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Paying for nursing school

28 Aug
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From the incredible and hilarious nursing.school Instagram.

A couple of my readers have wanted to know how I pay for nursing school and while I’m no financial adviser, I can offer some words of wisdom on how to make it work and at least share what I’ve done. So let’s get real uncomfortable and talk about our finances!

One of the main reasons I decided to make the transition from veterinary nursing to human nursing is that it’s a more secure profession. Much better pay, better benefits and plenty of opportunity for growth and even better salaries over time. But getting there is by no means cheap.

Probably the biggest piece of advise I can offer is to start saving right now. Like right this minute. Top priority. Top of the list. How are you going to make this work? Most likely the time between when you decide you want to go to nursing school and actually starting will be a while. I decided I wanted to go back to school in January 2016, and I actually started nursing school January 2018. Between that time was a lot of pre-requisites and applying periods. I made a commitment to myself back then that I would scrimp and save. I also agreed to pick up as many extra shifts at work as possible. I took on every pet sitting client that asked me. I also went through my monthly budget and eliminated a lot. No more shopping. Not a lot of traveling. Eating in more. Cancelled Hulu, Spotify, New Yorker magazine subscription, etc. It all felt like little things that would never add up to paying for nursing school, but it has helped make a dent.

I would also highly highly recommend community college for any and all prerequisites that you might need to take. When I first decided I was going back to school, I shopped around for post-baccalaureate programs. I was accepted at the University of Vermont’s program. I was so excited and wide-eyed. It was all starting to happen for me. How fun it would be to live in Burlington! But then they started notifying me of the cost. About 22K per semester for 3-4 semesters, coming to between 66K and 88K for prerequisites. Not to mention the cost of relocating to Vermont, buying a car, etc. I opted for Laguardia community college where I racked up around 10K of debt instead. Not. Bad. Nursing schools DO NOT CARE where you did your pre-requisites. They care what grades you got. So save the money and go to the cheapest community college options available.

I chose NYU because I’m an older student, and it was one of the few programs that had a January start instead of a September start for their accelerated program. For me starting the nine months earlier was worth the heftier price tag. I would become a nurse sooner, and NYU has a great reputation, and I felt I could get a higher-paying job faster. But there are cheaper options, such as Hunter college, if you are looking in New York City.  Many nurses start out with an associates degree, gain experience, and return for their Bachelor’s. It’s a totally viable option if that’s what you can afford.

I have been careful about balancing work and school, and I’m lucky that I work at a place that gives me the flexibility to do that. My first semester I only worked one day a week, and second semester I worked two days a week. And I pet sit a lot. It’s a great side hustle, even though the money isn’t reliable. Some months I’ve racked up a lot of pet sitting money, and other months I barely make anything at all. My savings, my part-time work, and the pet sitting have made it so I only needed to take out loans that would cover tuition. I’ll still owe between 80k-90k in loans when I’m done though. That includes private loans (the majority of the debt), federal loans, and the small loans I took out to pay for my pre-requisites. Even when I think about it though, I feel nauseous. But for me, I decided that I will make it work. I’ll be making good money, doing something I love, and I’ll pay that down eventually. I did meet a lot of students at NYU who continued to work full-time, but I must warn that the majority of them failed out that first semester. So I personally don’t think it’s worth the risk.

So that’s how I did it/am doing it. Everyone’s situation is a little different. A lot of my classmates are living with their parents to save money on rent (not an option for me), and a lot of my classmates have their parents paying for their living situation (also not an option for me), and some of my classmates aren’t working at all and taking out additional loans to cover living expenses (gratefully not what I needed to do). The best piece of advice I can give is really take a long weekend to sit down and work through it. Is this absolutely what you want to do? Do you have debt already hanging over you? Are there things you can do NOW to start making extra money? How can you cut back on your spending, and what are you willing to sacrifice? What nursing school options can you afford? It’s not going to be easy, but if it’s what you really feel called to do, it’ll be worth it.

Some small Nursing School tips to save money!

