My dream started back in the winter of 1997. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I came home from school and mom told me to sit on the couch with her because she had something she needed to talk to me about. My regular teenage reaction was, “Ok, now what did I do wrong?” Mom had a sad facial expression. She started to tell me about Ignacio. Ignacio was my Godmother’s 7-year-old son. She told me that he was diagnosed with leukemia. I remember crying with my mom because although I didn’t understand how cancer attacks your body, I knew cancer was a bad thing and that sometimes people die from it. Ignacio went through many sessions of chemotherapy and radiation. Every time I visited him, I did everything I could to take care of him. That was when I realized I wanted to take care of people. I wanted to go into the medical field but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. So, after high school, I started taking some classes at the local community college.
At that point I knew I wanted to be a nurse, but my self-esteem got the best of me. I didn’t believe in myself and I didn’t think I was smart enough to be a nurse. So, I chose to do something that was close to nursing, I went to EMT school. I enjoyed it for a short period of time, but I felt like I was just picking up people and then dropping them off. More like an expensive taxi service. That, to me, was not enough. I was not completely happy with what I was doing.
Fast forward ten years. I went back to school and I convinced myself that I was smart and that I was going to get through nursing school. So, I started taking all the pre-nursing classes. As the semesters went on, I was finding myself getting close to the end of my pre-nursing career. At this time in my life is when I met Kevin, my soul mate, my number one fan and my biggest supporter. He didn’t live where I lived at the time. He suggested I move to his hometown to be with him and finish my college career where he lived so that we could be together.
Three months later, I moved to Tennessee. I worked hard to finish all the pre-nursing classes and I was accepted into the number one school in the area for nursing. I never knew how difficult my next two years would be. I didn’t know any nurses so I had no one to tell me their nursing school experience. In a way, I’m glad it happened that way. I think that if someone had told me how terribly hard nursing school is, I’m not sure I would’ve followed that dream.
August of 2012 came and I started nursing school. I was excited, it was a new beginning. I had a new title which I was proud of: “Nursing student”. This meant that in two years, I was going to be a nurse and no one could stop me.
I survived the first month of intense lecture. I studied. I studied hard every day. I sometimes forgot to eat dinner because I was studying so hard after class. I was practicing the new skills I was taught. Kevin would let me practice on him how to check his blood pressure, his temperature, his heart rate and breaths. I practiced over and over again because I was going to be tested on that the first week when I got to go to the hospital to see patients. I practiced those skills like my life depended on it. I found myself studying even in an elevator. Oh how I never knew how intense it would be. My classmates and I were told by one of the instructors that nursing school tests are nothing like tests we have had in the past. But, I’d been studying so much and I knew the information so I should get an A on my first pharmacology test, right?
Not so much. I failed it.
I felt like my life was ending, but I knew I wasn’t a quitter. I’ve never been a quitter so why would I quit now? Nursing school really killed my student ego. I went from a 3.8 GPA to barely passing my classes. Final exams came faster than expected. I found myself counting all my points over and over again because in nursing school, if you don’t have an average of 80% just on tests, you fail out of nursing school. So I counted my points, I was safe for three classes. Pharmacology was the only one that I was not safe with. I had a 76% average. I had to have a 79.5% total after the final exam to be able to continue. I studied. I studied day and night. Again, I skipped dinner. I woke up on weekends at six in the morning to study and I would continue for hours until Kevin would tell me that I had enough for the day. Usually, that was around eleven at night.
I went to school that cold, rainy Monday morning to take the final exam for pharmacology. I sat in the classroom and the exam was passed out to everyone in the class. I looked at the first page and I freaked out. I felt like I forgot everything. I knew nothing. I did the best I could. Two hours later, I was the last one in the class left. The instructor came up to me and told me that time was up and that I needed to turn in my exam. I still had thirty questions to look at. I filled out those thirty questions without even looking at them. Later that day, grades were posted and I did the math. I ended with a 79.4%. Remember, I had to have a 79.5% and I made a 79.4%. My plan was to talk to the instructor, offer to write a paper or do whatever it takes to make it to 79.5%. I went to her office and offered that exact idea. She looked at me and while shaking her head, she said, “No Lu, you got what you got”. She looked like she didn’t care. With tears running down my face, I went to talk to the Dean of the nursing program and offered the same thing. As I was talking to him, he grabbed a box of tissues and threw it at me while saying, “here, clean your face!” Oh how terrible that felt! He also told me that I would have to stay out of school for a year and then reapply to continue the program. I would also retake pharmacology, and then the following semester I would continue with the rest of the nursing program.
I knew I wasn’t a quitter so that is exactly what I did.
I found a job as an English-Spanish translator to keep myself occupied for that year. I was lucky enough to keep myself very busy with it and also doing a lot of translations in the medical field. Although I wasn’t in school or a nurse, I was still helping people. I didn’t realize what failing pharmacology did to me mentally. I realized it the following fall when I was able to go back and retake that class. I started well, I knew the material and then it was time for the first test. When I got to school, I started sweating, shaking and felt nauseous. But I managed to take the first test, and I not only passed it but I did well. The rest of the semester went on, and I finished pharmacology– but with a price to pay. That price was of having terrible anxiety when taking any test.
