Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What I Learned from Getting my DNP that You can't Learn in a Classroom

It's been kind of quiet around here lately, except for a few posts about books.

Which are obviously great posts, because I love books.

I've been kind of in a standstill mode the last couple of months....

I've always loved learning. Loved studying. Loved writing papers (until I ran into the horror that is APA!). I've often said I would be a professional student if I could support my book-buying habits by doing so, but, alas...

So it just seemed a natural progression for me to continue my education. As I wrote about in 2013, getting a doctorate degree has been on my bucket list.

I started in 2012 at Western Kentucky University. I had an awesome friend to embark on the journey with me. Jenna and I drove to Bowling Green once a month, and spent a lot of time complaining on instant messaging.

And I learned a lot about research, and about nursing policy, and about advanced practice nursing.

I enjoyed it, except for the endless hours of juggling paper writing and reading articles and commenting on discussion boards.

Then, in January of 2014, at the beginning of the semester, my Mamaw Na died.

Grief is a funny thing. I found myself driving to Hazard to teach fundamentals, getting to the tech campus and not really remembering the drive. I was overwhelmed with thinking about starting a research project, overwhelmed by work, going to ballgames and doing life and just basically going through the motions.

That year, I had chosen the word "be" to lead my life, and at the end of the semester, I realized that I wasn't "being" anything.

So I quit.

I stopped going through the motions and tried to reengage.

But... Wallace pushed me to go back... so I did. I got
brave, even though I didn't feel like it.

I developed a research project and with the help of an awesome advisor, completed it.

And through this whole process, I learned a lot.

1. Family and friends and people really are the most important things. Yes, now that I'm standing on the other side, I'm glad I finished. I'm proud of myself, and thankful that I had my family's support... but the completion of the degree wouldn't have been possible without the people who supported me.

2. Prayer really does change things. I prayed my way through nursing school. Prayed my way through this DNP program... but this time last week I was terrified. I asked for prayer in Bible study and almost started crying I was so overwhelmed... but yesterday, as I finished presentation, I felt peace. I knew it wasn't anything I had done. I knew that it was because I had people from my ladies group and my online Bible study group and my family and friends and students praying for me. He really will bring a peace that passes all understanding.

3. It's ok to recognize that you aren't ok. When I quit that summer, I wasn't in a good place. You wouldn't have known it to look at me. I did an awfully good job of painting a smile on my face.

But there was something deep down that just wasn't right. It wasn't necessarily spiritual, because Jesus was still my number  one hombre and I still trusted God... but maybe I didn't trust Him enough.

So by stepping back, I was able to prioritize and realize that my people were the most important "things" and that I had to do something to make myself happy. (Not that happiness is a goal... because I think chasing happiness can actually lead to more struggles if we get selfish about it).

4. It's not ok to just quit. I am a quitter by nature. You can read all about it in this post... a self-professed quitter. I don't think God wants us to be a quitter. Let's face it... quitting is the easy road. If I had quit, I wouldn't have had to do that research project or all the hours of writing and revising.

But I always would have regretted it. I would have had to try to explain to Caleb that it's ok to quit... and it's not.
(Unless something is dangerous. Or addictive. Then quit. It's absolutely ok to quit in that case!!!)

5. It's all about balance. I had to learn to care for myself, care for my family, work, and go to school. I didn't really figure it all out until after I quit. I do know that the last year of my life has been about the best one that I can remember (other than the unexpected sorrows from 2016). As I looked at my goal of completing the DNP, I also realized that I wanted to LIVE. Really live... .so much so that I made it the focus of 2017.
I'm still learning about balance. I still have more laundry, and my house could use a really good cleaning...
but I'm learning to put down the book (even though I love it!) and go for a walk with my family. Watch a movie that I didn't want to because Wallace did. Sit down in the kayak and let him push me out into the water, and appreciate the breeze through my hair and the sun on my face.

There's a time for everything, and we really need to learn to figure out how to make the most time for the most important things.

6. You can do more than you ever thought you could.
This last year I don't know how many times I found myself thinking, "I don't think I can do this."

But I did.

And you can, too...

whatever your bucket list item is. Whatever your dream is. Whatever your "I can't" is...

You can.

A huge thank you to everyone who supported me in this process. Life really is one huge learning curve, and at this juncture of my life I'm more aware of who I am, and kind of actually like me.

Most days.

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