Mental Health

On Not Failing

December 30, 2013

On Not Failing: My Journey Out of Nursing School - Sweet and Savoring
Six weeks. I was a nursing student for six weeks.

Even just writing that one sentence is difficult. I still have a little voice in my head that wants to make me feel like a failure, like I should be ashamed or embarrassed.

Back in August, I was gung-ho and determined. I never imagined that I would completely change my mind by the start of October. My instructors never made it sound easy, and it wasn’t. In fact, they made a point of telling us that nursing school was going to be the most intense, challenging thing we’d ever done. Is this going to be worth it? I wondered to myself.

It turned out that the class I’d feared the most, Nursing Dosage Calculations, was the one that gave me the least stress. The classes I’d thought would be easy breezy, Nursing Skills Lab and Clinical, gave me the most anxiety. I kept wondering why I’d signed up for this, as if I was serving a sentence. I consistently felt overwhelmed, scared, and unsure of myself and the future. During all but one of my classes, I found myself on the verge of crying, or if I could bring myself to actually leave the room, holed up in a bathroom stall and crying uncontrollably. I couldn’t approach my instructors because I felt too upset; I could never calm down enough to have a rational discussion. I’m having a hard time. I have some questions. None of this feels right. Could you just explain this again. I knew that if I even tried to open my mouth, I would just start crying again. Accompanying the tears was the ever-present visual in my mind of throwing up, though thankfully I never actually did.

The part of me that likes to self-sabotage worked hard to convince me that I couldn’t “cut it”. I wasn’t good enough. I needed to just try harder and buck up.

And you know what? I wasn’t actually failing my classes! In fact, I was earning As and Bs. This proves that I wasn’t, am not, a failure.


Believing in yourself is an endless destination. Believing you have failed is the end of the journey.        –Unknown


But the thing is, self-sabotage is about working to undermine one’s dreams and goals. It’s beating oneself up and “proving” one’s own failure. Yes, becoming a nurse was a goal of mine. But I realized it wasn’t my dream. My anxiety wasn’t the sort that accompanies a difficult-but-worthwhile struggle. I never thought This really sucks but I love the work I’m doing so far and I’m going to push through. I thought This is not what I’m supposed to be doing. It just wasn’t right for me. I’m not a methodical person who handles numbers easily. I don’t always operate well under stress and I hated the idea of needing to be in charge of many patients at once.

On the first day of Nursing Fundamentals, the instructor went around to each student and asked why we wanted to be a nurse. What did I say? Some stuff about having been a good medical assistant eight years ago. How I was a nurturer, and it was important to be of service to others. How I’d always been attracted to pregnancy and birth, and there was nothing more important than supporting others in times of need.

Were any of those reasons wrong? Of course not. Did those qualities disappear? Nope. But nursing involves so much more: Lots of chemicals and funny smells. Trying to feel a pulse or hear a heartbeat on an ailing elderly patient. Being confident of your findings and ability to decide the next course of action. Endless paperwork. Making sure you administer a medication properly: right time, right dosage, right route, right patient. Handling bedpans full of human waste.

I wanted so much for all that to feel right and for my plan to work out. I was scared to admit to myself that staying in the program would have been harmful to my mental health. I was anxious knowing that would mean I’d be untethered, full of questions and blankness and a lack of direction.


This was when I learned that you have to give up your life as you know it to get a new one: that sometimes you need to let go of everything you’re clinging to and start over, whether because you’ve outgrown it or because it’s not working anymore, or because it was wrong for you in the first place.    –Kelly Cutrone


One morning as I sat in the nursing home during clinical, it all finally hit me and couldn’t be contained any longer. I had my meltdown: I needed to leave the building, I couldn’t stop crying, my instructor was worried for me and called the school counselor so I could try to sort things out. Linda, the lovely counselor, had a lot of magnets with inspirational or funny quotes all over her office. One of them stood out to me: Advice is what we ask for when we know the answer but wish we didn’t. And I knew. That magnet said it all.  I took another week to really marinate in the idea of not being a nursing student anymore, what it would mean for Andy and I, the change I was embarking upon. Then,  I withdrew from all my classes. I’d let myself free.