  • Don’t buy the textbooks! I was an eager beaver who bought the textbooks a week before school only to find out on day 2 of school that there were free pdfs of the textbooks going around which were VERY easy to get. I wasted about $700. So at least wait through the first week of school to make sure you really need to be buying those books.
  • Go to student group events! My friends make fun of me, because I attend so many lectures on different aspects of nursing. But the not-so-secret thing is that it comes with a free dinner. Usually it’s pizza. Sometimes it’s salad, sandwiches, potluck food made by students. Basically they give you free food to lecture you for an hour about a healthcare topic. It’s usually very interesting and also gives you a great way to meet other students in the program and network with professors and alumni. But, yeah, free meals. Do it.
  • Invest in a good coffee maker, travel mug, lunch pails, etc. Don’t waste too much money at school/hospital cafeterias. Pack your own snacks, brew your own coffee. It adds up fast, and professors get weirdly impressed when they see you eating healthy snack options.
  • Sign up for a credit card with cash back rewards. Just a general money-saving tip, but it has especially helped in nursing school. I have a chase card with amazon reward points. Again, these little things add up fast, and it’s helped mitigate some of my smaller expenses.
  • If you don’t already have a job like mine that you can mold to your school schedule, ask your professors if they know of any. A lot of my friends have gotten “Companion” positions at hospitals. I’m quite jealous of them, because they get a decent amount of money, and they get to know a lot of the nursing staff at hospitals and will have in-house references once we graduate.
  • Optimize what your school offers you. NYU allows us free admission to most NYC museums, along with free gym memberships, not to mention a ginormous library. That means I spend a lot less money on going out, working out, and buying books.

I hope this at least helps!

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Second Semester of Nursing School

27 Aug

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Throughout the first semester of nursing school I was told by professors, advisers, nurses that after the first semester, things get a lot easier.

Liars.

Maybe not entirely a lie, but the second semester was definitely just as time consuming and stressful as the first. I will say that I comprehended material faster and everything does start to click. A lot of nursing school is truly about reshifting the way we think, and it was much easier to get into that mindset.

The roughest part was Pharmacology. So many medications. So many administration parameters. So many contraindications and adverse reactions and therapeutic ranges. It was painful and so so so overwhelming. But finally getting through pharmacology made a lot of other things in nursing make sense. Administering medications and treatments, after all, is one of the biggest responsibilities of a nurse. Doctors prescribe, pharmacists make the drugs, computers scan everything. There are checks and balances. But, still, medical errors (which are usually medication related) are the third leading cause of death in the United States. And nurses are the ones standing beside a patient with the drugs in their hands, the last ones to possibly say, “Huh, this might not be a good idea for this particular patient” or “This seems like too much” or more commonly “Was the doctor/pharmacist aware of XYZ about this patient that could cause an adverse reaction.” In summation, you better know your shit.

Despite spending the majority of my summer locked in an overly air conditioned building, I still love it. Especially as I gain more confidence in my skills and the knowledge I have. I had two professors this semester who I found so inspiring. One of which I really bonded with. A feisty ER nurse from Staten Island who is whip-smart and from my first class with her, all I could think was, “That’s the exact kind of nurse I want to be.” I attended all of her extra tutoring sessions and sat front and center. The day of our final, she came up to me after the exam and gave me a big hug, and we chatted a bit about the semester. It meant the world to me.

Then there was my “Acute Psychiatric Care” class. I went into nursing school thinking I wanted to focus on emergency medicine or even critical care medicine. But I loved my psych class so much. I only got to spend three weeks on the psych floor, and I was sad to leave each day. I also think it’s a great disservice to nursing students to only require the psych class for half a semester instead of for a whole semester. Psych patients don’t just exist on the psych floor. If something physically traumatic happens to them (which is very very common) that takes precedent, and they end up on a medical floor. It takes a special finesse and optimal communication skills to work well with these patients. I loved working with the patients on the floor, and they loved us (often). A lot of the time they just wanted someone to listen to them, to have a sounding board, to have encouragement without judgment. I’m seriously considering pursuing psychiatric nursing or even working in a psychiatric emergency room.

So much to tell and explore and write about. Thank you so much to the readers who have reached out with requests and questions. The semester was too busy to sit down and answer those questions, but I’m proactively setting aside time during this break to write. Really write. I’ll finally put down an update on what happened with the poodle nanny situation, how I pay my way through nursing school, some tips about just SURVIVING nursing school, maybe some stories I’ve picked up along the way, and just some general life lessons gained along the way. I’ve missed writing so much. I’ve been told the next two semesters will be easier, but I just don’t know what to believe any more. But I’ll be here to write. I promise!

