After decades in an administrative career, NAOMI BISWAS goes back to school to pursue a lifelong dream of becoming a surgical nurse.
It is 8:30am, and I am almost ready to get out the door. But I am not heading to work. No, I am on my way to school. Yes, I am a student at 50, and I am excited.
“Ridiculous” and “crazy” were just some of the common adjectives I received from friends who had learnt about my decision. They wondered, Why now at this age? The many discouraging statements I received did not dampen my spirits, but gave me a boost to go on.
I moved to the US three years ago. Coming from an arts background and having worked in the field of administration throughout my career, the choice to pursue a degree in the field of science was an absolute cartwheel for me. After a lot of consideration, I made up my mind to take up a new career that I had always dreamt of but never had the chance to pursue.
While applying for jobs in administrative departments, I came across an article which said that the demand for nurses was at an all-time high and that the government was offering a lot of lucrative positions for people willing to enrol in school to study for the course. The criteria called for a graduate-degree holder of any age. Here was my opportunity, and I was not going to lose it at any cost. I put away my resume, made a phone call to the number that was listed, and then began my preparation for enrolment.
It was not as easy as I had expected, but the challenges that came along with it were a point of motivation for me. The first day was very overwhelming especially because I was going back to school after 28 years. The classroom was filled to capacity and around me were students half my age. It made me feel a bit out of place and a little embarrassed. But soon I discovered that I was not alone and that there were a number of older men and women in class as well. The greatest inspiration was a woman all of 61 years of age.
The professor, a woman in her 50s, walked in and introduced the course for the semester. It was an intense and lengthy syllabus. I tried to soak up as much information as I could, but all the while my mind was hounding me with negative thoughts. I was suddenly unsure if I would be able to cope with subjects that I was not familiar with. The move from arts to science—did I make the right choice? My excitement was soon fading. Once back home, I was unsure of my decision to pursue the course. But my family came to my aid and gave me a lot of encouragement. They told me that they were confident that I would be able to do well. Then a few friends stepped up as well, asking me not to doubt myself and to go ahead with my decision.
The first few weeks were really difficult. Trying to focus and getting back to books, I spent a lot of sleepless nights doing assignments and studying for exams. But the results were unbelievable. I had scored between 80–90%. I could not believe my eyes. I was so glad that my hard work had paid off. This was such a boost of confidence for me that now I am almost through with the first semester and am looking forward to continue to pursue the career that was always so close to my heart.
Some of my next courses include anatomy, physiology, human biology, chemistry, and food and nutrition. I have three more years to go before I complete my degree and become a surgical nurse. I know that there will be a lot of obstacles and challenges along the way, but I am confident in myself and ready to face it all. From this experience, I can say that age is definitely not a barrier to whatever you want to achieve.
Where there is a will there is always a way.
Published in Masala magazine, April 2014