Friday, May 27, 2011

College Years

I have never journaled about college. I just didn't keep a journal then. I journaled quite a bit until my mid teens, but it just phased out. So here, for my own sake in 10 or 20 or 50 years is a very brief account of those years.

I got the acceptance letter to the University of Idaho's Biology program for Pre-Nursing. It was the Spring of 2003. Two years after I "finished" my homeschool studies and got my GED, I had a plan and I was ready to face the world.

I felt so lost that first day. It was late August of 2003. I was wearing a baby blue tank top. Somehow I ended up with a master list of classes from the previous semester, and wound up sitting in the wrong class for 10 minutes. I was so embarrassed. I ducked out as best as I could, found the right class, and worked as hard as I knew how. The Anatomy class I was taking that first semester was difficult. So many new words and concepts lecture after lecture... actin and myosin, sphenoid, ethnoid, sella turcica, osteoclasts and osteoblasts... And then there was the lab. The cadaver lab. It was so strange. Feeling the cool touch of corpses soaked in formaldehyde. Turning bones over and over in my hands, running my finger along the rough tuberosities... holding a human brain in my hands. But I conquered that class. My textbook was meticulously highlighted and underlined. I had old tests and flash cards everywhere. At the end of my freshman year, I applied for a paid and accredited position as a Teacher's Assistant for the upcoming year. And I got it. By the end of my first year I'd gained a rich friendship with a fun girl named Katie White. We were both in anatomy and physiology, went to Campus Crusade's Prime Time together every week, and I spent lots of time with her at her parent's big house on C street.

Sophomore year I was taking a full load... Genetics, Statistics, Organic Chemistry, and I had joined the University's Jazz Choir. The choir was amazing. Headed up by a Dan Bukvich, we did more hymns and oldies than actual jazz. We had lots of small concerts. We sang at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. Bukvich wrote a 50 minute Mass that all 250 of us memorized. We traveled to Seattle to perform it. And I was teaching anatomy lab. And physiolgy the next semester. Me. Little me. To smart people twice my age that were going to become doctors. To dumb kids that obviously didn't study and made up the most hilarious anatomical terms. To fraternity losers that thought I was stupid enough to give them "just a little hint" if they smiled nicely and winked. It was hard work. Tuesday were my longest days, teaching a lab from 8 to 11, going to classes all day, then another lab from 6 to 9. But I loved it.

I was meeting new people and doing new things. But not dumb "college" things... things like staying up most of the night to study or finish that paper. Things like going to new churches and bible studies. Things like learning that it was easy to live on $200 a month when rent was $125. Things like how to dissect a human body in legal and respectful manner. Things like learning to look past an unhealthy body image. Things like how to sneak on to the roofs of buildings and grain elevators; not to spray paint or smoke illegal substances, but just because... and to talk late into the night with a dashing young man I had met that year. Bryan something. That one guy. There was something about him.

I introduced my friend Katie to Bryan and his roommates, Luke and Alex. And one of their old high school friends-Lynnessa-started showing up. Katie and I become close friends with Lynnessa, and it seemed Katie and Luke hit it off pretty well. Alex and Lynnessa seemed interested in each other. But Bryan and I were just friends. Really.

And then I applied to the Nursing Program at Lewis Clark State College. My prerequisites were right on track with their program, but wouldn't have lined up with any other nursing schools. So I only applied to one school. My grades were good. Not a shoo in 4.0, but 3.7 had to be considered... right?

I sobbed when I got the acceptance letter. I called my parents. I called my sister who was teaching in France for the year. I called Bryan: the guy that I found myself falling for. The guy that left a tiny little piece of paper under my windshield wiper on Easter Sunday. It said I Love You.

I considered moving to Lewiston since LCSC was there. But it was only 50 minutes away. I knew that I would commute for classes, but that it would be more difficult to commute for church and say, seeing friends in the evening. So I stayed in Moscow and started car pooling with other girls in my new class. There were 45 of us, total. 7 or 8 dropped over the next two years, but the rest of us survived.

Our class was close. I started studying a lot with Janette, one of the girls that had actually been in my A and P classes. She was married, spunky, and moral. We would study and cram together, and quiz each other on the drive down. We cried together when she told me the story of the hysterical mother who brought her lifeless baby to the ER the first day she had clinicals there. We cried when we admitted to each other that we didn't know if we could finish the program... it was too hard.

I tried to learn as much as I could possibly cram into my brain. You can't crush Protonix. Nose to ear to sternum was the length to measure for a GI tube. How to write lame care plans. Starting IVs. How to write really long and boring research papers. Maintaining a sterile field. How to delegate. What every sign and symptom for every single disease is. How to "communicate therapeutically." That you aren't supposed to wear your stethoscope around your neck if you're in a room with man who says he'll kill you. How to bring someone back to life.

Those two years were kind of a blur. Especially since 12 of us were part of the Accelerated Program, which meant we crammed three years into two. I wore a navy blue scrub top and white scrub pants for two years. I saw the old and dying, the young and dying, the sick restored to health, new life brought into the world. And I knew this was what I wanted to do. What I was meant to do. At least until God called me to something greater.

During my first year of nursing school, Bryan and I finally started dating. Shortly after, we were both in Alex and Lynnessa's wedding. Bryan was finishing up his last year of Mechanical Engineering at the U of I, and when he graduated, he decided that he wasn't going to move away while I was still in school. There really weren't any engineering jobs in this area, so he tried something different: he applied at the small economics firm in town. And got it. That summer we were both in Luke and Katie's wedding. I was even Katie's Maid of Honor. A week later, Bryan asked me to marry him. I told him "of course, you goose." We got married on the Thanksgiving break of my last year of nursing school, and had Alex, Lynnessa, Luke, and Katie in our wedding.

Maybe I wouldn't be a travel nurse after all.

And then. I was done. It seemed I had been working towards that goal for eternity, and suddenly, I was talking at the Senior Symposium, and then that was it. Done. No more blue scrubs and horrible white pants.

So I graduated. Four years ago. On May 19th, 2007.

This is how excited Bryan and I were to be done with college.

The three most important people in my life: my husband and my parents. The ones that encouraged me to pursue a crazy life in medicine, hugged me and prayed for me constantly, and knew that I could do it, even when I wasn't sure if I could. Sappy and cliché, yes. But true.

My dear sister showed up the the Nursing School Pining Ceremony wearing a dress almost identical to mine. Of course. We'd been trying to avoid matching outfits since we were kids.

After the pinning ceremony. So happy.

All ready for the big graduation ceremony.

In the crowd, waiting. I had a pink duct tape beta on my cap. A Greek B. For Bess, Botkin and Blakey. And because I was homeschooled and we liked dorky things like dead languages.


I was Bess Blakey, GN. Graduate Nurse. When I passed the national boards (the dreaded NCLEX), I became Bess Blakey BSN RN.


  1. "The Glory of God is man fully alive." St. Somebody - I forgot who said that. Anyway you are like the sunrise, reflecting the coming light. It took courage to be this woman. Thank you for such obedience. GTB