First Semester of Nursing School

14 May

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I have the month of May off from school. I’ve picked a couple of extra shifts at the vet clinic, but essentially I’m lazing around my apartment. Lots of late morning cuddles with my cat, staying out till one with friends, laying in parks reading, cooking healthy meals and grabbing unhealthy meals with friends I haven’t seen in months. I look back at my first semester of nursing school and wonder lazily to myself, “Did I imagine all that?”

It’s a shock to go from something being an all-consuming force in your life to having almost NO presence in your life. At orientation for my program back in January, multiple professors and deans emphasized that the first semester of nursing school is the hardest, the most intense, the one that some students struggle to survive. In just three months, the school strives to give you an entire medical foundation on which to build a nursing practice and reshape the way you approach patients and people in general.

I can honestly say that I’ve never worked harder on anything in my life. The weekend before finals, my classmate/friend Lauren and I camped out at NYU’s Bobst library and studied from about 10am till about 8pm both Saturday and Sunday. I’ve never studied like that for anything in my life. During my original undergrad, you would never find me studying for more than three maybe four hours on a given day, let alone 20 hours in a two day period.

For the last three months, pretty much everything in my life fell by the wayside. My life was school, clinical, and studying. And I loved it. Absolutely loved it. As every week of this grueling semester progressed, I became more and more certain that nursing is what I was born to do, and I am so excited for my career. It’s the perfect profession for me, and NYU was the right school for me to attend. I feel like I have so many stories, experiences, and revelations that I want to share that I’ve had a hard time even starting. It was three intense months that simply cannot be condensed down into five or six paragraphs. Perchance I will find some more time in my following weeks off to talk about some of the big topics that came up in nursing school and some of the major experiences. And if any of my dozen or so readers want to hear about anything in particular or have questions about nursing school, please feel free to let me know!

Until then, all I can say is that nursing school is absolutely fantastic, and I’m hoping if the next couple of semesters are easier, I can return to writing some more about it. But right now, it’s sunny and about 70 degrees outside, so I’m going to grab some books and a blanket and go lounge in Astoria Park and NOT think about diabetes or peripheral vascular diseases, or pressure ulcers.

John Oliver the Cat

30 Nov
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Dramatic reenactment of our first meeting.

Labor day weekend this year, I had plans to meet some friends for brunch in Chelsea. I woke up late and hung out in bed watching old episodes of Last Week Tonight.

As I lay there, I heard a clear, distinctive meowing which almost sounded like it was coming from my apartment. It took me a couple of minutes to realize it was coming from outside. Still in my pajamas, I put on my rain boots and rain coat (it was POURING) and headed outside to investigate. I stood at the side entrance to my building where my landlord parks his car and listened. I heard nothing. Maybe it was a stray cat passing by. Maybe one of my neighbors adopted a cat. As I turned to go back inside I heard it one more time. A tiny, little meow.

After looking around, I finally saw a little ball of fluff darting between the garbage cans. I didn’t think I’d be able to get to it, so I headed back inside to text Dr. L.

IMG_5136She guilted me into going back in the rain. Nothing in me wanted to, other than my sacred duty and pledge as a veterinary technician to help the furry creatures of the world. I grabbed an old beach towel and went back out. The cat did not want to be caught, but I kept following him around until I cornered him by the recycling bins and blocked his escape with a grate. Once he ran from me and hit the grate I grabbed him with the towel and swaddled him close to me. He didn’t fight, didn’t cry, he almost seemed to relax in my arms. I got him into my apartment and dumped him in my bathroom while I figured out what to do next.

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Scared little kitten hiding behind my toilet.

I made myself presentable and grabbed an old gym bag to put him in. I took an Uber into the city, and I kept peering into the bag to make sure he was okay. He was shaking and looking at me with those big eyes not sure to trust me or not.

“I got you,” I kept telling him. “I promise to not steer you wrong.”

My boss agreed to let us keep him at the hospital until we found a permanent home for him. I named him John Oliver, although most everyone just calls him Oliver. Within a couple of days, he was playful, friendly, exploring all over the hospital.