So September was terrible. October is when the withdrawal happened and I had to sit with my shame and embarrassment and try to figure out what it all meant. Gradually, I began to feel lighter, less burdened. I’ve been working since the end of October as a part-time nanny, and let me tell you this: I am so glad with how things are right now.

The biggest indicator that withdrawing from the program was the right thing? I haven’t regretted the decision once. I’ve been more and more happy as time goes by. I never could have written this while I was going through the worst of my anxiety. I felt like the world’s biggest failure, when what I actually did was make a smart, rational decision for myself.

I’m not blissfully happy, and that’s not what I’m aiming for. What I am is at peace: with what’s happened and what I’m doing. I will take this doing okay over the anxious, depressed, mess that I was a few months ago, and last winter, and the winter before that. I may not be a nursing student anymore, but I’m not a failure, either.

On Not Failing- Sweet and Savoring

Winter is beautiful.

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  • beth December 30, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    So much love to you. <3

    • Christy December 30, 2013 at 11:53 pm

      And back to you! <3

  • Kate December 30, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Quite honestly, I think you proved you’re not a failure because you had the courage to make a tough decision despite what others might think and having to change your course. That takes a lot.

    • Christy December 30, 2013 at 11:56 pm

      There was SO much fear over what other people would think! I wish it was easier to let all that stuff go and listen to just ourselves. Thank you, Kate.

  • Sue December 30, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    You are *so* much braver than you give yourself credit for. I hated seeing you go through all that but I can see how much better you are now and it fills me with so much happiness. Here’s to a new year and a happy, at-peace sister. xoxo

    • Christy December 30, 2013 at 11:57 pm

      Thank you for being there for me! New year, who knows what it will bring?

  • Olivia @ Liv Lives Life December 30, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    I really, really admire you and your decision, Christy. Honestly, to do something like that takes more than guts, it takes a complete and utter understanding of oneself. I’m so glad that you’re finding it was the right thing to do, and that you’re enjoying what you’re doing right now.
    Good to see you back in the blogosphere, too! 🙂
    Olivia @ Liv Lives Life recently posted…Pumpkin Gingerbread MuffinsMy Profile

    • Christy December 31, 2013 at 12:14 am

      What a nice thing to say, Liv! Comments like this make me really glad I decided to write this post 🙂

  • Deb Rothaug December 30, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    I am so very humbled by your willingness to share this recent challenge in your life. You took steps that gave you the chance to learn what you wanted and did not want to be doing with your time. Christy, I am very very grateful to be your mom, seeing you constantly challenging yourself and bravely living your life, sensing your inner peace growing within. You have many gifts, and I believe you are truly, uniquely blessed. Lots of love, Mom

    • Christy December 31, 2013 at 11:14 am

      I’m grateful to have you, too. Yay for support! xoxo

  • Tamara December 30, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    Definitely not a failure.
    It wasn’t right for you. Honestly I could NEVER be a nurse, and I commend all who even try, much less become them. It wouldn’t feel right for me.
    I used to think I was a quitter because I never stayed in one thing the way my four siblings did. I couldn’t stay with a sport like my brothers, or dance/cheerleading like my sisters.
    However, eventually down the line, I learned that there were things that felt right and that even while anxious, I still had the drive to succeed.
    Those things are writing and photography. And parenting now, of course.
    Tamara recently posted…Extreme Makeover: Life Edition.My Profile

    • Christy December 31, 2013 at 11:17 am

      Some of us just take longer than others to find what our ‘thing’ is, and there’s so much emphasis in our society to find our purpose, our one thing that we’re supposed to be doing, rather than just being in the moment, savoring what is. I’m glad you found your passions 🙂

  • Corlie December 31, 2013 at 2:22 am

    I think it took a lot of courage to change the decision to become a nurse, more courage than sticking it out despite it not being right for you. I started studying Dietetics and stopped after a term because it was so wrong for me and made me so unhappy. Thank heavens I stopped and chose a different path! It will be the same for you, you’ve already taken the first step to the path that’s right for you!

    • Christy December 31, 2013 at 6:16 pm

      Thanks for saying this. It’s so helpful to hear how other people have changed their minds, too!

