To the point: I have made a decision to go into Nursing and get a BSN degree to become a Registered Nurse.
The longer version (you’ve been warned)…
Most people that know me would find this a very strange decision, almost completely out of character, but the truth is that those who know me of old (and I mean basically all my life) would know the seeds for this can be found in my early years.
When I was a school-age child, I loved science, way more than I loved languages/literature. It was always my favorite subject, and I devoured it with the passion that I now show for games and sci-fi/fantasy. I would literally come home and recite my classes back to my Mom; I just had a knack for it. It wasn’t an easy subject for me; I had to work at it, but I got it and did well in it. When I went into high school, it was Biology that consumed me, even if I didn’t know it consciously or let it show. Chemistry was ok, nothing I was too keen on but a class in which I also did well with a little work. Physics was right up my alley, though, and I became one of the go-to guys in my class when other people had problems understanding concepts.
When I went into university and discovered that Electronic Engineering was just not for me, it was Biology that I first changed concentrations into, not English. I completed my Biology 101 with an ok grade mainly because I was lazy and did not put the extra work it took for me to do great in it. Frankly, the reason I continued in the English/Literature track was because, as good as I was in science, I was equally so in that subject matter, except I didn’t have to do any work. In short, it was the easy way out. I rode that train all the way to a BA in English in 2002, achieving a 3.75 GPA and graduating Magna Cum Laude on the strength of my memory, innate analysis skills and an uncanny ability to write papers the night before that would nevertheless score in the high 90s. To be honest, I never knew what I would do with an English degree, but I had one and hey, I could always get a Masters and a PhD and teach in college! In fact, that was my plan, but it didn’t turn out like that.
Getting work on the strength of an English BA was, and continues to be, an uphill battle. Though the world desperately needs people who can write well, do effective research and distill ideas into cohesive arguments (the true skills of an English degree, along with tons of info about Shakespeare and such), the corporate environment is quite content to rely on their MS Word spell-check and churn out mediocre writing than to pay someone trained to do that (but I’m not bitter). Then when I went back to start my Masters in Literature, after a couple of weeks, I dropped out. Why? Honestly, because I got scared. Masters classes were not like my undergrad ones, where I could cruise and do last-minute work. I felt lost, powerless, and I chickened out hardcore. So I left it and made tons of excuses.
Fast forward to this year. My Mom’s cancer has been acting up horribly and has had her in and out of the hospital since February. Of the six months of 2009 so far, I have spent 10 weeks in Puerto Rico with her at the hospital, helping her, caring for her. The fact that I have been unemployed/working freelance has given me the freedom to do this, but it hasn’t been easy for me or my wife, especially since we’ve never spent so much time apart and because, as meager as my income was doing freelance, it has drained down to zero while I’ve been traveling. Spending days at the hospital with Mom, seeing the nurses care for her when she’s been at her worse, seeing all the doctors around, all the various health technicians (Respiratory, Physical, Orthopedic, etc), seeing with my own eyes the difference they make in people’s lives–literally, in their lives, as in saving them–has been extremely humbling and has had a huge impact on me. Suddenly, going back to Miami (in the few breaks I had in between flights back to Puerto Rico) to write, edit, lay out and sell games seemed so vapid, so insignificant to me. How is a new issue of Targum Magazine, or a new installment of Heroic Moments really going to make a difference in a life, in the world? (There is an answer to this question below, so keep reading.)
I have spent all of June (except for a few days) in Puerto Rico with Mom in the hospital. Earlier this month there were times when we thought we’d lose her for sure, and it was the expedient care of her nurses (as well as, of course, the will of G-d) that kept her here a little longer. It stared at me in face way too many times for me to ignore it any longer. When this year began, I knew it would be a year of change. I wrote in an early entry in my journal that I was looking for three Rs in my life: Retrain, Refocus, Renew. Sometimes G-d engineers things so as to make His message to you so obvious it is almost impossible to miss, unless you outright set out to be blind to it. I decided not to be blind anymore. I decided that it was time for me to step up, to walk out of the comfort zone I had been in since entering university back in 1992, to take those three words I myself wrote and make them a reality. And so it was, after talking it over with my wife, that I decided to go into Nursing.
So you see, it isn’t really a radical new thing for me, but rather going back to a seed that was planted in me long, long ago. I know it won’t be easy, I know I will have to work at it, hard. But I want to do it, more than I have wanted anything in my life. My Mom always thought I should have gone into Medicine; all moms say that, I reckon. But my Mom said it because she recognized that I had something within me that allow me to do well in that field, that I had the right stuff for it. It was I who did not believe in me, who sought the path of least resistance. No more.
I don’t regret the choices I have made to this point, though. In talking with a friend who is a nurse now (she’s my go-to person when I need Medicalese translated into English) I said to her, “So this is what you were learning at my apt while we all played Vampire, huh?” She replied, “Yup.” It would be easy to be all like, oh man, I shouldn’t have been playing Vampire/D&D/whatever and instead been studying blah blah blah. I wouldn’t have made this decision back in 1998 when said game was happening. Heck, I wouldn’t have made that decision last year while I attended GTS and Gen Con and had one of my best gaming years. This was a decision for now, and everything I have done, everything that I have gone through, has made me who I am today, the person that can make this decision in 2009 and say yeah, let’s rock.
Will I stop making games? Probably for a while, yes. I don’t know that I’ll stop playing, though. See, having been through some really rough times at the hospital with Mom has made me very appreciative of my friends and colleagues who make games. When I was mired in dark thoughts, exhausted and despondent, it was playing these same games with my friends that gave me the mental rest that I sorely needed. When my days have been little more than keeping track of what medicines they are giving Mom, what procedures are they ordering, what progress the doctors are/aren’t seeing, checking out what my gaming group has been up to in setting up our Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies game, or reading a couple of good news from fellow publishers finally putting out books I know they have been working on for a while, or just reading brief reports about other people’s games, these are the things that have kept me sane. So while for me making games is not going to be where my future is at, I am glad that there are others (far better at this than me, I might add) who are making a part of their lives the business and hobby of creating games. They are making a difference in my life, and I thank them for that.
So yeah, I’m gonna be a nurse. I’m gonna concentrate on becoming a nurse first, but I also have in the back of my mind that I might want to eventually continue on to Medicine and become a doctor, maybe an oncologist. But that’s the far future. My immediate goal is to enroll in the Nursing School at FIU, get my BSN and become a Registered Nurse. And I cannot wait to get started on that. I’m already searching for cool, geeky scrubs in my size (I’m not seeing any on Google, in my size or otherwise, so the industry now has a couple of years to make some!).