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Making friends at the hospital.

He quickly grew to love his little life. Steady supply of good food. Warm bed. Lots of attention. He was right at home at the hospital. We posted a couple of pictures of him on Facebook and immediately started getting responses from people who wanted him. I was happy for him, but so so sad for me. He felt like mine, like our lives were fated. He belonged with me. I had been told when I moved into my apartment that I couldn’t have pets, but I had to try. I had to ask again.

Turns out, both of my roommates really wanted to keep him and our landlord didn’t mind! John Oliver was coming home with me. The day I brought him home, he was so confused to be leaving his happy hospital. I took him back on the subway with me, and he kept looking up at me through the mesh of his carrier with that same worried look he had given me in the Uber a month earlier.

“I haven’t steered you wrong yet, have I?” I quietly said to him.

It took him a while to warm up to his new home, but now he owns the place. Even though I work with cats a lot, I’ve had to learn a lot about owning a cat, especially a rambunctious kitten. He still bites and gets what we call his “night crazies” where he runs laps around our living room nonstop from 1am-3am. But I love him. He’s my guy. My little John Oliver.

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My guy, all dressed up for the day he was neutered.

Guatemala

27 Nov
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Santa Catalina Arch in Antigua

It had been a long time since I had gone on an adventure. When I decided to go back to school, I also made a decision to be frugal and work extra in order to save for nursing school. As summer approached, I noticed that even though I had cut my hours at work, my increased pet sitting volume meant I had saved a lot of money. So I googled “Best Places for Solo Travel,” and I picked the country with the cheapest/shortest flight from NYC: Guatemala.

I was so excited when I booked my trip, but I immediately became stressed once I began doing my research and noticed the state department had listed warnings for travelers to Guatemala. I read a story about a girl robbed at gunpoint, and most everyone I told about my trip told me I was insane and going to get kidnapped.

When my trip was over and I landed back in New York and made it back to my apartment, exhausted from a full day of flying, I collapsed in my bed, the experience of Guatemala still percolating through my synapses, I began to giggle. “I’m alive,” I said to myself, smiling.

SAFETY

To be honest, I was very careful in Guatemala. I think any person (especially a woman) solo-traveling the world at large has to take extra precautions. I never stayed out later than 10pm (I was usually exhausted by that time anyways), I avoided the more crime-ridden areas of the country and stuck to the extremely safe highlands, and I only carried the money I expected to spend per day with me. I was quick about taking pictures with my cell phone. I kept a copy of my passport with my luggage and one on my person, and I simply stayed aware. In the week I was there, I never felt unsafe.

What shocked me the most was how many other solo travelers (many female) I met in Guatemala as well. So many people in the US looked at me like I was insane, and I was happy to meet other people just as “crazed” as me. Everyone I met had nothing but good things to say about their experiences.

HIGHLIGHTS

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View from my room in Casa del Mundo in Lake Atitlan.

Lake Atitlan

My first two days in Guatemala I went on a hiking/kayaking trip with a company called Old Town Outfitters. I can’t recommend it enough. The tour was just me and one other girl who was solo-traveling from Colorado, Bridget. Our tour guide, Arnold was incredible. A local from Guatemala who made sure we had an incredible two days. He answered all our questions about Guatemala and went the extra mile for us at all times. Showing us places to jump off cliffs into water, helping us bargain in the market, explaining local politics. He was invaluable.

We had a guide drive us up into the mountains, then Bridget, Arnold, and I biked for a couple of hours down to Panajachel, a small lakeside town where he had a packed lunch and some Guatemalan beers. We then took a small water taxi to our incredible hotel, Casa del Mundo. Easily the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever stayed at. That night we sat in a fire-heated hot tub and watched active volcanos across the lake erupt, their lava lighting the clouds in the distance. The next day, after breakfast, we kayaked across the lake and hiked back to the hotel.

It was my favorite part of my whole trip, and I wish I had booked the whole week with Old Town Outfitters as Bridget had. The two of us grabbed dinner in Antigua the night before she left, and her week with them was incredible. She booked her trip through a website called The Clymb. Based on her review of the trip, I’m considering my next international trip with them.