So I continued the nursing program. I spent many hours, days, weekends and holidays studying. I had to put my life completely on hold to be able to finish this dream. While Kevin was my biggest supporter and fan, plenty of times I felt guilty for not being able to be a normal girlfriend. I couldn’t do fun things. I could no longer just be me. I had to adapt to this new lifestyle which I chose without really knowing what I had done to myself.
The first semester was coming to an end and I once again counted my points. Every possible point, I counted. And I counted again and again to make sure I was right. I knew what I had to get on each final exam to be able to finish that semester. The stress level is unreal. I never had gray hair until nursing school. I was just thankful that my curls hide the gray hair so that I wouldn’t have to see them all the time.
I passed the first semester although it was a close call. I was only a few points away from failing a second class but I knew that if I failed a second class, I wouldn’t be able to go back to nursing school and I would have to figure out something else with my life. I did it! I passed that semester and the following semester.
Holidays were spent studying and weekends were too but I made it to the last semester. I was counting down how many tests I had left until graduation. I was still studying so much. I lost contact with some special people in my life because I was so focused on school. I forgot birthdays and I forgot valentine’s day just like I forgot many other days that I made sure never to forget in my previous life. But nursing school was finally coming to an end. I had 30 days left, 2 tests, 3 skills check-offs and 4 final exams. I was so close I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. That light felt like it was so far away not too long ago.
I was almost at the end when one day I showed up, and the same instructor that taught pharmacology told me that she never thought I was going to make it. She killed my student ego again because one of the classes I had left was her class. I failed one of her tests and she told me I should just go ahead and quit and go to art school. I looked at her, smiled, laughed at her and said, “You obviously have no idea who you are talking to”. She had the audacity to tell me to quit. She really did and I was taken back by it. Not only did I finish her class, I finished with a B, which is hard to do in her class. Quitting is not in my vocabulary and if I didn’t do it when I failed pharmacology, why would I do it only weeks away from graduating nursing school? This, this was my dream. This was my dream of being a nurse and I was not going to let some instructor tell me what to do with my dream nor was I going to let her rule my life. So I graduated.
I was now a graduate nurse.
All I had left to do was take my boards and I’d have my license to be able to practice as a nurse. I already had a job waiting for me. So, I scheduled my test and I studied. I studied like a maniac like I did before, throughout nursing school. The testing day was quickly approaching and the closer I get to that day the more nervous I got. Three days before the test, I started to feel anxiety again. I couldn’t sleep, I would eat like a pig, and I’d never get out of the house.
Finally, test day arrived. It’s a five hour test. During the test, I felt like I couldn’t breath, I was sweating like a pig and I had to run to the bathroom constantly. But I finished the test. I had no idea whether I did terribly bad or amazingly well. The only way to find out was to wait 48 hours to get the results
I found out the results of my test and I had failed it. I cried, screamed and cried some more. I’m thankful that Kevin was there or I don’t know what I would’ve done. He reminded me that this is just a test and that it’s not failing out of nursing school. He reminded me that this test can be taken over and over again until I pass it and that this is just a small setback. I had to wait forty-five days to be able to retake it.
The forty-five days passed and I was faced again with this torture. This time was different. I felt tired, defeated and very negative. I went in with a different set of mind than I did the first time. I finished the test very fast and felt very insecure about it. I went home and just wanted to be held by Kevin. Again, 48 hours passed and I found out I failed. I decided there was something I was doing wrong. So after thinking about it for a while, I decided to take a few days off and not study to give my brain a break.
I took two weeks off to get that mental break and came back to it. This time, I studied with breaks. I studied thinking about the fact that this was going to be the last time I was going to take this test. I convinced myself that I was smart enough for it and that I would soon be the nurse I always wanted to be. I was soon going to be the nurse that patients needed and the nurse who loved her job.
This was going to be my last time taking this test because I made sure to convince myself of that. I went into the test with that in mind. It took me seven long hours to take it. I took multiple breaks to give myself a chance to not lose my mind. I finished the test and went home. I needed to sleep. I was mentally and emotionally drained and I was scared. I had convinced myself of this being the last time but was it really? Was it really the last time? The next day, my friend Ashley called me to tell me she had been looking at the government website and that she had news for me.
I sat down and she said “You’re a nurse! You passed! You’re done!”
I didn’t completely comprehend what she said. It took a minute for my brain to process the information and then I realized I was finally a nurse. I was now Lucila, RN. I always thought of this as a dream but never knew it was going to be real.
This is real life now, I am a nurse and the reason is because I never gave up on my dream. I had a dream and I made it a reality with hard work and perseverance. If you have a dream, go for it. Even if it means you have to put your entire life on hold. A dream is a dream until you make it your reality. The only way to make it your reality is by not giving up.
Artwork by Alina Moisii.