  • Kim December 31, 2013 at 11:58 am

    How courageous and wise you are! Making the decision to go to nursing school and even more importantly honoring the awareness that it was not your passion. So many of us never put ourselves out there because the fear of failing, of not being enough is so great. And we have to live with the “what ifs”, you my friend do not. You tried it, it wasn’t a good fit and now you can move on with the lessons learned, the richness of the experience and no regrets. Blessings!!!!

    • Christy January 1, 2014 at 9:30 pm

      Thank you for your kind words, Kim. You’re so right- that fear often gets in the way. In my case, I think it was the fear of *feeling* like a failure, and letting other people down, that really got in my way. I don’t know you, but this comment means so much to me! Blessings to you, as well.

  • Erika January 1, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    First of all, sharing this story is incredibly brave, Christy. Thank you.

    Second of all, it really reminded me of when my “dream job” didn’t work out. That was now about two and a half years ago, but man, my confidence took a nosedive. And it also reminds me of the first concentration I had in grad school about a year ago, and that’s a lot of what I was going through: those moments of knowing it wasn’t right, but still being scared of walking away. I think the experience you shared — about realizing that it wasn’t the kind of anxiety that was worth pushing through, that it still wasn’t rewarding or enjoyable — is exactly what helped me to walk away, too. Isn’t it funny how a career can look great to us on the surface, but the reality of it just doesn’t add up? When I looked at the one grad program, I thought it was perfect for X,Y,Z but actually doing it made me see that A, B, C were deal-breakers and not suited for my personality. And that happens.

    I’m glad you’re at peace. I don’t think things like this are failures, either. I think that they are experiences that help point us in the direction we need to go in. I think some people know what they want, but for others, it’s a little more complex. What we crave or desire isn’t easily found nor is it easy to do. We just have to be patient with ourselves and continue to be brave in our pursuit. Posts like these definitely help others on that road, which can be very lonely and discouraging at times. Thanks, Christy!
    Erika recently posted…The Perfectionist’s Guide to Setting (Realistic) GoalsMy Profile

    • Christy January 5, 2014 at 12:19 pm

      That part about XYZ is perfect but not ABC- yes, exactly! It’s so nice knowing that you understand, because of course at the time I felt like the biggest loser. And I love your whole last paragraph. The fact that you shared your grad school story really helped me to be more open about this. Thank you thank you!

  • Life Breath Present January 3, 2014 at 12:04 am

    Courage is always greater than failure. Failure can be a state of mind more than anything, at least for me much of the time. Letting go is certainly a process, especially if the letting go wasn’t what I expected. I say, good for you finding peace and in that some happy 🙂
    Life Breath Present recently posted…Welcome!My Profile

    • Christy January 5, 2014 at 12:21 pm

      You’re absolutely right about failure being a state of mind. Thank you for your sweet comment!

  • Kim Miller January 5, 2014 at 11:03 am

    It took a lot of courage to write this post. Sometimes knowing when to quit and being a “quitter” is a fine line, but rarely does someone REALLY explore the other side- knowing WHEN to quit, and when quitting is the right thing, not being a failure, but refocusing and committing to a different, better path. I think what you did took a ton of courage and was the smart choice.

    • Christy January 5, 2014 at 12:24 pm

      Refocusing and committing to a different, better path- yes! Thanks so much, Kim! This is one of those posts that I started and finished a couple months apart, which goes to show how difficult it was to put together. I’m so glad I decided to share with all of you.

  • Mrs. ShuGar January 5, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    I admire you so much. It took a lot of courage to do what you did. Being true to yourself is a hard thing to do and not everyone can do it. I know this moment will be coming for me in the future. I can feel it in my gut. For now, I have to stay put for financial reasons, but I hope to have the bravery to do what you did when the time comes.

    Life has a weird way of having you go through things like these to make you stronger and give you clarity. I am sure you have an amazing path ahead of you and l look forward to following along! Hugs!

    • Christy January 5, 2014 at 7:46 pm

      Oh, hugs right back to you, Carmen. You’re making me blush over here! Wishing you not just courage but peace of mind, strength, wellness, and self-love.

