As I was looking over my university transcript before getting it printed to take up for my state licensing I saw the first grade point average (GPA) on there from 1999 and my first semester as a college student, 1.58.

I cringed, and then even more when I saw it drop down to a 1.26 GPA in a following semester.

I’m positive this will surprise many of you, how about this for shocking that many of my closest friends don’t know.  I didn’t know for sure if I was even going to be able to graduate high school till the day of graduation.  Once a few semesters ago the university asked for a transcript from high school… a friend in one of my classes saw it and honestly thought they had put my name on another persons grades.

My friend was shocked because it seems so contrary to the person I am now, taking notes in the front row.  I can’t tell you how many times over the past few years I’ve heard variations of the following…

“You overachiever, quit making us all look bad.”

I used to hate hearing that, it made me feel bad.  People didn’t understand that I’ve had to be an overachiever, because if I didn’t then almost none of what I’ve accomplished would be a reality.

I told my mom this week that when I saw my transcript with my first nursing degree posted I was conflicted.  I was proud to see something official showing my AS in nursing, and yet those first few semesters listed from all those years ago filled me with sadness.  I told my mom that then I noticed a little box that said “honors”.  I quickly did the math and saw that if I worked hard in the the coming two semesters and pulled almost straight A’s I could graduate with my BSN next December, Magna Cum Laude.  I then realized that if I hadn’t had those first few semesters at the university all those years ago on there I would graduate with the highest honors and it made me a bit bitter, and disappointed in myself.  Then I decided to look at it from a different viewpoint…I went from having incredibly low grades, and multiple semesters of probationary status to consistently being on the deans list.  I’m not going to kill myself to get that Magna Cum Laude since I will be working.  If I achieve it then fantastic!  If not, I know I could have and after starting so low, that’s heart warming enough for me.  Balancing my overachieverness and my family life is an important thing to me, much more important than any other honors.

I know that it doesn’t matter if I got minimal grades once I was in the nursing program the whole time and then graduated.  Amazing nurses come in all forms.  The most academically decorated nurse could be terrible, just like the nurse that barely graduated could be a nursing rock star.  Sometimes in this world however it’s good to look at an accomplishment you achieved that you never thought possible.  So yes, I have been an overachiever, and I’m glad I was.  I laugh sometimes when I think of a younger me, and I’ve been known to say “Oh that’s before I realized I was smart.”

It was hard to decided to go back to school.  I never would have if my younger sister didn’t beg me to attend that first semester with her so she wouldn’t be there alone.  Being on probation was embarrassing and required a lot of extra work people don’t think about that was sometimes humiliating.  I wanted to stop many times.  Not getting into the nursing program the first time I applied was another blow, and one I took quite hard.  So I just want to say to my future self, next time that blow comes along, next time you want to quit or you are embarrassed or think things are too hard.  Remember that you can do big things, you can overcome, and even “overachieve” what ever you thought was possible.  As a family in the past years we’ve fought poverty, illness, disability, significant mental health challenges, discouragement, job losses, naysayers and countless other trials.  But we’ve also gained friendships, coping mechanisms, tremendous blessings beyond our wildest comprehension, joy filled memories, and the added value of becoming stronger by the trials we’ve gone through.

I often say one of my motivations for going through school was to teach my children that if you don’t like your situation it’s up to you to change it, even if it is hard.  I used to blog constantly as a way of journaling for my kids, so they knew more about the inner-workings of their mom’s daily life and inner psyche.  This post brings me back to that a bit, and I hope one day, when they feel the cards stacked against them that they will realize they aren’t alone and to keep pushing against those cards with optimism that they can achieve great things, because they can.

I watched my own father go back to school with four children, I remember many of the struggles.  I used to laugh that I obviously didn’t learn from him not finishing before he had a family, since I did the same thing.  I realize now that he and my mom working hard all those years ago did influence me.  I saw team work, perseverance, faith, sacrifice, love and dedication in my mother and father.  Many times in the past years when Jeremy and I have been blue I’ve commented that I KNOW things will change, we’re working now for that change.  I know because I’ve lived it with my parents.  I’m eternally thankful that I was old enough to remember so much of my dad’s struggles because he will never fully know how much his example helped push me at times.

In the past couple weeks I’ve been enormously stressed as I approach my first nursing job on top of a full time course load.  I’ve almost dropped my classes more times than I care to admit, or contemplated holding off on working till I was finished with this second degree and passing my national boards… but looking at how far I’ve come and reminding myself of why I went back to school is just the boost I needed right now to power through the doubt.  Not only can I do hard things, I have done hard things.  The 90’s version of me never would have thought I’d become a nurse, let alone one graduating with any kind of honors.  So as this year comes to a close, and our family adjusts to changes I’m declaring 2016 the year to see things through a positive perspective!



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