Antigua

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My time in Guatemala was based out of Antigua. Per suggestions I had read from other travelers, as soon as I landed in Guatemala City, I hired a car to take me to Antigua. It is the former capital of the country. A small, colorful village surrounded by active volcanos and full of beautiful abandoned churches, bustling markets and a decent population of ex-pats.

I stayed at an AirBNB, in a room I rented from an adorable Spanish couple, Ana Maria and Mario in a suburb of Antigua. Every morning, Ana Maria made me breakfast, and we chatted. I got big hugs when I came home and plenty of travel advice. They don’t speak any English, so we muddled through with my broken Spanish. I loved them both, and it was much better than staying in a hostel or a hotel.

I spent my days wandering the markets which are sprawling and full of everything imaginable, brought to town my Mayans that live in the neighboring villages. I took a chocolate making class at the Choco Museum, and I wandered the ruins of churches destroyed by earthquakes.

During the evenings, I hung out at two different ex-pat bars Snug and Cafe No Se. I was in Guatemala during the rainy season (I technically never saw a drop of rain though), so there were never a lot of tourists around. It was usually a handful of travelers in the bars that I would easily join in conversation. It felt nice to speak English and to get advice and swap stories with other travelers. One of the bartenders even invited me to her birthday party the following week and tried to convince me to just move to Guatemala and bartend with her. It was a tempting offer. Extremely tempting.

De La Gente coffee tour

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On one of my days, I took a tuk-tuk (a small golf-cartish taxi thing) up into the mountains of San Miguel Escobar to take a tour of one of the coffee plantations. A guy I met at Cafe No Se recommended it to me, and I wanted to get some Guatemalan coffee.

De La Gente is a collective of coffee farmers that also gives tours to increase their revenue. I had a British tour guide who translated as a farmer (Gregorio) gave me and a traveling couple a tour of the fields, explaining the process of cultivating coffee from beginning to end. We then went back to his house in the village where his daughter showed us the rest of the coffee process. We roasted and ground our own beans and all shared a cup. Again my broken Spanish came into play as I chatted with the Gregorio family.

As a coffee lover and former barista, it was eye-opening to see the process. I had lunch with the family and bought an extra couple of bags from them. I actually ordered some more from them this morning. Their coffee is pretty exceptional. With shipping to the US, it is only $16 a bag. I’ve been making coffee at home and saving a lot of money, instead of buying a $2 cup of drip every day. And I know I’m helping support Gregorio!

Earth Lodge

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Volcán Fuego erupting on my last morning in Antigua

My last night in Guatemala, I spent at a hippie dippie place in the mountains called Earth Lodge. I had spent the week hiking a lot, biking a lot, kayaking a little, and just in general being really active. I wanted the end of my trip to be relaxing.

For a modest price, I had my own private cabana with my own swinging hammock. I could hear birds and celebrations from nearby villages ringing through the mountains. I mostly read in my hammock and napped. Read. Nap. Read. Nap. Eat. Drink. Read. Nap. Honestly, that’s what I wish my entire life could be.

They had a nice central area with a bar with a decent happy hour. Earth Lodge is actually an avocado farm, and they grow most of their food there. Dinner every night is communal, and it was delicious. Fresh, healthy, vegetarian fare (I think there was a meat option though) and another chance to get to know some fellow travelers. I had to leave early the next day to get back to Guatemala City in time for my flight. Looking back, I wish I had planned two nights there. That way I could have done the morning yoga, the birdwatching class or a hike.

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Just a girl who traveled to a “dangerous” country during the “rainy” season.

I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to travel to Central America. I loved Guatemala, and I can’t wait to visit other countries in the region. Nicaragua, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama. Finally being able to use my Spanish was a blast, and I found the people in Guatemala to be more open and friendly than any other place I’ve traveled. If you’re questioning about whether or not you want to go to Guatemala, and you stumbled upon my humble blog with this bare bones post, may I suggest that you book the trip and go. Go! Nowhere in the world is completely safe. It’s really about how aware and careful you are. But I didn’t find Guatemala dangerous at all. Do your research. Take a deep breath and take the risk.

The Poet is In

24 Nov

It’s become part of a punchline for me now when people ask me what my first Bachelor’s degree was in.