  • Amy @ Long Drive Journey January 6, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    I honestly believe that not doing something because you truly don’t think that you are meant to do it is COMPLETELY different from not doing it because you think you can’t. Only you know which camp you fall into, and I really think it’s something for you to decide. It sounds like you know that you’ve made the right choice. Failure is letting fear overcome you, wisdom is realizing that what you’re doing isn’t WORTH the fear.
    Amy @ Long Drive Journey recently posted…Laugh.My Profile

    • Christy January 6, 2014 at 7:37 pm

      Thank you Amy! I really appreciate the support. Life decisions really have the power to get us down sometimes, but your last line totally nails it!

  • Shana Norris January 7, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Christy, my husband teaches art at a community college and their nursing program is their largest program and the cash cow of the college. I think they *expect* people to decide it’s not for them once they start. Because sometimes it’s hard to know until you’re actually DOING it. Think about how many people spend the time and effort and energy to get a degree and don’t figure out it’s wrong for them until they start working. That’s what happened to me: a degree and seven years of working later and I realized that the accounting/finance profession was all wrong for me. I’d much rather have figured that out at the point you did!
    Shana Norris recently posted…January 2014 Goals.My Profile

    • Christy January 7, 2014 at 11:07 pm

      Love, love, love your comment, Shana! You’re precisely right, you can’t know if something feels right until you start doing it. Maybe they should make all prospective nursing students shadow actual nurses for a week to get a feel for an average day?
      And look at your situation this way: at least you’re not *still* working in finance 😉

  • Kim @ Exquisitely Unremarkable January 9, 2014 at 11:26 am

    First of all, I love that quote about advice…brilliant. Second, and more importantly, while this was a hard time for you, it was necessary to get to where you are now. If you had never gone to nursing school, you always would’ve wondered about it. Now, you have a clearer vision of what is right for you and you can act accordingly. I’m an old lady and I see so many people my age who are trapped in careers they hate and that misery trickles into the rest of their lives. They say that if they had only left earlier, things would’ve been different…you left! You were brave and now you can follow a course that is really right for you! If that isn’t success, I don’t know what is! 🙂 Best of luck in this new year!

    • Christy January 17, 2014 at 9:14 pm

      Oh gosh, I’m sorry I’m replying late, Kim! I love this response so much. It helps to have ‘old ladies’ as readers 😉 Now I’m feeling that next step, that ‘What *is* the right course for me? What’s my next goal?’ feeling. We’ll see what happens!

  • Hata Trbonja January 10, 2014 at 7:36 am

    I absolutely love your blog! This was a great piece. It takes courage to be honest. Good luck in 2014.
    I might just have to interview you for my blog!

    • Christy January 17, 2014 at 9:15 pm

      Thanks so much, Hata! I’m glad I found your blog, too. And you might have to interview me? That’s so exciting! I love answering questions 🙂

  • Ezzy G. Languzzi January 23, 2014 at 6:45 am

    I’m so happy to have found you through Bloglovin. Your post caught my eye. It’s beautiful and heartfelt and honest. I had a similar thing happen to me 15 years ago, except I moved cross-country only to do the same thing in October. I’d enrolled in law school. The best thing to have come out of it was the relocation because it changed my life.

    Nice to meet you. Now following! Also, Stumbled this. 🙂

    • Christy January 23, 2014 at 10:08 am

      Hi Ezzy, what a wonderful compliment! Thank you, I really appreciate you following and stumbling this post.
      Moving cross-country is a huge undertaking- glad the relocation turned out to be a positive thing in spite of school not working out! Looking forward to getting to know you!

  • Tricia February 25, 2014 at 6:09 am

    So brave. To take that step and walk away from a decision that feels safe but really isn’t right. And to open up about it here. Thank your for sharing.
    And happy SITS day!
    Tricia recently posted…Naptime superstitionsMy Profile

    • Christy February 26, 2014 at 9:58 pm

      It took me a long time to be able to open up about it, but I’m glad I did. Thank you for your sweet words, Tricia.

