This summer, while vacationing in Maine, I stumbled upon a beautiful and simple necklace from Heather Murray at a craft show in Bar Harbor. The necklace is a clean, curved line of silver with a flat gold orb at one end. Etched all along the piece are these word from Rumi: “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do”. I was instantly drawn to the piece. What a beautiful sentiment! I wanted it to be mine to remind me to pursue the things I love and to always remember what is beautiful about the things that I put my heart into. I’ve been wearing the necklace ever since.
Nursing is one of those professions where you are almost guaranteed to have days where you say to yourself “why am I doing this?” It is physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding in a way that commuting between home and a cubicle is not. There are, of course, other unpleasantries about the job that keep others far from the health care field. As a nurse-mentor of mine remarked the other day “We are, perhaps, the only educated individuals who, voluntarily, deal directly with poop”. Quite an astute observation, I would say. It is particularly important to me as I begin my nursing career that I remember to see the beauty in the job I am doing; to remember how exceptionally privileged I am to be with individuals when they are most joyous, the most vulnerable, the most despairing, when they are coming into this world and when they are leaving it. It is also important to me that I remember that nursing is only one facet of my life and that I need to take time to nurture the other aspects of my self.
When I put on my ID badge last week for the first time, I found myself continually glancing down in amazement. BSN, RN. What a wonderful reality! I think I love nursing to such a passionate degree because it took me so long to find it. Growing up, my mind was firmly shut against any career other than medicine. On days off from school, I trooped around the hospital behind my father in a lab coat several sizes to large during rounds and imagined the day that I would join the staff and we’d be side by side as not just father and daughter, but as colleagues as well. I never paid attention to the fact that much of the time I spent with hospital staff was with the nurses. They were the ones taking me under their wings, showing me the intricacies of patient care that involved not only compassion, but cutting-edge science and medicine. It wasn’t until I was forced, by the unfortunate circumstance of my father’s illness, to become a caregiver myself that I felt how naturally the role came. Suddenly, and without warning, that dream of becoming a physician shrank away and, like a childhood sweater outgrown, no longer seemed to fit. It was a difficult time; the letting go of one aspiration and the realization of another that I had not yet fully embraced.
Now that I have come to the end of this particularly journey, I can’t remember being more excited about anything else in my life. I am finally a member of an institution where I have wanted to belong since I was in grammar school. I always thought that my father would be part of the realization of this particular dream, and it’s painful to know that I will never receive a surprise visit from him on my floor. Part of me knows that his spirit is firmly embedded in the hospital and that makes the transition easier. I think I will be looking at my ID badge with absolute giddiness for some time. I hope to never get over the awe I feel about becoming a nurse and being truly responsible for helping to effect change in the lives of strangers. Nursing, for myself, is not merely just a “job”, it is a philosophy and a vocation imbued with a certain beauty even on the worst and most frustrating of days.