“I majored in poetry, but being a poet doesn’t pay like it used to.”

Always gets a moderate chuckle. But it’s jarring to me to think back to a time when that really was my life plan. I knew it was mostly crazy, and I think I was young and rebelling against growing up. I didn’t want some office job. Like most young people, I rejected the life I thought society was forcing on me. And while I’ve successfully avoided having a desk job for most of my adult life, I did bid farewell to my dream of being a poet laureate. It’s not the creative outlet I wanted to invest myself in. Yet poetry exists in my soul like a latent infection.

Back in April I saw a post on Instagram about a pop-up poetry event at Grand Central called “The Poet is In.” It was an all day event that had poets set up at booths writing personalized poems for people. I left work early and hopped a subway South. I had to be there.

I waited in line for about 45 minutes, not minding at all. I had a book to keep me occupied, and I was so excited. Which poet would I get? That hipster one over there? The wise old man over there? It was amazing to see so many people in line, excited about poetry. That’s what poetry is supposed to be. For the people. To connect with one another and, like all art, to share in a bigger human experience.

I think I would have been happy to get any of the poets, but I felt like fate brought me to Marie Howe. A warm presence with wild hair, it turns out she is actually the one who dreamed up the event when she was the New York State poet laureate. She asked me some questions about myself. About the classes I was taking in school. About what I wanted to grow up to be when I was a little girl. She took some notes as we chatted, then loaded up her typewriter and clacked away. When she was done, she read me my personalized poem.

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I almost cried. I loved it so much, and it felt like the perfect snapshot of that very moment in my life. I sniffled back my tears and profusely thanked her for my poem and for putting the lovely event together.

“You know, I didn’t start really writing my poetry until I was in my thirties,” she told me. “You have it in you for when the time is right.”

I needed to hear that.

NYU Meyers

20 Nov

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About a month ago, I found out that I was accepted at NYU Meyers school of nursing. I was at work at the animal hospital when I checked the website. I was so nervous that my brain couldn’t even process the letter I was reading. My eyes floated over the paragraphs looking for that key word. Congratulations.

I’m so happy. I’m so excited. Partially because I worked so so hard for this. I made a lot of sacrifices with my free time, with my money. I had to balance work, school, and moving three times. I was so happy to get that letter, but I also just felt like, “I damn well deserve this.”

One of the first jobs I had in New York was working as an office manager for an endodontist who was a sociopath. He was bizarrely strict and demanding and often belittled me. I wanted to quit, as even getting ready for work in the morning gave me full anxiety attacks. But my boyfriend at the time discouraged me, told me I had to suck it up and find a way to pay my share of the rent. I finally found something to replace it and told the evil endodontist I was leaving. He told me he felt sorry for me, because I was just an unhappy person.

I was so mad and offended. He didn’t know me. At least I wasn’t the egomaniac. But even though he as a jerk, he was right. I was deeply unhappy, and I would remain unhappy for a long time. I went through an dark couple of years. I lost 30 pounds, only holding 95 pounds on my 5 foot 7 frame because I was too depressed to eat. I struggled to make it two, three days without sobbing in bed, unable to get up. I blamed it on bad luck with men. I blamed it on not making a lot of money. I was so frustrated because I didn’t know how to fix it.

Now, I’m happy. I’m so happy. Not just on a “I had a good day” level or even a “life is so much fun” level. It’s a deeper, all-encompassing peace that comes with knowing where my life is going. I’m going to help people. I want to heal people. I want to learn all the secrets of the medical universe. I want to meet other people that are as passionate about science as I have become. I feel so solid in knowing that it’s all coming together, and I wish I had a way to go back and tell that crying 25-year-old how happy she would one day be. How things would settle out and be okay.

I’m beyond excited for my journey to begin in January, and I’d love to write about it. But let’s be honest, I’m not that reliable with my posts! Either way, all I can do is say that I will try. That’s all I’ve been trying to do these last seven years anyway. Trying. That’s all we can ever do.

Introductory Nutrition

17 Jul

The one class I took this summer was Introduction to Nutrition. A standard requirement for every nursing school and most PA programs. The summer course was a condensed version. Instead of three months, it was over a course of five weeks. Note to self to never sign up for one of those condensed courses again.

