Nursing school has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life, and I feel as if every nursing student would agree. I believe that it has been so challenging to me in particular, because I have watched myself change over the past year. In some ways I believe nursing school has hardened my heart, and has calloused me.
Before I started nursing school, if I was asked to describe myself I would have said joyful. However, over the past year I have struggled to continue to find my joy and choose to be joyful despite my circumstances. As I look in the mirror every morning, it is almost as if I can see how this year has changed me.
When your patient dies alone without any family member to notify, you become hardened. When you watch as a married couple miscarries for the fifth time, you mourn with them. When a child fights a battle with cancer, and eventually the disease wins, it's hard to find joy.
I say all of this because throughout the past year I have noticeable changes in my character and who I am. I believe I have become much more a realist, and a lot more skeptical. It is harder for me to assume the best and always have an optimistic attitude, because the things I see and learn about on a day-to-day basis make it difficult. So, as a woman who used to take pride in a joyful attitude in all things, imagine the distress of feeling as if everything I was has changed. I wake up and who am I anymore if I struggle to find the same joy that used to come so easily?
I also would venture to say that Satan has used my vulnerability in this way to convince me on some days that if I can't be happy and joyful 24/7, am I even the same good person I was before starting nursing school? Has the profession that I have chosen to pursue changed me so that I no longer have a platform to minister from? Has my resting face gone from a smile to a permanent scowl as my mind at any moment can flashback to the horrors and hardships I see every time I enter a hospital? It has been a constant STRUGGLE.
A few weeks ago I would say everything hit its climax and what is true in my dramatic fashion accumulated into a breakdown. I called my sister in tears just to ask her if she thought I was a good person. I told her that this past year has made me feel like I am living at the worst version of myself. My sister has the kindest and most pure soul of anyone that I have ever met. Her response was beautiful and perfect all at the same time.
*paraphrased* "Katelyn, while you may say blunt things that come as mean sometimes, that doesn't mean you aren't a good person. What I think is evident that Satan is really attacking you, making you to believe that you are some person that you aren't."
My baby sister is wise beyond her years, that's for sure. Since that conversation, I have spent a lot of time in prayer. I have changed in the past year, and I imagine everyone reading this will testify that our circumstances not only mold us into the people we are, but they also can harden us. However, I don't have to view this change as a negative thing. Yes, I have to fight a little harder every day to choose joy and to make sure my face isn't constantly in a scowl, but that doesn't mean that I have become a terrible person that I can't recognize in the mirror.
What has been even more enlightening is the way that God seems to take my vulnerabilities, and make me use them. Even when I feel as if I am at my worst, God still calls me to disciple and in the strangest of ways. This past weekend I had the opportunity to do just that, to use my worst to help two girls. I wasn't planning on going to camp this session because I have two tests tomorrow morning that are 50% of my class grade (no pressure). I needed to study, but the Lord had a different plan for me. A camper camping at camp this weekend mentioned that she really needed me to visit to talk to me. Some of the current staff members made the same plea as well "she really needs you to come visit." So as any former camp counselor that deeply misses their job would do, I loaded up my car and dog and made the 6-hour trek home. I met with the camper and had the most painful, but encouraging conversation that was so worth the drive. Better yet, I had another conversation with a camper who is having the same struggles as me right now.
Those two conversations alone brought me to tears, because even when I feel at my worst, God still manages to make me feel loved and useful. In my struggle, he provided me the opportunity to minister to two girls who were struggling in a similar fashion. And if that means I fail my tests tomorrow it will be worth it all.
Change isn't always a bad thing. My takeaway for tonight though is the way that God can use us at our "worst". He showed me this weekend to use my hardships and struggles to be honest with two campers. Even at my "worst" he still loves me and uses me to bring about his glory. Each day I get to make the choice, I get to fight for my joy.