I have always wanted to become a nurse my entire life. Although I found articles that teach people how to choose a major in college or offer a guide in choosing a college major useful, I already knew what I wanted to become. While most people’s dream job as a child eventually changes as they grow older, I cannot recall a single moment when I did not want to become a nurse. As early as the age of four or five, when I was just beginning to grasp the idea of a profession, I was already pretending to be a nurse. I would place my dolls in their beds. I would then go to them one by one, giving them medicine, or fixing their sheets, or saying soothing words to them. My idea of nursing as a child was perhaps basic and a little rough, but it was never far from the realities that nurses face in their daily lives. Even at a young age, I harbored no illusions that nursing is an easy or glamorous job. Many people often ask me what it is that fuels my dream to become a nurse. Although I have of course been influenced by family members who are also nurses, what made up my mind to pursue nursing is my experience in taking care of my grandmother when she was ill.
My extended family is what one might call a family of nurses. Two of my aunts and four of my older cousins on my mother’s side are nurses. Because we lived in the same neighborhood, I would often see my aunts and my cousins in their nurse’s uniform. There were also times when I would hear them talk about their work. I was just around nine that time. My aunts would express how exhausted they were after their shift. But tired as they were, they talked about their day with a sense of pride. I once heard my aunt say that she loved her job so much and she could not see herself doing any other job despite all the challenges she faced every day. Even then I wanted to be like them. I saw myself wearing those blue scrubs suits, too, resting in my living room after a day’s work, drained but also fulfilled at the same time.
While the presence of nurses in my family was important in introducing me to nursing, the biggest reason why I want to become a nurse is my experience taking care of my grandmother. My grandmother was one of the most generous persons I have ever known. She loved us so selflessly and so tenderly that it is hard to imagine where all that love was coming from. My grandmother was always there for me. She always reminded me that I can be whoever and whatever I want to be as long as I put my heart and my back into everything I do. She taught me the value of love, kindness, and compassion. There was not a day when she would not share the wisdom she had gained from a long and eventful life. My grandmother also spoiled me. She always made sure she had treats for me. She would give me cookies when my mother was not looking and we would consider this as our little secret. Safe to say, my grandmother was everything and much more. She was a powerful figure in my life that helped shape who I am now.
When I was around thirteen, my grandmother started to change. We initially assumed that it was because of her age. My grandmother was nearing eighty at that time after all. But it became apparent that these changes were not the usual signs of aging. She began to become forgetful. First she would forget her bags, her keys, her hat; then she would forget to put on makeup or her earrings; then she would forget about dinners and appointments; and finally she would forget her children and her grandchildren’s names. After a few visits to the doctor and a brief stay at the hospital, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Our world came crashing down. We all knew that we were losing grandmother. True enough the next couple of years saw her health rapidly decline. My grandmother had always been against the idea of spending her last days away from us. My family respected her wishes. We brought her home from the hospital. When she was too weak to look after herself, my aunts and uncles took turns looking after her.
Most Saturday afternoons I would go to my aunt’s house to visit her and help around by doing small chores. I would comb my grandmother’s hair when it needed combing, tidy up her room when needed, and read books to her. Over time the disease took its toll on my grandmother’s health. It was a painful experience, seeing the strong woman everyone admired lose a part of herself with each passing day. Soon enough my grandmother no longer recognized any of us. Yet I came to visit her all the same, for at that point being there for her was the only thing I could do to make her feel my love. One day, as I was reading to her, my grandmother opened her eyes. She looked around and after a few seconds fixed her gaze on me. She smiled. I immediately closed the book and reached out for her hand. For a few moments she just held my hand and squeezed it gently. Then she called my name and thanked me for being there.
Words cannot explain what I felt that day. There was great sadness, but there was also a very deep happiness within me. A sense of fulfillment came over me. The gratitude that my grandmother showed through that simple gesture of squeezing my hand and saying thank you wiped all the exhaustion away. It made me realize that this is it—this is what I want to do. This is my purpose in life. This is who I am. Everything came together like the pieces of a puzzle: my early days of role playing as a nurse, my admiration for nurses in my family, and the contentment I felt when I provided service to my grandmother. I was destined to become a nurse, to do what I can to make life better for those who need comfort and protection.
I know that the path towards becoming a nurse is long and arduous. I expect that the years ahead will be filled with challenges. There will be long tiring days of attending classes and training in hospitals. There will be sleepless nights of studying and completing coursework. There will be times when I feel like I want to give up, especially when faced by projects like nursing papers. But I know that I will not abandon this dream. I will gladly face these hardships if it means serving other people and giving them the care that they need and rightfully deserve. I will also embrace guides that tell help people how to find your career path. That day when my grandmother thanked me, she showed me that happiness comes from being generous with our time and effort and fulfillment comes from the knowledge that we touch lives in meaningful ways. This is a lesson I will never forget for the rest of my life, and this lesson will sustain me in my journey. In times when I falter, the memory of my grandmother will be there to remind me who I am and what my purpose in life is. I cannot think of a profession more rewarding than being a nurse, for helping others itself is the reward in being a nurse.