I wasn’t sure what a Nutrition course would entail. Foods? Diets? Disorders? Why did every program require this class? THIS course was an overview of what can in and of itself be a degree program. We studied macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrate) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), the way the body processes and uses them, disorders that arise from them, the standard American diet (acronym SAD!), and food issues around the globe. We also had to track everything we ate through nutrition software and submit reports on our health and our diet.

From the first class, I was a little irked at my professor. I could tell 15 minutes in that she was a vegan and that she wanted us to be vegans and that every subject that we discussed would circle back to her main thesis: meat/dairy is BAD, EVIL, WRONG. I was angry that she seemed to be forcing an ideology on her students instead of teaching us the subject matter.

Maybe it was the condensed nature of the course, but I slowly began to drink the vegan kool-aid. Vegan diets lead to a reduction of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. I read a study that put vegan blood in a petri dish with aggressive cancer cells, and the blood KILLED the cancer cells. Blood from meat eaters (even healthy ones) only killed a tiny percentage of the cancer cells. The vegan blood killed almost all of them. Outside of the health aspects, I was affected by the environmental impact of meat production and the treatment of the animals in these facilities. I felt enormous guilt that I spend all day taking care of animals, then I spend money eating animals that were tortured their entire lives. I had also developed skin issues over the last year. A combination of acne and rosacea that only seemed to be getting worse. I saw two dermatologists who both told me the same thing. “This is caused by dairy, red meat, and alcohol.”

So I gave it a shot. I could do it. I could be vegan. But about a week in, I found myself leaving the grocery store with a bag full of hummus and veggies. Outside the store was a taco truck. I stopped and looked at the menu. Quesadillas, tacos, tortas, burritos. All full of meat and cheese. Not a vegan option in sight. About ten minutes passed as I stood there in my trance of cataloguing all the delicious things I was giving up. Cheeseburgers, wings, pizza, tuna melts, BBQ, hot dogs, chicken tacos, turkey sandwiches. grilled cheeses, brie on crackers. I felt so sad. Yeah, I was eating a lot healthier, but what’s the point of life if I can’t enjoy anything. As Dr. G told me, “We all dig our own graves.” Something is going to kill you one day, and it’s all about making choices with the risks we are willing to take.

I brooded on my diet for about a week. I tried to come to terms with what I believe, what is best for me. I came to the conclusion that I don’t believe that eating meat is morally wrong. But I do think the way we produce meat in this country is. A couple of years ago I vacationed on a cattle ranch in New Mexico , where I got to see cattle roaming free, living a happy life with plenty of fresh air, quality medical care and healthy, natural feed. They had a good life, and I felt no guilt about eating them. But unfortunately that’s not the life that the majority of livestock in this country lead. That being said, I couldn’t go vegan. I just don’t know how. There had to be some type of in-between.

So I created an allowance for myself. 5 instances of dairy/eggs per week. 3 instances of meat (including fish). Two weeks in, and I think it’s going well. I’m still eating a mostly vegan diet, but when I’m out with my friends, I can have a buffalo wing. Or I can have a small ice cream cone on a summer day. At least I know I’m reducing my intake and making sure it stays low. Since I decided to do this I’ve noticed that my skin has almost completely cleared up, I’ve stopped having stomach issues, I need less sleep at night, and I feel as though I’m forced to eat more fruits and veggies which is never a bad thing. Overall, I think it’s going swimmingly.

I’ve also noticed a lot of push back from the people around me. I’ve had some friends dramatically scold me for my new diet. They tell me that I’m not going to get enough protein (not a problem if you eat smart), or that I’m being annoying/crazy, or that it’s worthless, that my eating less meat isn’t going to make that big of a difference. I don’t understand why people get so defensive about MY eating choices. So I’ve decided to stop talking about it, to just do my own thing, eat my own way, and let that be. I earn my paycheck, as modest as it might be, and I choose to divert my money away from meat/dairy and toward more whole foods. That’s my choice. My small difference to make in the world.

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

-Edward Everett Hale

The Baby Vet

11 Jul

About a year ago, our clinic got a new vet. Fresh out of vet school with very limited experience, he seemed nice if a little naive, but I was optimistic and willing to give him a chance. We quietly referred to him as the baby vet.

