reign her in on stuff and explain that we couldn’t do some splashy video monitor menu using Microsoft PowerPoint. But anyway, my being fired turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. The only thing that scared me was having to tell my parents about it. Surprisingly, they were totally fine with it. They (again, very generously) agreed to continue to pay for school and now all of my bills as well. They wanted me just to focus on school and not worry about getting another job.
I did a year of prereqs in order to qualify for nursing school, and I ended up being accepted into my top pick school. Now understand this, I was never the person that really studied. I didn’t have to. I made good grades with very little effort. This is absolutely not how nursing school works. AT ALL. If anyone says they breezed through nursing school without studying, they are lying to your face. It was pure torture, pure Hell, and I cried nearly every day. The stress was never-ending. The way my school worked, all of our sections were basically one giant class. Meaning we got ONE grade. There was no option to fail this class and just take it again next semester while you move on with the classes you didn’t fail. No. Every semester was either pass/fail. That was it. If you did fail, you dropped a semester behind all of your classmates you started with. It was terrifying. My anxiety ruled my life from test to test. Every single semester, I teetered on the edge of passing and failing. Somehow I always managed to pull it out of my ass and pass, and I ended up graduating with honors. Honors that I abso-fucking-lutely earned. I had never worked so hard for grades in my entire life…and I was an honor student from 1st grade on. I’m not tooting my own horn when I say any of this; I’m saying it to emphasize that this has literally been the only hard thing I have truly done in my entire life. The only thing I have busted my ass and worked hard for. I didn’t think I would ever make it out the other end a sane person. I wanted to quit so many times, but I stuck it out. Thankfully. I ended up in a very rewarding career that I’m actually proud of. It’s hard, dirty, and usually thankless…but I can go to sleep at night knowing I did a little something to help people out. I never had that before.
All this being said, being a nurse is certainly not the only thing I want to do with my life. Obviously. Writing has always been my passion and my hobby. And hopefully one day, I can call myself a published author. We’ll see. I stopped writing anything for a long time because I just wasn’t inspired to write anymore. Lack of time and sleep, along with life and new priorities got in my way. But low and behold, I finally started feeling creative again this year and my excitement to write again started coming back when I decided to do something for myself that I have always wanted to do. Mind you, it has nothing to do with writing, but everything to do with creative self-expression.
I decided to get some visible tattoos. (Stay with me on this, kids.)
I grew up in a somewhat conservative household. I always kind of felt like the black sheep of my family, but I was also the good kid that just wanted to make her parents happy, even if it meant I made choices that weren’t necessarily what I actually wanted to do. My going to college in Mississippi, was one of them. I wanted to go to film school in Los Angeles, originally. My parents, especially my mother, said: “absolutely not”. I had no idea about student loans or any of that kind of thing. I was pretty naive. In retrospect, Los Angeles probably would have eaten me alive. I was more sheltered than I realized. But everything happens for a reason, though. My parents were also VERY anti-tattoo, as are most people from their generation. To them, only people with tattoos are bikers and prisoners. I was 21 before I ever got one and it was fairly small and easily concealed. They didn’t know about it for the longest time. I was 32 before I got another one. This one was visible (on my wrist), but very small. My father hated it, my mother wasn’t pleased either, but never really commented on it. I was 42 before I decided to get a bigger and very visible tattoo on my arm, a mermaid tail. (I did wait to do this after my father passed away. He would have been highly disappointed in me for doing it.) But I didn’t stop there. My next piece came a few months later; it was the one that set fire to my creative spark ever since. Some people have muses; I have my typewriter tattoo.
My favorite tattoo artist who works out of NYC was coming to New Orleans and I managed to book an appointment with her. I’ve always loved typewriters. I’m fascinated by them, especially ones that belonged to famous authors. Just thinking about the work that was written on them makes me giddy. I don’t collect them, because, really….it’s kind impractical. They’re big and bulky, hard to display without an excessive amount of room, and I imagine that they’re a bitch to dust. So, I decided to get one on my arm that I could carry with me always. The design is based on a 1955 Teal Royal Quiet De Luxe, similar to this one. I asked the artist for the typewriter to be the main focus of the tattoo, but feel free to add her signature flourishes around it. That’s all of the direction I gave. This was what she came up with. Amazing, right? Keep in mind, in this pic, it was just finished, so it’s still all swollen and puffy. I’m in complete love with it. Amazed that it’s on my arm forever. I’m lucky in that I have a job that allows visible tattoos. (Being an ER nurse does have some perks!) I get complimented on it all the time; it prompts friendly conversation and lots of questions. Mostly I get: “why a typewriter?” To which I always reply, because I write. Getting large, visible tattoos is something I always wanted to do, but something that I constantly denied myself because I feared social norms and my parent’s reactions. Never once did I consider that this was something I wanted. That it was an expression of myself that I wanted to show the world, their judgment be damned. It may seem silly and petty, but when you have lived your entire life doing what you think will make others happy, what will earn you their approval…and then you finally do something that is solely for yourself, it is a scary thing. But it’s also very liberating.
This happened in July. Since then, I’ve been making mental lists of all the things I want to do, but that I’ve somehow talked myself out of for one reason or another. Traveling alone, moving to a new state, writing a book. Simple things that are within reach if I simply bother to reach for them. My inspiration for the book I’m working on started while I was lying on that tattoo table this past summer in New Orleans. Since then, I’ve had something eating away at me…telling me that I should move there. I’ve thought about New Orleans so much it felt like an obsession. It didn’t enter my mind to REALLY think about moving there until my trip in October. It was then that the voices telling me to move became so loud that I could no longer ignore them. It’s hard to break the habits of a lifetime, especially when your entire foundation is built on self-doubt, doing what will make others happy, and crippling anxiety. I’m a work in progress, as we all are. As a person, I’m evolving in ways I really didn’t foresee. The writing for my book is evolving. The characters are changing with me. It’s a really weird process, this writing thing. Back in the summer when all of this started, I had no idea this is the direction in which I was headed. I’m slightly terrified, but I absolutely cannot wait.