One of the classes I’m taking this semester runs from 8 a.m. to 10:40 a.m. on Friday mornings – a particularly cruel schedule, I would say, if it weren’t for the fact that this is the one and only time of the week when it’s easy to find parking on campus.
Because no one can sit through a two-hour-and-40-minute class without falling asleep, the instructor gives us a couple of breaks to stretch our legs and pee. During one of those breaks last week, I found myself talking to the young woman sitting next to me.
She’s a sophomore, I learned, and plans to study nursing, like me. Throughout our conversation, she wore a carefully arranged, disaffected expression. This class is so boring, she seemed to be thinking. This professor is so dumb. These classmates are so uninteresting. I would rather be elsewhere.
But we were both there, so we talked.
She told me that she was switching from a different major, and I told her I already have a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
“Why aren’t you going to do the accelerated nursing program?” she asked.
And so I told her about the informational meeting I’d attended, where the student panel advised prospective students to say goodbye to their families and friends for 16 months, because they wouldn’t see their loved ones until they’d come out the other side of the program. I told her I have two kids, and I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t tell her about the one panelist who was almost in tears because she never got to see her three children anymore because she was always at school or studying. I didn’t tell her how I sobbed on the way home from that meeting, because the thought of rarely seeing Kaylee was too much of a sacrifice. (Robbie wasn’t even in our thoughts yet.) I didn’t tell her how it threw my head into disarray because this whole nursing school thing was my entire plan after losing my job, and now I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t tell her that deciding not to apply for that program was a Very Big Deal at the time.
She listened to my abbreviated explanation and said, with her eyebrows raised, “Are you single?”
“No, I’m married,” I answered.
Her eyebrows went higher.
“It’s only a year,” she said, her disdain for my decision hanging like a cloud in the air between us.
I mumbled something about it being a tough decision, but she didn’t hear me because she went back to playing with her cell phone.
It’s only a year.
Sixteen months, actually.
If I’d applied and been accepted to the accelerated nursing program, I’d already be an RN. I would have started school in 2009 and graduated in 2010, and I’d be doing nursey things as we speak.
It’s only a year.
Nothing important happens in a year, right?
It’s possible probable that this 20-something woman doesn’t have any children, because I can’t imagine a mom being so dismissive of the idea of spending a year away from her children. I can’t imagine being so dismissive of turning my partner into a single parent for sixteen months, of missing all the tiny details of watching my kids discover who they are. I already miss some of those things, but at least I get a little bit of time every day to watch them be themselves. At least I get to have dinner with them every night and get them ready for school in the morning. At least I’m around.
It was only a year.
If a 20-year-old’s disdain is the price I pay for refusing to miss those things, well, I guess I’m all right with that. Bring it on, kid.