I don’t know what happened between us or if there was something in particular that I did that upset him, but within a couple of weeks, he started treating me differently. He made a point to have me wipe his patients’ behinds after he expressed their anal glands (not my job), clean soiled cages (not my job), and even clean up vomit in his office (seriously not my job.) When I would tell him I was busy doing other things around the office, he would throw what can only be described as grown-man temper tantrums. I watched him throw bandaging materials, stomp to his office, slam the door and refuse to talk to anyone. He would brag openly to the receptionists that I was a horrible tech, a horrible person and that he was going to get me fired. Once a week, he’d take a list of things he didn’t like about me to my bosses and tell them what a waste of money I was.

I get the whole “you can’t be everyone’s cup of tea” thing, but it hurt. I work hard. I try and do the best job I can. It felt awkward to go to work everyday knowing that there existed a contingency of people that were rooting for my demise. It made me angry. Who was this kid to come into my place of work and try and get me fired? I started making a list of my own. The baby vet has a bad habit of saying racist and sexist things around the office. I’ve seen him overcharge clients that he knows are wealthy. I’ve seen him take drugs from the office and give it to friends for free. Worst of all, I’ve seen him miss key parts of an exam, misdiagnose animals and practice some sloppy medicine. I was building my case to take to my bosses to try and get HIM fired.

Then I saw the “When they go low, we go high” speech that Michelle Obama gave at the Democratic Convention. Her eloquent and noble message resonated with me, especially within the situation I found myself. I thought long and hard about it, and I tore up my “why baby vet sucks” list and decided to try a different approach.

When the baby vet first came to the clinic, he got us a good deal on a dental x-ray machine. He was supposed to be in charge of integrating it into our dental cleanings. We had never taken dental x-rays at the clinic, and everyone struggled with it, including baby vet. We couldn’t seem to get non-distorted films. So I took my downtime at work, and I started studying. I pulled out my textbooks from Penn Foster and started reading radiograph techniques. I watched youtube videos and read vet tech websites. I mastered that machine and began taking perfect dental x-rays. I remember showing Dr. S a set of x-rays I took once I really got the hang of it. Baby vet was awkwardly standing by staring at his phone, eavesdropping.

“Perfection,” Dr. S said. “I’d expect no less.”

Baby Vet’s face flushed red, and he stormed out of the room.

I was given the responsibility of training the rest of the staff on how to use the machine, and I still advise my co-workers on more difficult shots. I made a point of going to my bosses with a new list, a list of why I deserved a raise. But they didn’t even let me read it. They just gave me the money I wanted. I asked them if there was anything they wanted me to work on, any issues they had with the job I was doing. I was certain they’d bring something up, one of the complaints that I know had been made about me. But nothing. They simply told me that they are happy with the work I do and to keep it up. It was the easiest raise I’ve ever gotten.

I don’t know if baby vet still complains about me. He avoids me as much as possible which I’m fine with. He’s so young and new at his job that I’m not quite sure why he’s focused so much time on bringing others down instead of trying to improve himself. But I don’t have time to worry about that. He isn’t even on my radar.

The Summer of Chrissy

9 Jul

I’m free! I can’t believe that a year ago I was scrambling around the city trying to register for classes and balance my school and work schedules. A week ago, I finished my summer session class, and with that final grade posted, I can now start my applications for nursing school. AH! While I loved loved loved my classes, (if I had my undergrad to do over again, I’d major in Chemistry) there were a lot of sacrifices involved. I worked part-time, did a ton of pet sitting, and most of my free time was spent studying as much as possible. I spent many weekends at home memorizing polyatomic ions or the different digestive enzymes.

But that’s over. The grades I worked so hard for are in the books, and I have nothing more I can do until school starts up again in September. I’m back to working full-time at the vet clinic, but I feel like I’ve been let out of a cage. I can read books! I can write blog posts! I want to dance in Lincoln Square! Play softball in Central Park! Drink beers with friends on a rooftop bar till 4am! This is going to be the greatest summer. Every day that I have free, I want to spend wisely, explore my city, meet new people. I feel silly that I always had three days off a week before I went to school, and I never really used them.

But there’s no time to dwell in the past. I’ve got so many things to do. My to-do list is looking a lot more interesting these days.