Alright. So here it is- the post I’m sure a lot of people are going to read and disagree with. And that’s okay. If you had asked me if that was okay six months ago, I probably wouldn’t have even thought about writing or posting this because of that. But I feel like I’ve learned some important life lessons since then that have changed my outlook on things. A few little pearls of wisdom I have learned (some of them the hard way):
Nobody is ever going to agree with everything you do. Period.
Some people are always going to find something to complain about.
Other peoples’ opinions will never truly give you the validation you seek.
So you need to make choices for you. For what’s best for yourself and the things that you deem to be important in life. Nobody can decide that for you. You have to be okay with making choices that may not yield the outcomes you were hoping or looking for. It’s as simple (and as complicated as that).
Since I was a teenager, I wanted to be a nurse. A paediatric nurse. From my many own experiences on the “other side of the bed”, I wanted to help others. Was this path easy? of course not. Nothing ever is. Did I get to where my fifteen year old self dreamed I would be? yeah I have, but that path has not looked anything like I anticipated it would. And also was not without obstacles along the way.
For me, I think like anybody, my journey has been unique. During nursing school my cousin asked me once “why wouldn’t you just be a doctor”? I also remember distinctly meeting a retired nurse at a conference once who told (an eager, naive second year nursing student me) “paeds was a dying field”. This CRUSHED me. For a long time after that I doubted my aspirations and career goals, and I took a lot of this uncertainty with me from these experiences among many others. Sometimes these negative interactions are so vivid in your mind that they outshine all the many positive ones and eat away at you.
I had a mentor say to me once “everyone isn’t looking out for your best interest” and although I am the kind of person that wants to believe in the best of everybody, that is unfortunately not the case. Remember how in my last post I mentioned most people that most people who are unkind to others are also the people who likely feel the least fulfilled with their own lives and have their own insecurities? Insert quote here. When I started my masters program I didn’t tell anyone I worked with that I was going back to school because there is often a negative perception amongst frontline nurses of those leaving the bedside. I have seen (and experienced) people degrading others for doing this or pursuing opportunities outside of frontline nursing and it is honestly very sad to me. It honestly makes me a little sad (and I know this happens in many professions), that nurses can’t be more supportive of each other. You’ve probably heard the saying “nurses eat their young” and it’s true.
You don’t have to be a nurse to experience this though. There will always be those negative people in your life there to tear you down or try and “outdo” everything you do. Putting you and your accomplishments down to feel better about themselves. I’ve made a conscious effort to really remove theses people from my life. To still treat them with kindness, but keep them at an arm’s distance, because the negativity they can radiate can be purely exhausting. People will always offer their opinions when you haven’t asked for them- you should buy a house, you shouldn’t waste your money travelling, you should always start nursing on the floor before you move to the ICU- the list is endless. It’s easy to second guess yourself and your choices when others don’t agree with what you’re doing. But truly, you need to ask yourself:
“does what I’m doing make me happy?”
If the answer is yes- then great, carry on then. If it makes you happy for a lifetime, or for one hot second. I’m not saying “eat that bag of chips when you come home each day from work and then complain you’ve gained 5 pounds this week”- but if you’ve made that decision willingly after you went to the gym this week four times and you are confident and happy in your body, then GREAT. That’s your decision. Alternatively, if you choose to never touch junk food because it makes you feel awful- ALSO great. We need to stop judging others for not making the decisions we might make for ourselves. Because we are all different.
I will admit I think this has been a huge part of why I have felt like I have struggled so much the past few years in the life choices that I’ve made- letting myself be influenced by everyone who has something to say. I’ve considered leaving nursing entirely and applying to medical school, and pursuing other opportunities completely. I’ve always been that square peg in a round hole in terms of my career goals and people are not shy to say how they feel.
But I’ve come to terms with that in the last 6 months or so after some pretty challenging situations. Sometimes those will show you peoples’ true colours, allow you to re-evaluate who actually brings value to your life, and make some decisions who you want in it. Honestly I’m grateful for that because I do not have the time to waste on people who don’t value my efforts, time and kindness. At the end of the day, I love my career for all the fundamental reasons I decided to be a nurse in the first place- and I’ve also found new opportunities in being able to influence and positively change the culture of nursing in my own small way as an educator as well. You can second guess yourself and run from peoples’ opinions your whole life but they will always be there.
I’ve instead tried to make an effort to focus on where I am now instead of what’s next on the agenda. Being able to appreciate the journey a little bit has certainly allowed me to reduce the amount of stress I feel and appreciate my accomplishments a little bit more. Being a pretty motivated person, it’s never been easy for me to do this, and don’t get me wrong some days I still feel like I’m having a small identity crisis pretty often when I look at my life and am not sure “where I’m not going next”. I’ve never been good at appreciating myself or how far I’ve come even doing some of the things I am so early in my career. I’m also the likes-to-plan-all-the-things-in-my-life type, so this has been a pretty challenging life lesson for me, but I would argue the most valuable one.
When I look a little more objectively at the path I’ve taken in my life the past 5 years- it’s not where I thought I would be. And I don’t have a crystal ball to know where I will end up in another five. But I do know that some of the most unlikely opportunities have opened doors that I wouldn’t even have thought about being things I’ve enjoyed or have added a lot of value to my life. I’ve re-evaluated some of my priorities and given myself a chance to have some more balance- my career and my work fulfills me but there is also more to life than that (stay tuned for a whole other post on the whole balance thing)… but what fulfills you? What brings YOU joy? The moment you stop focusing on what everyone else thinks of you and all of your life choices- the happier you will be. Accomplishment doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t fit your own definition.
To my baby nurses out there: you will find those people no matter where you go that have taken this on as if it was their own professional life motto. Because they felt they had it “harder than you” or have “paid their dues”- and honestly, some of that is probably true. But we need to do BETTER as a profession. We need to step outside of this box and start building each other up instead of tearing people down. I’ve made this my personal and professional mantra to how I approach a lot of things (I’m still not perfect). But it has changed my outlook on how I go to work every day and how happy I am each day I leave. If I focused on everyone else’s disapproval about all the things I am doing, I would be doomed to a life of feeling constantly unfulfilled.
DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY. Just because it doesn’t make someone else happy does not mean you can’t be happy for yourself. Like I say to all my nursing students- you can constantly compare yourself to others, but everyone else’s path is not your own.