  • Michelle February 25, 2014 at 8:28 am

    I love that advice quote – I never thought of it that way, but it’s so true. Sometimes we just have to step back realizing that what we thought we wanted wasn’t right for us. I give you a lot of credit!
    Michelle recently posted…Creamy Citrus Black Bean Soup with Hood Sour Cream #Sponsored #MCMy Profile

    • Christy February 26, 2014 at 10:04 pm

      Thanks, Michelle- it’s such a tough realization to come to but so rewarding in the end.

  • Rabia @TheLiebers February 25, 2014 at 8:53 am

    This really hits home for me, Christy. All my life I wanted to be a teacher. I went to college for it, got my degree and got my first job. It wasn’t until then I I started to feel that it wasn’t really what I wanted. I was very sad to leave teaching and there are some times that I miss it, but it was never really something I could handle. Maybe at a differnet place inmy life, I might try it again; but honestly? I work 8-5 in an office and I love it!
    Rabia @TheLiebers recently posted…#TuesdayTen: 10 Things that Happen on a Perfect DayMy Profile

    • Christy February 26, 2014 at 10:14 pm

      Wow, you actually got your degree and a job! I’m sure it was so much harder for you to leave knowing you had already come so far. Good for you! And how awesome that you love what you’re doing now!

  • Jen February 25, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Beautiful story – we can each relate to these feelings at one point or another. I’ve been a vet student, a soldier, a nursing student, a ranch hand, a secretary, and God willing, my next chapter will be all about writing. I am so glad you did this for you and had the courage to go through with your feelings. So many people don’t – and they get stuck. Kudos to you and thanks for sharing.
    Jen recently posted…The Consequences of Purchasing Cheap MeatMy Profile

    • Christy February 26, 2014 at 10:15 pm

      You have such a varied background! I love it- I’m one of those people that thrives on variety and can’t stand doing the same thing over and over again. Thanks for sharing your experience, Jen, and best of luck with your writing!

  • Beth @ Goodness Gracious Living February 25, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    This was a wonderful read and I completely related to your story. I can pinpoint a few moments in my life where I went through similar feelings (for example, quitting breastfeeding after one month because my son wasn’t thriving and blaming myself), but you are so right about the advice quote. We need to change our inner voices to avoid self-sabotage and begin the habit of self-support. So glad it’s your SITS day. You are a terrific writer.
    Beth @ Goodness Gracious Living recently posted…Pizza Craving Fix: Gluten Free and Vegan Polenta Pizza RecipeMy Profile

    • Christy February 26, 2014 at 10:18 pm

      Thank you so much, Beth 🙂 I’ve always shied away from calling myself a ‘writer’, but part of why I am drawn to blogging is it gives me the opportunity to explore my writing side more. I’m so glad that you could connect with this piece- you’re right, blaming ourselves gets us nowhere! Blessings to you. xo

  • Krystle Cook February 25, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    We all feel like failures at times. I know I do and probably quite often. I know I will get where I want to be one day though. I’m trying to have faith in that.
    Krystle Cook recently posted…KIND Healthy Grains Bars Review + KIND Peanut Butter Banana Bites Recipe + My Own Personal Super Hero #kindawesomeMy Profile

  • Leila Boukarim February 25, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    It takes strength to realize you are unhappy about your current situation and guts to stand up and do something about it. Life works in funny ways. At times you’re sure of what you want, and then you realize that that’s not what you wanted at all. And I think that’s part of the reason why it’s wrong to ask kids “what they want to be when they grow up” because really, it’s not that simple. We’re all grown up now and still struggling to find what it is we want to do.

    It’s great that you had the opportunity to give the nursing thing a try. Now you know you can cross that of your list. That’s not failure. It’s a blessing!
    Leila Boukarim recently posted…Blog Hop: Why Do I Write?My Profile

  • Jean Lynd February 26, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    It’s a hard thing to face. When it seem logical & right to everyone else, but, in your heart, you know it’s just not right. I didn’t finish getting my BA. I was 2/3 there. With all A’s & a few B’s. But I realized…it’s just not what I’m supposed to be doing. At least not right now. I kind of hope it will be right one day, so I can make my parents proud…any of them that see me as simply potential wasted. And sometimes I feel that waste, too. But not deeply, just a shallow, fleeting thought.
    Happy SITS day!

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